PLAYING THE PONIES

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Saturday, Feb. 15

Here are my selections for Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park. These are not meant to be in exact order, but merely the four horses I think have the best chance to win. For beginners, I suggest exacta boxes with three horses, using two of mine and one of your own. And you can always pick up a copy of Acing Racing 2016 to learn everything you need to know. (These are the picks and format that are available on the free tip sheet at SHRP).

FIRST

1-4-2-6
UPTOWN FLYING FLYNN just missed in last and could get it done


SECOND
1-3-2-4
Three-pronged entry could easily sweep the top three spots here


THIRD
4-3-2-1
MADIBA deserves another look shortening up from an OK effort at a mile


FOURTH

5-8-7-2
SWISS DOT likely needed last; past efforts are good enough to win this


FIFTH
5-7-8-9
GILES was a beaten favorite in last but similar effort could get it done

SIXTH

2-5-3-7
LITTLE CODE has some solid efforts and should be in the hunt if race stays on the grass


SEVENTH

8-3-1-2
PRINCE JET gets Lasix off a speed and fade debut; should be tough to catch


EIGHTH
8-4-9-1
COMPLETE SENSE should be in the mix if she goes; if not KERTARA looks solid


NINTH
4-5-2-1
TAKE CHARGE WOMAN has solid works for debut and could be ready


TENTH

2-5-10-3
MO AMERICAN is a son of Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh; should be tough


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How much will DeMeco Ryans' background impact the draft? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans have their guy in head coach DeMeco Ryans.

The leader of one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2022, Ryans returning to the Texans becomes somewhat of a homecoming for the former linebacker. Drafted by the team in the second round in 2006 out of Alabama, he played with Houston until the end of the 2011 season.

Since retiring as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, Ryans became a defensive quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. He was promoted to inside linebackers coach in 2018, and then, in 2021 became the defensive coordinator.

Now, when it comes to the Texans, with Ryans at the helm, how could that affect how the team approaches the draft this year?

Bryce Young more likely?

As mentioned before, Ryans was a member of the Crimson Tide before turning pro. While he never played under Nick Saban, he certainly has plenty of ties in the area that make it much more likely he can learn everything he needs to know about quarterback Bryce Young.

Young put on flashy performances on the field against Alabama’s opponents during his time in Tuscaloosa. But what coaches want to know is what is the young quarterback like off the field. Is he a playbook junky, does he spend extra hours in the training facility, how does he treat employees and staff on the team?

While all this information isn’t necessarily top secret for coaches, Ryans’ Tuscaloosa ties could give the Texans an edge in getting an extra leg up on Young. That could be enough to sway Houston one way or another with its No. 2 overall pick.

In Lance we trust?

The San Francisco 49ers started the season handing the keys of the offense to quarterback Trey Lance. With Ryans being the architect behind the team’s defense, he got a front row seat to all of Lance’s tricks and approach.

Ryans knows what makes Lance tick, what he struggles with, and in what areas he can excel in. If the Texans don’t feel like any of this year’s quarterbacks are the long-term answer, Ryans is the perfect guy to know what they could get out of Lance.

With the 49ers seeming to have found something with quarterback Brock Purdy, it will be interesting to see what the team residing in Santa Clara, California, does at that position as well. However, Purdy's elbow injury will be something to watch. If San Francisco chooses to move on from their first round pick in the 2021 draft, who better to decide whether it is worth scooping up Lance than Ryans.

Defense, defense, and defense!

Going back to the Alabama connection, the same can be said about Will Anderson Jr. The star linebacker, who shined with the Crimson Tide, accumulated 34.5 sacks and 204 tackles in three seasons with Alabama.

Anderson is expected to be a top five draft pick. Similar to Young, Ryans likely has a strong in to learn everything he wants to know about the 6-foot-4-inch edge rusher and more. If Houston does not see a must-have prospect at quarterback, Ryans would love to get a leader on the defense instead.

Ryans played linebacker for all 10 seasons in the NFL. He knows what it takes to be elite at that position group at the next level. If Anderson has the skill set to fit that description, Ryans is the guy to know it heading into the draft.

One thing is for sure, Ryans as the new head coach opens up a plethora of possibilities for the Texans.

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