Playing the Ponies

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Saturday, March 2 with bonus play on the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream

Courtesy photo

Here are my selections for Saturday. 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). I included a play on the big Kentucky Derby prep this weekend, the Fountain of Youth.

Fountain of Youth bonus play

There will be a heavy favorite in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream in No. 7 Hidden Scroll. But he only has one dominant race under his belt. He could crush this group, but he could also miss the board. So we will take a flyer on No. 4 Bourbon War. We will key him first and second in the trifectas with six other horses. That will be $60 total for a buck, $30 if you play it for .50. Here is the play: 4 with 1-5-6-7-8-9 with 1-5-6-7-8-9 and 1-5-6-7-8-9 with 4 with 1-5-6-7-8-9.

Sam Houston selections

FIRST
7-6-1-2
TEXAS STYLE CS
Should improve with drop from stakes company


SECOND
3-2-6-8
COUNTRY KING finds a soft spot and should be tough here


THIRD
5-1-7-9
HIGHWAY SONG
Crushed most of these in last and would need to regress not to do it again


FOURTH

3-7-6-5
ARCH VALUE bounced in last but should fare better here


FIFTH
5-1-9-2
REAL DE JAPA
Should improve with a start over the surface; price is square


SIXTH

2-1-4-3
IRISH CITY LAD
Just nudged the second choice in last; should come down to these two again


SEVENTH
6-1-4-2
FLYING MAGIC SONG
Has been very OK on grass recently, not so good off it. Contender if race stays on turf


EIGHTH

2-3-7-5
MISCHIEF GALORE is one of two Asmussen contenders in this one


NINTH

8-7-2-5
WILLTHERESAWAY might have needed last and could surprise

Playing the Ponies

5 keys to betting on the Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes will cap off this year's Triple Crown, which will go down as one of the most controversial and eventually disappointing three races in a long time. But there is still money to be made, so here are five ways to approach the race. My horse-by-horse analysis is here. My premium plays are available at pregame.com. Historically the Belmont is where we do our best work in the Triple Crown. It is the longest of the Triple Crown races, and it takes a good combination of stamina and speed. Most of these horses will never run this far again.

1) Hard to get around the favorites

Tacitus, one of our Derby horses, will be the favorite after finishing fourth in that race on a track he hated. He has classic distance breeding, a good running style for the distance and has all the qualities you look for in a Belmont winner. He is also 9-5. War of Will, who dominated the Preakness and is very tough at his best, is 2-1. Both horses should be significant factors. That makes it more difficult to put together a decent score. However, when faced with this scenario, you look for long shots in the trifectas, and that is how we will approach the race.

2) About those long shots...

There are three that are intriguing. Master Fencer was seventh in the Derby, but the Japanese horse was beaten just four lengths and was finishing very strongly. His style should suit Belmont, and Japanese horses tend to run well everywhere. He was not elite in Japan, but let's face it, this field isn't either. He could surprise at a big price. We were all-in on Bourbon War in the Preakness and he took us all out by finishing eighth. He really had no excuse that day other than maybe the long layoff got to him. We will give him one more chance to reward our faith. Sir Winston already has a nice effort over the surface and always seems to show up at a big price.

3) The next tier

Everfast was second in the Preakness, but that effort came out of nowhere and horses that don't run in the Derby, then run well in the Preakness tend to falter in the Belmont. Intrepid Heart is a regally bred, lightly raced colt who could improve. Joevia should be the pace setter, and that is a big advantage in longer races, because he will likely get the lead all to himself and could last a long time. All of these could be bottom factors in the trifectas.

4) So how do we play it? 

I like exacta and trifecta boxes with the two favorites plus Master Fencer and Bourbon War. I also like the idea of keying the two favorites on top and in second with the long shots we like and as many horses as possible in third.

I also like the idea of playing the two long shots - Bourbon War and Master Fencer, across the board.

On the undercard, I like some long shots to throw in your wagers:

Race 8: No. 8 Hog Creek Hustle

Race 9: No. 5 Tale of Silence

Race 10: No 4 Qurban.

5) Keep an eye on the surface

As of today, they are expecting nice weather at Belmont so everything is handicapped for a fast track. Should that prove wrong, check back on Twitter as I will likely change some plays. Good luck and let's finish this year strong.

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