PLAYING THE PONIES

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Saturday, March 23 (with bonus picks on Lousiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds)

Mr. Money Man is back tonight. Coady Photography

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 will be making an appearance from 7-9 at the ESPN area by the Jockey Club. Come by and say hello. I will have a couple picks I like I will share in person.

Also, it is Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds. Below are a couple of plays:

FAIR GROUNDS

Race 10, New Orleans Handicap: This is a wide open race with lots of speed, stalkers and closers balanced out nicely. I am going to play No. 3 Souper Tapit across the board at 6-1. He lost all chance at the start of his last at Oaklawn, but his prior two efforts put him right there. Better start should put him in the hunt.

Race 13, Louisiana Derby: War of Will is the 6-5 favorite and has done little wrong. But he is also not all that fast; any one of several horses could improve. We will look at Sueno, who is improving and has been consistent. We will wheel him first and second in the exactas with several potential horses that could also improve including the favorite. So the bet will be 4 with 1-2-3-5-6-8-10-11 and 1-2-3-5-6-8-10-11 with 4.

SHRP SELECTIONS

FIRST

6-4-3-1
HI HEAT BOY has been nibbling and maybe feasts on the whole thing tonight


SECOND
2-3-6-1
SHES OUR FASTEST has been in tough and should be in the mix here


THIRD
4-1-6-2
TEXAS BELLE is in sharp form and will take some beating in this spot


FOURTH
3-4-1-2
DIRECT DIAL was in tough in last, has good speed and a recency edge over the favorite


FIFTH
2-3-9-6
IMA DISCREET LADY should get a nice stalking trip here and should be tough


SIXTH
6-3-1-4
MR MONEY BAGS has big goals and should turn in another big effort


SEVENTH
2-7-1-5
HIGHWAY SONG gets a little more distance and should thrive here


EIGHTH
8-9-6-1
COMMANDER MCDIVIT should stretch out just fine and should be in the mix

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After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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