Sam Houston Race Park Picks and Preview for January 15, 2022 with Jessica Paquette

On Saturday, January 15, Sam Houston Race Park features a fun nine-race card with big-name trainers, famous jockeys, great horses, and some opportunity for value! I break the entire card down on The Win Place Show podcast and YouTube channel with my special guest Jessica Paquette who is the on-air handicapper and analyst at Sam Houston, so check out our joint analysis of the card in addition to the picks below. Additionally, StableDuel has a great Saturday contest at Sam Houston where a $40 entry fee can get you a piece of $4,000 in guaranteed prizes. StableDuel has big money, small money, and free games for every level of handicapper. Get in the action and have some fun! How? Download the StableDuel app and then pick 10 horses with your $50,000 fantasy budget. If your stable comes out on top, you’re a winner! In addition to picking the winners below, I’ll also include the “price” in the StableDuel contest.

Race 1

Post time: 7:55 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $25,000 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: We’ll start off this Saturday card at Sam Houston with a trio of maiden races and we see the least experience in the first one where only three of the seven horses have previous racing experience. Looking at connections, pedigree, and workouts are critical in this space. Of the experienced runners, Linc’s Boy (9-5) is the favorite but he’s coming off a 4-month layoff and when he ran this distance previously, he was losing ground toward the end. On the plus side, he’s taking a class drop seeing as he’s run in maiden special weights and even one stakes race previously. The other horse in the race that is likely to attract a lot of attention is Regal Prize (8-1) who will get bet down because of his connections seeing as he’s trained by Steve Asmussen. However, despite the Hall of Fame trainer, this horse has shown nothing in his first two starts, losing by a combined 60 lengths. Therefore, I’m looking to the inside and Tappin’ the Bling has a horse that is coming off a layoff but has a reliable trainer in JR Caldwell and has been posting some nice workouts. The first-time runners are not overwhelming with Chief Brady (5-2) being the best of the group. He’s certainly turned in some nice workouts but nothing that makes him stand out to the rest. I’m intrigued by Talk of Texas (6-1) as a horse that might just be early speed but he’s been running some blistering 3-furlong workouts recently and while I’m a little concerned about the distance, I think he could get the lead and then set the pace and hang on for a piece of the board.

Win: Tappin’ the Bling (SD price $7,500)

Place: Talk of Texas (SD price $5,000)

Show: Linc’s Boy (SD price $9,200)

Race 2

Post time: 8:24 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $36,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: We get a little more experience in this race as there are only two first-time starters in the field the experienced horses bring a lot of intrigue to the race. Let’s start with the morning line favorite Avendore (6-5) who is getting blinkers and is looking to be more forwardly placed as opposed to the last time she went a mile where she spotted the field about 5-lengths before charging late and finishing second. Her pedigree doesn’t scream distance but her performance at a mile two races ago indicates that she may be best as a two-turn miler. Her speed figures are the best in the field and the equipment change should help. Looking outside of the favorite, I’m interested in another horse that is getting an equipment change, American Sway (5-1), as a horse who has broken to the back in each of her two races and never been involved. She has run both career races at a mile and while she loses ground late, a great deal of that could simply be because she’s so far back to start with that she’s not engaged. Adding the blinkers and getting her closer to the lead in a smaller field might just be what she needs to wake up. Uninhibited (4-1) is a horse you play simply because of the connections. Robertino Diodoro as the trainer and Ry Eikleberry as the jockey are a great combination and even though this horse showed very little in the mud at Oaklaw in her maiden effort, she may see a big jump. My guest, Jessica Paquette, was all about Aurelia Paulina (3-1) who is the Steve Asmussen filly making her debut. She’s got great pedigree and a very experience jockey aboard while turning in consistent workouts at the Fair Grounds. The big unknown is the pace. None of the previous runners have shown the predilection of going to the lead, which is why two get blinkers. Will this result in a hot pace or simply getting two good horses’ better position? I think it’s the latter and will bet accordingly. 

Win: American Sway (SD price $6,000)

Place: Avendore (SD price $9,800)

Show: Aurelia Paulina (SD price $8,000)

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Race 3

Post time: 8:53 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $36,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 4- and 5-years-old 

Surface: Dirt

Overview: After two races without much value, our third maiden race to start the card features some intriguing long shots. This will be an interesting race as the two favorites, Ready Edge (7-5) and Rush the Colors (3-1), are both going to go for the lead and it could lead to a contested pace, which opens things up for the rest of the field. Before we get to the rest of the field, a word on the favorites. Rush the Colors is coming off a 7-month layoff and is the perfect horse to include in exotics as he’s amazingly finished 2nd five times in his seven career races. His penchant for not winning makes him an easy toss but he is always competitive and cannot be discounted. Meanwhile, Ready Edge ran a strong maiden effort at 5-furlongs at Delta Downs last month and posted the best speed figure in the field. He got outkicked in his debut when he was on a contested lead at a shorter distance, which is why I’m concnered about the pace. Claimjumper (4-1) is cutting back in distance but stepping up in class. He’s had some success on the maiden claiming circuit but often finished well back in maiden special weight fields. Bud Minister ran a big effort last time out but that was at a much lower (and cheaper) level and lost his previous two maiden special weight races by a combined 59 lengths. Interestingly, independent of each other, my guest handicapper, Jessica Paquette, and I both identified Uncle Trey (20-1) are a horse worth playing. He’s making his debut but has easily turned in the best workouts of any horse in the field. The reason he’s 20-1 is those workouts took place five months ago and there is a big gap in his workout regimen, but he’s been ramping up lately and keeping to a regular routine. In a race where the pace could open things up, he strikes me as a worthwhile play. Vickslincolnlawyer (10-1) is another early speed candidate and part of the Asmussen barn but is coming off a significant layoff. Between the three early speed horses, I think Ready Edge is probably the most likely to sit back in a stalking position and thus I like his chances the most to build on his big maiden performance.

Win: Ready Edge (SD price $9,600)

Place: Uncle Trey (SD price $250)

Show: Rush the Colors (SD price $8,000)

Race 4

Post time: 9:22 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $30,000 Allowance Optional Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The first non-maiden race on Saturday night present us with some very strong experienced runners. The coupled entry of Good Scout and Old Trafford (4-1) present good value if you believe Good Scout will return to his previous form. He came back from a three-month layoff in September and ran beautifully at Remington Park but then followed that up with back-to-back disappointing 7th-place performances at the same distance and weakening down the stretch. Prior to the layoff, he had been on a roll as he hit the board seven of his nine previous races and is 3-3 hitting the board at Sam Houston with two wins. I’m not as bullish on his return to form, which is why I’m looking elsewhere. Red N Wild (9-2) may not be a win candidate but is a horse that is always around the board at this level and should absolutely be included in all exotics, particularly since he’ll get a perfect stalking trip. Additionally, he run well against morning line favorite Samurai Cause (8-5) that has the Eikleberry-Broberg connection I mentioned earlier. Samurai Cause is coming off consecutive wins and will sit behind the early speed while making one big move around the far turn.  However, his workouts look a little sluggish and this is a strong field so he’s going to have his hands full. Gold Pilot (5-2) is the other horse to mention, and he’s run at some higher-level races but hasn’t raced since July. However, his trainer, Brett Calhoun, wins 30% of races with horses coming off a 180+ day layoff, which is an astounding number when most trainers are in the single digits. His workouts look fresh, and I think he’s worth a shot. If you’re looking for a long shot, Keller’s Gold (8-1) is a horse that’s run some solid races at this level but rarely wins. He’s making his second start from a layoff and would seem capable of hitting the board.

Win: Gold Pilot (SD price $8,500)

Place: Red N Wild (SD price $6,500)

Show: Good Scout ($7,000)

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Race 5

Post time: 9:51 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $30,000 Allowance Optional Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: Our first turf race of the evening features a good group of fillies and mares going a mile around a track with tight turns that tends to favor early speed. The first place to look is Leather and Lace (10-1) who is a horse for a course as she’s hit the board 6-8 times on the turf at Sam Houston while winning four of those races. Admittedly, her last few races haven’t been great but returning to a track where she’s had success may perk her up a bit. I’m also intrigued by Musical Millie (6-1) who has solid turf pedigree despite mostly running on dirt. In her limited turf races, she’s held her own and out finished Leather and Lace a few races back. She’s coming off about a two-and-a-half-month layoff, which is not long enough to raise red flags. She is a deep closer, so she’ll need some pace to run into against this field. Speaking of early speed, that will come in the form of Kalliniki (4-1) who is running for the second time since a layoff but the first time out, which was just last week, inspired little confidence. She faded badly down the stretching, finishing nearly 30 lengths off the pace and may need another race to get back into running shape. The two favorites, Lavendar (8-5) and Shirley Temple (3-1), are both very respectable and should be well-positioned near the lead. Oddly enough, Lavender seemed to perk up last time out on dirt but is returning to turf where she’s had solid success. Meanwhile, Shirley’s Temple is coming off a brief layoff but has won three consecutive races prior to that on turf at the distance while showing progressively improving speed figures. I like the way Mindy Willis has trained this horse to get ready for a return to action and I think she’s going to be tough to beat.

Win: Shirley’s Temple (SD price $8,000)

Place: Leather and Lace (SD price $1,000)

Show: Musical Millie (SD price $5,000)

Race 6

Post time: 10:20 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $36,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: We are back to a maiden race and this one features a solid group. Due to the depth in the field, I’m out on the morning line favorite Sperle (2-1) for a few reasons. First, he’s stepping up from maiden claiming races to a maiden special weight. Second, I’m not sure he appreciated the stretch out to a mile last race despite posting a better speed figure than his maiden effort. He weakened down the stretch and while he finished second, not all seconds are created equal as he was beaten by 10+ lengths. Rather, I’m looking to the inside and Vienna Prize (4-1) as a horse who broke dead last in a 12-horse field and then managed to pass all but one in seven furlongs to finish second by a length in his maiden effort. An extra furlong, a smaller field, and a better start seem like a recipe for success. The other looming figure in the race is that of Magazine Street (5-2) who is a Steve Asmussen horse and a Gun Runner progeny. For most of 2021, my rallying cry when you weren’t sure who to bet in juvenile races was to simply bet Gun Runner progeny who amazing won 23% of their starts. However, Magazine Street seems like he’s got gate issues as he’s hopped, stumbled, and bumped at the start in three career races. He dropped down in class last time out and finished well off the pace. If he breaks cleaner, then he’s got a chance. However, that’s a big if and at 5-2 those are odds I’m not willing to take to win but I do think this is a nice spot for him to show improvement and hit the board. One horse I will take a swing with is Silver Warrior (8-1) who had a befuddling effort last time out after showing solid progression in his first two races. He had hit the board in his first two efforts at a mile and saw improving speed figures and placement his second time out. However, in his last race he broke toward the back, as he normally does, and just never engaged with the race despite it being at the same level, distance, and track as his previous two. He’s had decent workouts since then and I’m willing to take a chance that he reverts to his previous form in this race.  

Win: Vienna Prize (SD price $7,000)

Place: Silver Warrior (SD price $3,000)

Show: Magazine Street (SD price $8,500)

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Race 7

Post time: 10:48 PM ET

Distance: 7 furlongs

Type: $15,000 Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: This race will be all about pace. On paper, the ONLY speed in the field is morning line favorite Rosie’s Outlaw (7-5) who is stretching out beyond his traditional sprint distance but is going to be able to set his own pace and should clear the field early. With Ry Eikleberry aboard, this feels like a potential wire-to-wire victory but I think there is value to be found underneath. The reason I think there is value is that I’m not blown away with the horses immediately behind Rosie’s Outlaw. The coupled entry of Eyes on Red and Mule Skinner (7-2) do not overwhelm me. Mule Skinner only hits the board at lower-level claiming races and will fade at this distance. Meanwhile, Eyes on Red is also a horse that tends to be just off the board at this level and is coming off a 7-month layoff. Then you have Morricone (5-1) who just ran last week at the Fair Grounds and finished well back in an optional claiming race. He’s had good experience in claiming races and perhaps the drop in class will mitigate the quick turnaround but it does not feel like a great spot. Therefore, I’m looking Remember Me Tony (10-1) as a horse that’s just always around the board. He’s dropping down in class from running $25,000 claimers to $15,000 where he’s had success hitting the board in the past. I’d also look to longshot Needabetterjock (20-1) as he’s dropping back down to the claiming circuit where he had incredible success in 2021, albeit at smaller tracks. Willy Special Cats (4-1) is also dropping down in class and always does well this level and at Sam Houston where he’s 3-4 hitting the board.

Win: Rosie’s Outlaw (SD price $9,600)

Place: Willy Special Cats (SD price $7,000)

Show: Remember Me Tony ($1,000)

Race 8

Post time: 11:15 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $30,000 Allowance Optional Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up (filles & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: Our second to last race of the evening features a horse taking a big class drop in Spanx Legacy (8-5) who had been running in some big-time allowance and optional claiming races at Keeneland and Kentucky Downs this fall. That said, he broke his maiden at Sam Houston and certainly Steve Asmussen, who has won the Sam Houston training titled a record 13 times, knows what he’s doing in this space. The horse is coming off a layoff but has been working crisply at Sam Houston for the last month. While I think this mare is the class of the field, she will have her hands full. Quinn Ella (3-1) should be well positioned in a stalking trip and while she faltered a bit last time out, she had hit the board each of her previous five races, winning three of them, all of which were at the allowance or optional claiming level. Factual (7-2) is a horse that will be the early speed and has shown the ability to wire the field having won each of her last three races. What’s fascinating is that over the last two months I’ve seen several horses that have changed their running style with great success. Clear Vision being the most recent example as he won the Tropical Turf Stakes with a frontrunning effort last weekend. Factual fits a similar bill as a horse that used to stalk or sit mid-pack but four races ago, she was moved up more aggressively at the start and the results have been stellar. The longshot to watch for in the race is Martz’s Mae (10-1) who is breaking from the far outside and coming off a 4-month layoff but who has been running in strong races prior to that and had hit the board in her previous six efforts with two wins. Her best bet to win is to hit outside of Factual, which will be made easier by her gate position and while she’s capable of closing from farther back, her wins have all come in stalking trips.

Win: Factual (SD price $7,500)

Place: Spanx Legacy (SD price $9,200)

Show: Martz’s Mae (SD price $1,000)

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Race 9

Post time: 11:42 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $36,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: If you listen to the podcast (or watch the video preview) you’ll hear this final race is where Sam Houston Racing Analyst, Jessica Paquette, and I differ the most. She is extremely knowledgeable about pedigree and is drawn to two horses—Steve Asmussen’s Teo (3-1) and Karl Broberg’s Malibu Channel (8-1). Let’s start with Teo who is the most expensive horse in the field, costing a cool $230,000 and has been brought along slowly at Louisiana Downs. His works have looked solid and certainly the trainer (Asmussen) and jockey (Elliott) inspire confidence given that they win 25% of the time when they team up. Malibu Channel is a long shot and had a pedigree that even stuck out to me with English Channel up top and a Malibu Moon mare underneath. The workouts haven’t blown me away, which is likely why you’re getting 8-1 on him but if you bet pedigree, it’s one of the better bets in the field. Of the experienced runners, Big Bernie (2-1) is the morning line favorite and should get to the lead uncontested, particularly from his outside post position. However, stretching out to a mile is not something that appealed to him last time as he dropped seven lengths in the last furlong last time out. His workouts look very good, and Mindy Willis had him run a strong 6-furlong workout late last week. A horse I’m intrigued by is Federal Hill who, like Spanx Legacy in the previous race, is getting a huge class drop. Previously, he was running $83,000 and $120,000 maiden special weight races at Keeneland and Churchill Downs against solid competition. After a brief layoff and trainer change, he’s running for Austin Gustafson who has done quite well thus far at Sam Houston and is being ridden by Ry Eikleberry. Additionally, Federal Hill is cutting back in distance a bit that should help if he’s more forwardly placed. I believe this final race is a good opportunity to beat the morning line favorite and Jessica did enough to convince me that Teo and Malibu Channel need to be included in the top three.

Win: Federal Hill (SD price $5,000)

Place: Teo (SD prices $8,000)

Show: Malibu Channel (SD price $3,000)

Get all of Matthew’s horse racing coverage by following him on Twitter at @failedtomenace, by subscribing to Amalfi Media’s YouTube channel, and following The Win Place Show podcast.

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