Sam Houston stakes plays for Jan. 31
A six-pack of stakes races, with two of the graded variety, highlight a superb card at Sam Houston on Sunday. And the sequence seems like a perfect time to take a shot at the generous “$4,000 Place Jackpot” promotion that Twin Spires is offering through the weekend.
The black-type races offer large and well-matched fields, making the play a difficult one to navigate through. But with that said, the chances of numerous winning tickets being cashed is fairly slim in my opinion, making the wager well worth the investment.
Turf Sprint S.
A dozen turf dashers will go postward in a very competitive event. #3 Carotari (8-1) is training well and has the versatile running style that is of major importance in a huge field. Multiple stakes winner is eligible for improvement in his seasonal debut, and I like his chances to run well while fresh on Sunday. Turf ace Leparoux will be in the silks.
#1 Nitrous (8-5) got back to his winning ways with a stakes triumph at Fair Grounds most recently, and the son of Tapit seems like a logical contender in this spot. Gray five-year-old will save ground every step of the way beneath Stewart Elliot.
Turf Mile S.
I have been impressed with the turf races put in by #5 Fighting Force (3-1) to this stage of his development. Air Force Blue colt was a solid second in the recent Dania Beach S., and he has the early foot to be in range throughout with Castanon riding.
Ladies Classic (G3)
As much as I like recent Rampart (G3) romper #7 Letruska (1-1), if she fails to run first or second, then a lot of tickets will be ripped up. I like the form and running style of #2 Jeweled Princess (8-1) for McPeek. The talented late runner has crossed the wire in front in five of her last six assignments, and she will receive a robust pace to rally into in her local debut.
John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3)
While it is ambitious to send out #3 Ajourneytofreedom (10-1) for a 1 1/2-mile race off the layoff, I have a ton of faith that conditioner Mike Maker will have the son of Hard Spun ready to fire on Sunday. Gelding was an even fourth at 1 1/4 miles in the Belmont Derby (G1) in October and could thrive in his first 12-furlong endeavor.
Fillies and mares will travel 1 1/16 miles on the green in the finale. I will put my faith in Maker once again by siding with Valley View (G3) heroine #8 Stunning Sky (3-1). Declaration of War filly has burned a lot of money in her last two assignments, but she has too much back class to overlook in this affair. Leparoux has the call.