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Sam Houston: In Focus (originally posted 11/28/2007)

by The Oracle

Canterbury Park is offering double MVP points on all wagers at Sam Houston for the month of December. In my opinion, this is a racetrack worth following if you are a fan of the Pick 3 wager. I started following the racing scene at Sam Houston several years ago when they began offering a 12% takeout on their rolling Pick 3 wagers. You can catch some very nice payoffs without having to find that $20 winner. For those of you that aren’t following Sam Houston on a weekly basis, here are a few informational nuggets about racing at Sam Houston.
The Track Bias: Sam Houston is similar to most dirt tracks in that speed is a huge advantage in sprints. Since 2004, 60% of the winners in sprints had the lead at the first call of the race. By contrast, deep closers only won 6% of the dirt sprints during the past four years. Dirt routes are much fairer to all running styles, as 35% of the winners in dirt routes had the lead at the first call and 25% of the routes were won by deep closers.
Switching to the turf, speed is even less preferable as only 24% of the winners in turf routes since 2004 had the lead at the first call, the same percentage as were won by deep closers. Focus on the stalkers and closers on the turf course.
Connections: Two trainers historically dominate the standings at Sam Houston: Steve Asmussen and Danny Pish. The majority of the races will have horses trained by one or both of these trainers and they usually go favored. If you can find a Pick 3 sequence that doesn’t include a winner from either of these two trainers, you should start digging for your social security card. Asmussen sends out a lot of very fast first-time starters by the Texas sire Valid Expectations, those runners are generally live as Valid Expectations pops with about 20% of his first-time starters overall.
Canterbury’s own Paul Nolan rides regularly at Sam Houston and won at about a 15% clip last year. He excels on the turf and rides regularly for Michael Stidham. You can definitely get a price on Nolan from time to time.
Odds: If you’re looking for a longshot, you should avoid the maiden sprints (0 winners paid over $40 since 2004 from a 370 race sample) and concentrate on the maiden dirt routes and the turf races. The majority of the 20-1 winners come from these types of races.
Conversely, if you REALLY need a winner or are looking to anchor a Pick 3 or Pick 4 ticket with a short priced standout, the maiden dirt sprints are the most formful races on the grounds. Over 20% of the maiden dirt sprint winners since 2004 have paid $4.00 or less.
Conclusion: My advice is to take advantage of Canterbury’s Double MVP points offer and jump into some Sam Houston racing in December. On opening night this year, the first Pick 3 paid $110 for $2 and all three horses went postward at 2-1 or less, a very formful result with a great payoff. Good Luck.