Top Horse Racing Picks for Thursday, February 3, 2022

| February 2, 2022 11:49 am PDT

Of the three horse racing tracks I visited for my picks—Aqueduct Racetrack, Fair Grounds Race Course, and Sam Houston Race Park—you won’t find anything but underdog moneymakers among my choices until you get to Sam Houston. And while I picked two favorites there, I still found a 6/1 underdog to tout.

Before you head on down to the details, make sure you review the race-cards for each of the three tracks at our recommended horse racing wagering sites.

Good luck!

My Thursday Picks for Aqueduct Racetrack

We’re on the main track for race two, a one-mile starter optional claiming run for three-year-olds. My money’s on the second-favored (at 5/2) Hot Stepper, piloted by top jockey Trevor McCarthy.

This gelding finished in the money only once in his four career starts, breaking his maiden last month at Aqueduct. What impresses me is that a month earlier—in December—he finished fourth of a field of eleven in the New York Stallion Series Stakes (Black Type).

For both his maiden victory and the stakes race money finish, Hot Stepper lay back in the tall grass and waited for his opportunity to run for home.

Hot stepper is trained by owner Charlton Baker, who has been ranked among the top trainers in North America for wins, earnings, or both since the year 2000.

Race three is a one-mile allowance run for fillies and mares four years old and upward. I like one of the third-favored entries (there are two at 7/2 in this race): Honey Money, with Trevor McCarthy aboard.

This five-year-old mare moneyed 12 of her 19 career starts, winning six, including her most recent. In this talented six-horse field, it doesn’t hurt that she’s got McCarthy in the irons, but it’s her record and speed figures that really convince me she’s got this one.

With nearly two decades in the business, Wayne Potts trains Honey Money for owners Frank Catapano and Nicholas Primpas. Potts tapped McCarthy to saddle Honey Money for her two most recent races.

Race eight is a seven-furlong allowance optional claiming race for four-year-olds and upward. I’m betting my two dollars on the second-favored (at 3/1) Answer In, ridden by veteran jockey Kendrick Carmouche.

This five-year-old gelding finished nine of his 14 career starts in the money, winning four, including his most recent here at Aqueduct. He most notably finished third in the Southwest Stakes (Grade III), a a 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race. He continues to post consistently high speed figures.

Robert N. Falcone, Jr. trains Answer In for Beast Mode Racing LLC.

Thursday Picks for Fair Grounds Race Course

We’re starting on the main track with race three, a six-furlong allowance optional claiming race for four-year-olds and upward. In this talented short field of five, I’m buying a win ticket on one of the third-favored (there are two entries at 7/2)—Long Weekend, with newcomer Rene Diaz aboard.

This five-year-old moneyed nine of his 13 career starts, winning six. Most notably, he won the Bachelor Stakes (Listed) and the Gazebo Stakes (Black Type) back-to-back at Oaklawn Park in 2020.

Breeders’ Cup veteran Thomas M. Amoss trains Long Weekend for B.C.W.T. Ltd. Amoss has two horses in this race—the other is the 9/5 favorite, Isolate.

Race seven is a one mile and 70 yards allowance optional claiming race on the main track for fillies and mares four years old and upward. Here’s another evenly matched race where I’m going to the longer odds for my winner: Threewickedwishes (one of four horses the morning-line has at 6/1 in this seven-horse race), ridden by Emanuel Nieves.

This five-year-old mare finished seven of her ten career starts in the money, winning four.

Longtime horse racing veteran Joseph M. Foster trains Threewickedwishes for owner Richard B. Benton. Foster put Nieves in the irons for Threewickedwishes’ last two rides, resulting in a third and a first, both at Louisiana Downs.

Race nine is a 1-1/16 miles allowance optional claiming race on the main track for four-year-olds and upward. My money’s on the second-favored (at 4/1) Gulfstream Way, piloted by Mitchell Murrill.

This four-year-old gelding moneyed two of his four career starts, winning one.

Compared to the rest of this eight-horse field, Gulfstream Way is primed for a visit to the winner’s circle.

With more than three decades in the horse racing business, James E. Baker trains Gulfstream Way for Never Better Stables, LLC. Baker has put Murrill in the saddle for Gulfstream Way’s last three races, including his maiden victory.

Thursday’s Picks for Sam Houston Race Park

Let’s begin with race two, a one-mile starter optional claiming race on the main track for four-year-olds and upward. I agree with the morning-line here, so I’m betting on the 5/2 favorite, Close to Midnight, ridden by Freddy Jose Manrrique.

This eight-year-old gelding has the right stuff to win in this otherwise unimpressive ten-horse field: 22 money finishes in 43 career starts, ten of them wins.

Year after year, Close to Midnight has performed well for his connections and for those who bought tickets to watch him earn his keep.

Forty-year horse racing veteran Frank Lucarelli trains Close to Midnight for owners Chad and Josh.

Race six is a seven-furlong allowance race on the dirt track for four-year-olds and upward.

I’m betting my two dollars on the coupled entry—but only because of the front half, Maxi Moon, with Ry Eikleberry aboard.

The 1/1A coupled entry is running at 6/1 morning-line odds, and Equibase has both entries jockeyed by Eikleberry. The top-100-ranked Karl Broberg trains both Maxi Moon and the other half of the coupled entry—Ride Richie Ride—for End Zone Athletics, Inc.

In case Maxi Moon doesn’t make it to the starting gate, my contingency pick is a win ticket on the second-favored (at 4/1) Mau Mau, piloted by Gerardo Mora.

Trained by Danny Pish for Eleven One Racing Stables, this five-year-old gelding moneyed six of his 16 career starts, winning four.

Race seven is a six-furlong allowance optional claiming race for three-year-old fillies. I’m betting on the 5/2 morning-line favorite, Texas Ascot Queen, with Lane J. Luzzi in the irons.

Texas Ascot Queen finished in the money two of her three career starts, both of them wins—her graduation run in July at Lone Star Park, and a claiming race here at Sam Houston last month. While this nine-horse field has plenty of eager and able competition, I still see Texas Ascot Queen as my no-brainer pick of the day.

Regularly ranked among the top trainers for the past eight years, J. R. Caldwell trains Texas Ascot Queen for Indigo Racing.

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J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

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