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Racing expert Sweet Lou Monaco's picks for the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes at Sam Houston Park

The biggest day on the calendar for Sam Houston Park in Houston is today, where six stakes races will be held, highlighted by the $300,000 Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes for 4-year-olds and up fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.

The short field of 6 will go to gate for race 8 on the 10-race card with an approximate post time of 6:20 p.m. ET.

#4, Lady Apple, Ricardo Santana, Jr., 9-2

Lady Apple will be making her 12th career start (5-2-1) and her sixth straight graded stakes appearance, where she has finished in the money in four of her last five starts, including a ½ length win as the second choice in the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks on Sept. 29. This will be her fifth straight different track she has run on and her first here at Gulfstream Park. She has won three straight Grade 3 races and I like her at these odds to upset the applecart today. Ricardo Santana, Jr. is aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Smarty Jones Stakes on Oaklawn Park’s opening day Friday. The pick.

#1, Serengeti Empress, Flavien Prat, 7-5

Today marks Serengeti Empress’ 10th straight graded stakes start (3-2-1) where she is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. This will be her seventh straight different track she has raced on as she is looking for her first triumph since a Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks win on May 3. There is a lot to like and she has come close in three of her last four races. Flavien Prat is aboard for trainer Thomas Amoss. Does she get it done today for the first time in eight months? We shall see. Runner-up.

#6, Street Band, Sophie Doyle, 5-2

Street Band finished in the money in three straight with two victories prior to her eighth-place finish in her last at the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. During that stretch prior, she won the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand Race Course (7/13), placed second in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga (8/17) and came away with a thrilling 2 ¼ length victory as the fifth choice in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing (9/21). Does she improve off that BC Distaff finish in her last? I think she will, but not by much. Sophie Doyle is in the irons for trainer Larry Jones. Contender.

#5, Mylady Curlin, Tyler Gaffalione, 7-2

In her 15 career starts (8-3-2), she has finished in the money in 10 straight (6-2-2) so she enters this race as hot as anyone in the field. In her last, she won the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap by 2 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. Today will be her fourth straight graded stakes appearance. Tyler Gaffalione is in the saddle for Brad Cox. Don’t be surprised if on top. In the mix.

PICKS: 4-1-6-5

By Lou Monaco


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