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Horse Racing Picks for Thursday, April 30: Best Value Bets for Oaklawn Park
Leonie Grbic/Racing Photos via Getty Images
This weekend’s card at Oaklawn Park features arguably the best collective group of races we’ve seen this year at any track, and it will serve as a fitting close to the final week of the Oaklawn meet, following the split-division Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on Saturday.
Despite the deep and competitive fields lined up for this weekend, I have a relatively firm opinion about numerous races on the Friday and Saturday cards at Oaklawn in particular. As a result, I won’t be looking to play too much of my bankroll on a Thursday card, which I’m finding more challenging to handicap than the others.
That said, we’ll still break down the nine races on Thursday’s Oaklawn card, and see if we can find some value to pad that bankroll before the weekend festivities begin.
Thursday’s racing at Oaklawn Park goes to post at 2:05 p.m. ET – which starts the early $0.50 Pick 4.
The $0.50 Pick 5 begins with Race 5 at 4:06 p.m. ET, and the late $0.50 Pick 4 goes off with Race 6 at 4:36 p.m. ET.
The weather appears to be clear this afternoon in Hot Springs, Arkansas, so track conditions should be fast throughout the day.
Race 1 (Early Pick 4)
We begin the day with a six-furlong, $16K maiden claimer, and will back both a jockey and a trainer who have each been running hot of late.
The favorite No 7 Boo Be Right (3-1) continues to drop in class in search of his first win. After starting in an $85K Maiden Special, he moved to a $50K Maiden, and then a $25K Maiden on April 5 – finishing a comfortable third.
He has worked consistently since that race, and after failing to draw into a six-furlong race at the $20K level on April 23, he finds himself at the $16K level with the best early speed and best last-out Beyer figure (46) in the field.
His trainer, Daniel Peitz, has also hit the board six times in nine starts (3-2-1) over the past month (406% ROI). Boo Be Right is my lone “A” option.
My lone backup or “B” horse for multi-race wagers is the No. 2 James’ Moonshine (7-2), who enters with the highest career Beyer figure in the race (48) and off of a troubled trip (late out of the gate, four wide at the turn) last out.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. has hit the board in 52% of his starts over the past 30 days, with a 20% win rate (17 for 83) and will look to work out a mid-pack stalking trip.
In addition to multi-race wagering, I’ll play my top two selections in an exacta box.
Picks: 7, over 2, 12, 5
I’m not picking the favorite No. 7 My Boy Lollipop (2-1) to win this six-furlong, $10K claimer for horses with no more than one career win, despite some impressive stats for trainer Brad Cox – who is 55 for 168 (33%, $2.41 ROI) in the second start after a 45-180 day layoff, with a 27% win rate after 31-60 days, and a 28% win rate at the claimer level.
The favorite is going to take a lot of money but also seems to be one of the three most likely winners, and I’ll use him defensively on multi-race tickets, but will also try to beat him.
I’ll include a former Cox runner, the No. 10 Tiz McNamara (5-1), who has run monster Beyer figures in the past (94, 84) against tougher competition, though he now competes for a low percentage barn.
My top selection is the No. 2 Young Hendrick (4-1) for trainer Karl Broberg, who is excellent off of the claim (138 for 511, 27%) and takes a horse who has a win and a place in three dirt starts, works him consistently since February, and now finally sends him out for the first time after paying two months worth of training bills.
Young Hendrick was only defeated by one length last time out, on a wet track at Oaklawn, and he has much better early speed than the other favorites in this field – which should put him directly into contention.
Picks: 2, over 7, 10, 1
This is an $8K claimer going six furlongs, and my top two selections come out of the same race, a $20K claimer from April 2 where the No. 1 Lewis Vaporizer (3-1) started slow, came four-wide at the turn and faded, and the No. 7 Big League (6-2) vied three-wide at the turn and finished fifth against a fast pace.
Lewis Vaporizer has an 89 Beyer figure from two starts back at Oaklawn, which easily tops anything recent from this field. Big League should improve off of his field-leading last-out 78 Beyer while making his third start since August.
The No. 3 Doc Curlin (12-1) is the only other horse with a figure above 80 in their past five starts. He has hit the board 75% of the time (6-3-3) in 15 starts on fast dirt, including each of his past eight, but this is his second start for low-percentage trainer Tim Dixon, after leaving Robertino Diodoro.
The No. 10 Swiss Minister (5-1) comes in off of a win at the $6,250 claimer level, with and should improve with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle in his second start since December.
The one I cannot figure out is the No. 4 Roaring Rule (6-1), on the reclaim for Diodoro, who is 63 for 220 (29%) at Oaklawn with jockey David Cohen in the irons over the past two years.
But this horse hasn’t run a race fast enough to beat this group since late 2018, and I think he’ll be an underlay at the window.
The 1, 7, and 10 horses look like my “A” options.
Picks: 1, over 7, 10, 3
Next up is $60K maiden special weight for fillies, going 8.5 furlongs, and I would go three deep to close out any Early Pick 4 tickets.
My top selection is the No. 10 Shazzy B (7-2) for Brad Cox, who is 26 for 110 (24%) when he starts a horse for the first time, though this runner will make her first effort around two turns. She lost her first start by a neck, bobbled early in her second but recovered to finish strong, and placed again by two lengths on March 4 before Cox took over. She has the highest last-out Beyer (75) in the field.
Her main competition is the No. 1 Cherokee Maiden (3-1) for Hall-of-Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, who has finished second as the favorite in three consecutive starts, including twice to next-out winners;. However, she’s yet to hit the board on fast dirt.
Alternatively, the No. 9 Kizzy B (9-2) finished fourth last out behind Cherokee Maiden, but she has placed three times on fast dirt and might move up in better conditions. And you could make the same argument for the No. 5 Malibu Marlee (6-1), who finished third in that race.
The No. 13 Soothing (8-1) would draw my attention from the also-eligible list, coming in from California at a square number, and despite a long layoff.
Picks: 10, over 1, 9, 5
Race 5 (Pick 5)
I’ll utilize two “A” options, and one “B” option to begin the Late Pick 5, in this $20K claimer going 8.5 furlongs.
Take one horse with good early speed, the No. 9 Matrooh (4-1), and the Diodoro/Cohen connection (29% win rate since the start of 2019), with the main horse coming from off the pace in the No. 3 Frost or Frippery (3-1) – the only entry in this field with three consecutive Beyer figures higher than 80.
Matrooh could flatten this field if he gets an early lead, and runs back to past Beyer figures of 94 and 93 from within his past four starts, but he faltered after early pressure on April 18 and comes in with question marks.
The No. 2 Parade Field (7-2) has two wins in five tries at Oaklawn Park, and should also come with a bid from off the pace, but he never picked up his feet on April 5 and appeared to be declining for a low-percentage barn. However, his back figures and class drop, into a level where he’s won twice, still makes him attractive.
The No. 11 Gigging (6-1) keeps running reliable figures, but he seems to pass horses after the break rarely.
Picks: 9, over 3, 2, 11
Race 6 (Late Pick 4)
This six-furlong, $40K claimer is a much deeper field than anything we have seen so far today – though it will be bested by Race 8 coming up shortly.
I’m focusing on a horse cutting back in distance from a longer race in the No. 7 CZ Rocket (6-1), whose trainers wins 19% of the time when moving from a route to a sprint.
The No. 2 The Red Dude (9-2) also has back class and goes out for the high-percentage Diodoro/Cohen connection, but I’m less interested without the class drop or cutback in the distance to factor into the equation.
The No. 8 Scoring (6-1) figures to take some money, with trainer Federico Villafranco winning at a 17% clip at the claimer level, but this three-year-old needs to improve against older horses, and figures to be on my “B” list with The Red Dude.
The only other horse on my “A” line is the No. 1 Aggressivity (4-1) for Steve Asmussen, who is 120 for 544 (22%) with last-out winners. This is a step up in class, but this gelding should come with a strong late kick against a field heavy on pace.
Picks: 7 over 1, 2, 8
Asmussen has another major contender in this six-furlong, $40K claimer, for horses with one career win or fewer, in the No. 4 Reelfoot (9-2). While I’ll undoubtedly include any competent Asmussen sprinter, he’s not my top selection.
That nod goes to the No. 12 The Great Dansky (6-1) for red-hot trainer John Sadler, who has a 33% win rate in 24 starts over the past 30 days (8-3-2), with a 172% ROI. The Great Dansky has the highest career Beyer figure (81) from his debut win but followed that up with a flat effort on April 20. Sadler adds blinkers, an equipment change that has been a profitable move for him in the past ($3.33 ROI).
The No. 8 Sacred Oath (4-1) is also a significant contender, coming off of consecutive 79-speed figures and finally getting a crack at a fast surface (1-0-0 in three starts on a wet track).
And I would also consider using the No. 7 The Big Bluff (8-1), who has improved in each start and closed from ninth going five wide at the turn, to win by more than a length last time out. You’ll see this three-year-old coming with a sharp kick in the stretch run.
Picks: 12, over 8, 4,7
The race of the day is a one-mile, $75K optional claimer for older female horses.
There are five primary contenders in this race, and I’ll begin with the one I like least in the No. 2 Vexatious (9-2), dealing with a long layoff for a low-percentage barn (8% after 180+ days; 9% in allowance races).
The No. 8 Blamed (9-2) for Bill Mott is undefeated at one mile or longer (4-0-0 in four starts), but extremely pace dependent, and I don’t think she’ll get the proper setup this time around, which should also hinder the addition of blinkers.
My exacta box consists of Brad Cox’s No. 1 Vault (7-2), and Mexican import No. 4 Letruska (9-2) – who owns the highest career and last-out Beyer (94) in this field, winning a $50K optional claimer at Oaklawn on April 16 in gate to wire fashion, and is undefeated on dirt (8-0-0 in eight starts).
Vault returns off of a long layoff, and though Cox (23% after 61-180 days) excels at pulling his horses off of the bench, she also makes her debut for the Cox barn (53 for 250, 21% winners first after trainer switch), against this tight group. That said, she’s likely the most tactical of the bunch.
If Latruska can take the lead, she’ll be tough to handle. If she cannot, it could set up the race for either Blamed or Fighting Mad. And if all three engage early, which I think is the most likely scenario, Vault should be sitting just off of the pace, waiting to pounce.
Picks: 1, over 4, 2, 8
The final race of the day is a six-furlong, $61K allowance race, and I’m going to include three options to close out any multi-race tickets.
The No. 5 Union Ride (4-1) makes the second start of his four-year-old season for Diodoro, who wins at a 28% clip (67 for 235) in the second race after a 45-180 day layoff. Last out, he dealt with some traffic and still finished a nice third behind Steve Asmussen’s nice-looking Town Champ.
He’ll face another Asmussen runner this time in the No. 6 American Mandate (8-1) who finished fourth in that same allowance race, but I like that Ricardo Santana Jr. is back on the mount for this barn, and if this horse runs his race from two starts back (90 Beyer) he’ll be tough to handle.
The triple-crown nominated No. 11 Marvin (7-2) has four-consecutive Beyer figures between 82 and 84 and has hit the board in each of his six-lifetime starts (1-3-2), including a 1-1-2 record in four races on fast dirt. He comes in off of a bullet work on April 27 and looks ready to improve.
The No. 1 Box of Chocolates (8-1) is also intriguing with his ability to pass horses late but needs to improve while stepping up in class – a very tall task.
And Ron Moquett is always dangerous in sprint races but has just an 11% win rate after layoffs between 61-180 days, so the No. 9 Breaking News (12-1) could need this race to get back into shape.
Lastly, the No. 13 Benintendi (7-2) would draw some attention off of the also-eligible list, with a 1-3-0 in four lifetime starts on dirt, including three Beyer figures at 88 or 89.
Picks: 6, over 4, 11, 1
Bets for Oaklawn Park, April 30
Favorite Win Bets
- Race 1: No 7 Boo Be Right (3-1)
Check out Sean Zerillo's horse racing betting preview for Thursday, April 30, at Oaklawn Park.