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Using history to handicap the 2019 Cotillion Stakes

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The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues in a big way on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Parx Racing. The Pennsylvania racetrack will host a stakes-laden card highlighted by the $1 million, Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes (a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff) and the $1 million, Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby.

Examining the history of major stakes races can reveal trends and similarities uniting past winners, which can provide a guide for identifying future winners.

With so much on the line in the Cotillion Stakes, we’ve dug through the last ten editions of this 1 1/16-mile race to compile a list of tips and trends you can put to use in your handicapping. Which filly is most likely to secure a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff? Let’s find out:

Speed Horses Have an Edge

You definitely don’t want to rally from too far off the pace in the Cotillion Stakes. Over the last ten years, every Cotillion winner raced within three lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile, and eight of the ten were sitting in first, second, or third place.

Furthermore, one of the few exceptions was Midnight Bisou, who actually crossed the wire in second place before being awarded the victory by disqualification. The original winner, Monomoy Girl, was vying for the lead after the opening half-mile, reiterating the importance of tactical speed in the Cotillion.

Year Winner Position after first 1/2-mile 1/2-mile & 3/4-mile (track condition)
2018 Midnight Bisou 5th by 2.25 lengths (8 starters) 48.63, 1:13.12 (fast)
2017 It Tiz Well 2nd by 1 length (11 starters) 47.27, 1:11.37 (fast)
2016 Songbird 2nd by 0.5 lengths (6 starters) 47.71, 1:12.04 (fast)
2015 I’m a Chatterbox 4th by 3 lengths (11 starters) 47.59, 1:12.21 (fast)
2014 Untapable 3rd by 3 lengths (8 starters) 46.62, 1:10.37 (fast)
2013 Close Hatches 2nd by a head (9 starters) 47.24, 1:10.51 (fast)
2012 My Miss Aurelia 2nd by 2.5 lengths (4 starters) 50.04, 1:14.72 (fast)
2011 Plum Pretty 1st by 0.5 lengths (6 starters) 46.74, 1:10.70 (fast)
2010 Havre de Grace 2nd by 1.5 lengths (5 starters) 47.28, 1:10.84 (fast)
2009 Careless Jewel 1st by 2 lengths (6 starters) 45.72, 1:09.34 (fast)

Favor Fillies Exiting the Alabama Stakes (and Saratoga in General)

Easily the key prep race for the Cotillion Stakes has been the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. This prestigious 1 ¼-mile race has produced seven of the last ten Cotillion winners, including four in a row since 2015. Interestingly, only two of those seven fillies (Songbirdand Careless Jewel) actually won the Alabama; the rest were defeated over the extended distance at Saratoga, but evidently relished the cutback in distance for the Cotillion.

In addition, My Miss Aurelia utilized a victory in the Mandys Gold Stakes at Saratoga as her springboard to the Cotillion, which means that eight of the last ten Cotillion winners prepped at Saratoga.

Favor Proven Grade 1 Winners

It takes a seriously classy filly to prevail in the Cotillion Stakes. Seven of the last ten winners had previously won a Grade 1 race, while the other three all entered off runner-up efforts in the Alabama Stakes. Five of the ten were past or future champions, a number that could rise to six if Midnight Bisou is named champion older dirt mare this season, as is widely expected.

Play Favorites in the Exacta

Favorites have a strong record of success in the Cotillion Stakes. Over the last ten years, the favorites have recorded five victories and five runner-up efforts, so if you’ve been excluding the favorites from your exactas, then you haven’t been cashing any tickets.

Respect Mike Smith

The Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rides mostly top-class horses these days, so take note if he accepts a mount in the Cotillion Stakes. Smith has won this race three times in the last ten years aboard Close Hatches, Songbird, and Midnight Bisou, and since 2016 his mounts at Parx have gone 4-for-9 while accumulating $2,488,000 in earnings.


The potential field for the 2019 Cotillion Stakes includes some of the best 3-year-old fillies in training. The undefeated Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks winner Guarana could start as the favorite for trainer Chad Brown, but Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Bellafina could add further depth to the high-quality field.

The only problem, at least from a historical perspective, is that none of these fillies contested the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. The form of the Alabama will be represented in the Cotillion by third-place finisher Street Band, but this mid-pack closer has yet to win at the Grade 1 level and her running style might not be the best fit for Saturday’s race.

In the end, Guarana probably best matches the profile of a historical Cotillion winner. She’s won at the Grade 1 level, she’s likely to be favored, and she prepped for the Cotillion with a victory at Saratoga, even though it wasn’t the Alabama. For good measure, Guarana defeated Serengeti Empress by six lengths in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, suggesting she might be a cut above the other Grade 1 winners in this high-quality field.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Cotillion Stakes from Parx Racing on September 21. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

VanVleet picks up where he left off in the playoffs, and the NBA bets you need to make Tuesday

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Opening day of the 2019-20 NBA season is here with the defending champion Toronto Raptors hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. The late matchup pairs the top two choices to win it all, according to the NBA betting odds, with the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the new-look Los Angeles Clippers. 

If you’re betting on the NBA openers, we have the best bets and prop predictions for Tuesday’s two games.


The Pelicans sport one of the most overhauled rosters in the NBA after trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and draft picks. New Orleans then selected Zion Williamson first overall in the draft, but unfortunately, his debut will have to wait as he is expected to miss the first couple of weeks with a knee injury. Some more big pickups include Derrick Favors and J.J. Redick.

Although Redick is playing for a new squad this year, while with Philadelphia he had success versus the Raptors in the playoffs, shooting 43.9 percent from the field, 41 percent from beyond the arc, and scored 15 or more points in four of those seven postseason games. With an increased role on the Pelicans and some good shooting numbers, back Over his points total of 16.5 on PointsBet.


The Raptors kick their season off playing a double-header with the first game at home to the Pelicans. The 2018-2019 season saw the Raptors set franchise records in points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, and 3-point shots made. A regression is expected with Toronto losing both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green but still finds itself a 7-point favorite in the season opener.

With the Championship banner being hoisted, rings handed out, and the Raptors looking to start the schedule strong, look for them to take care of business and cover at home as 7-point favorites.


With Toronto PG Kyle Lowry undergoing surgery on his finger in the offseason, don’t be surprised to see big numbers out of Fred VanVleet in the first few games of the schedule.

Last season, VanVleet averaged 27.5 minutes with 11 points, 4.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Although this is a revamped Pelicans roster with many new faces, New Orleans struggled to defend opposing point guards last year, allowing 23.3 points per game and the league’s highest assists per game average at 9.1 to that position. If he carries over his postseason play, VanVleet will be a major player and offensive contributor for the defending champs. Take Over his assists total of 4.5.


The Lakers start their second season with LeBron James at the helm but has more support behind him with guys like Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Danny Green. The Clippers were also busy in the offseason, adding MVP talents in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

George will not be playing in the opening game (out until November while recovering from shoulder surgery), which plays a major role in shaping this spread, which sees the Purple and Gold as short “home” favorites in the war for the Staples Center.

LeBron and the Lakers have a lot to prove after a terrible finish to 2018-19 and we like them to cover as 2.5-points favorites Tuesday.


With both Leonard and Patrick Beverly on the floor, the Clippers will be a difficult team to score on. With George out of action and this L.A. offense not firing on all cylinders, the Clippers certainly have the defense to keep things close.

The Lakers have plenty of scoring options but miss out on the services of Kyle Kuzma (18.7 ppg in 2018-19), who will be sitting out in the opening game with a foot injury. While it’s Game 1 of an 82-game season, this Los Angeles rivalry could have playoff intensity right out of the gate. We like a lower-scoring game and the Under 225.5 points Tuesday night. 

Lakers vs Clippers NBA betting picks and predictions: Davis will dominate down low on opening night

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The 2019-2020 NBA season starts off with a bang tonight as two revamped teams with some of the best players in the world take to the court in Los Angeles as the Lakers face the Clippers. 

Expectations are sky-high for both teams after the Lakers added Anthony Davis as a running mate for Lebron James, while the Clippers are led by last year’s NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. These rivals will be highly motivated to begin the season with a win and stake an early claim as the best team in the league.

We break down the odds for the Battle of L.A. and give you five of our best bets and predictions.


The biggest move the Lakers made in the offseason was obviously the addition of Anthony Davis. But he’s not the only new face with Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley all in line to receive significant minutes in their rotation.

The Clippers have also gone through a makeover adding Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Maurice Harkless. While George won’t play until at least mid-November after undergoing shoulder surgery, the other two should log major minutes.

Playing together in practice and the preseason is no substitute for the actual defensive intensity of an NBA game. So expect both offenses to take some time to gell and back the Under on the 1Q total.

PICK: First Quarter Under 58 (-115)


The first quarter might see from offensive jitters from both teams but they should begin to settle down after 12 minutes. Lebron James, in particular, should have little problem facilitating the offense while the underrated additions of Green and Cook should improve their three-point efficiency which was among the worst in the league last year.

On defense, they match up well with the Clippers with Lebron able to switch onto Leonard while Bradley can give Lou Williams fits. Rajon Rondo is listed as questionable with a calf injury but if he’s good to go that will be yet another Lakers defender that can pressure opposing ball-handlers.

The Lakers also have a height advantage which should help them win the battle on the boards and get more second chances. Bet on the Lakers to cover the short first-half spread.

PICK: First Half Lakers -1.5 (-120)


Davis looks like a great fit in the Lakers offense next to Lebron. The Brow can run the pick and roll, attack down low and hit jumpers when he needs to. He gets to face a Clippers team that was among the worst at defending inside last season, giving up 50.7 points per game in the paint. Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green will have a major mismatch on their hands against the Lakers star.

Last year Davis combined for 41.8 points, rebounds and assists per game but that includes a stretch towards the end of the season where New Orleans severely limited his minutes. Before the All-Star break, he combined for 45.2 points, rebounds, and assists per contest. Take the Over on his PRA total tonight.

PICK: Anthony Davis – Points, Rebounds and Assists Over 41.5 (-115)



The O/U for this game opened at 227 on Saturday and has already dropped to 224 and for good reason. The Clippers should be terrific at defending on the perimeter with Patrick Beverly and Leonard while the Lakers will miss Kyle Kuzma’s production on the offensive end of the floor. Kuzma averaged 18.7 ppg last season but the forward is still recovering from a foot injury.

The Lakers should be much improved at defending the rim with Davis and Howard, which will force Leonard and Lou Williams to carry the offensive load.

The Lakers added plenty of experience and size in the offseason. That might be a formula for winning but also means that they added older players and guys that prefer to set up in the half-court rather than running the floor all game. Expect them to play at a slower pace than last season and take the Under 224.

PICK: Under 224 (-110)


As we enter this new era of “Super-Duos” in the NBA the Clippers could find themselves at a disadvantage without one half of their duo. Leonard will do his part on both ends of the floor but the Clippers will need a heroic display from Lou Williams and improved defensive play from their big men if they want to hang with the Lakeshow.

The Clips won’t have an answer for AD and Lebron will come out as healthy and as motivated as he’s been in years. As the season goes on, expect Lakers coach Frank Vogel to start resting his superstars, but he has said that there won’t be any minutes restrictions for Lebron or Davis at the start of the year. Count on the Lakers viewing this as a statement game and back them to pull off the win while covering.

PICK: Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 (-105)