Getty Images

Using history to handicap the 2019 Cotillion Stakes

Leave a comment

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.

Conclusions

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.

Running up the points with Rockets, and the college football bets you need to make in Week 12

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Are you ready for some more MAC-tion? Because there are two more games on the schedule Wednesday night. We break down the best bets for these games and take a look at the weekend ahead in college football – from sides and totals to props and everything in between.

ROOM TO ROAM

The Toledo Rockets might be only slight favorites for Wednesday night’s MAC tilt with visiting Northern Illinois, but they have a significant advantage in at least one area – and it could turn this one into a bit of a laugher. The Rockets come into the game with the nation’s No. 12 rushing offense, averaging nearly 251 yards per game on the ground – and they’ve been especially dominant over their previous two games, racking up a combined 664 rushing yards in narrow victories over Eastern Michigan and Kent State. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off getting routed 48-10 to Central Michigan in which the Chippewas posted 327 rushing yards.

An edge like this makes Toledo a terrific option in a variety of different bet scenarios; we recommend buying a few points in their favor and taking an alternate line of -6.5.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

The Miami (OH) Redhawks should have little trouble filling the board Wednesday night as they host a Bowling Green defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in points allowed. But while the Falcons have surrendered a mind-boggling 33.8 points per game so far this season, the Redhawks might not necessarily be headed for a parade to the end zone. Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst touchdown-to-field-goal ratios in the country coming into Week 12, having scored 22 TDs compared with 16 FGs – six of those coming over the course of their current three-game winning streak.

Miami (Ohio) is a big-time favorite here, and is a good bet to open the scoring given BGSU’s 2.5 first-half-points-per-game average on the road this season. We like the Redhawks FG to kick off the point parade.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

Kansas State’s premier rushing threat might be back on the field this weekend. Wildcats senior James Gilbert practiced on Tuesday and is trending in the right direction as he recovers from an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of last week’s 27-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. It was originally thought that Gilbert would be in the lineup vs. Texas, but he was a late exclusion – and Kansas State struggled in his absence, finishing with a paltry 51 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Gilbert ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards (558) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

Gilbert’s return would invigorate a Kansas State rush attack that has a favorable matchup against a West Virginia defense allowing 173 rushing yards per game. We recommend the hosts ATS if Gilbert is deemed fit to return.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have seen their season take a terrible turn with word that standout wide receiver Sage Surratt will miss the remainder of 2019 with an undisclosed injury. Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that Surratt, who wasn’t featured on the team’s depth chart ahead of its Week 12 encounter with Clemson, would be out for the rest of the season – though he wouldn’t specify what was wrong with the star wideout. Surratt finishes the year with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions as the premier target for quarterback Jamie Newman.

The absence of Surratt should give bettors even less of a reason to bank on Wake Forest, which has seen the line shift as far as four points in Clemson’s favor. Look for the Tigers to keep the undermanned Deacons below their team total.

Too late to start fading the Fins, and the NFL bets you need to make in Week 11

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This may require a double-take, but listen up. The Miami Dolphins have been the best bet in the NFL since the start of October. Yes, those Miami Dolphins. We break down the odds and let you know what bets we like in Week 11 of the NFL as we dive into sides, totals, props and more. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

The hottest team in the league right now is Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. After knocking off the Patriots in Week 9, they turned their crosshairs on the winless Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. The Ravens ran just 48 offensive plays but managed to put up 49 points. Lost in the 49-13 win was the fact that Baltimore moved to 8-1 against the first-quarter spread after winning the first 15 minutes 14-0.

This week, Baltimore is a 4-point home favorite versus a Houston team that is coming off their bye. If you don’t trust a team coming off a blowout win versus the worst team in the league and/or covering their last three games, take a look at the 1Q Ravens -0.5 (-105) as an alternative.

Baltimore is second in the league in first quarter points per game at 9.5 and third in the league in points against in the first quarter at 3.67 while the Texans are 0-3-1 on the road this year in the first quarter. Take the Ravens 1Q -0.5.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face a very motivated New Orleans Saints team Sunday, but NOLA will be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. The third-year CB is week-to-week with a hamstring injury meaning Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will face sub-par corners in P.J. Williams and Eli Apple.

As Brad Evans pointed out on twitter, this is especially great news for Mike Evans who has struggled over his career versus Lattimore. Evans put up a donut early this year in Week 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and averaged 9.5 targets for three catches and 34 yards in two games in 2017 (last year Lattimore struggled following up his 2017 DROY but has been much better this year).

Even with Jameis Winston getting sacked nearly four times a game, Evans is averaging 139 yards a game over his last four contests. Jump on Evans’ receiving yard total on any number below 85 and check in on his reception total, hitting the Over on any number below 7.

LOADING SCREEN

No team in the league relies on the screen game more than the Minnesota Vikings. Per ESPN, Minnesota is averaging 9.8 yards per screen attempt which is 3.5 yards more per attempt than the No.10 team.

The beneficiary of this is running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Cowboys in primetime every time he got the ball with blockers ahead of him. Over the last three games, Cook has amassed 193 yards receiving and will face a Denver Broncos’ defense that is giving up 8.6 yards per pass to RBs since Week 8.

Grab the Over on Cook’s receiving yards on any total less than 40 yards.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

If you’re tailing the Cook receiving yards play and want some action on the other side of the ball, maybe look to fade the Broncos’ backfield in receiving yards. Denver is the worst team at generating yards on the screen game (3.7 yards per attempt) and neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman has topped 17 yards receiving in the last two weeks. In the only game Brandon Allen has started at quarterback, Lindsay wasn’t targeted at all and Freeman saw one target which he lost a yard on.

Feel confident in taking Lindsay’s Under receiving yards on anything greater than 19 and Freeman’s Under on any number greater than 25.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

The best team ATS over the last five weeks has been the Miami Dolphins. The former 0-7 team has rattled off five-straight wins ATS and face a Buffalo Bills team that has zero offensive identity of late and trailed the Dolphins by five points heading into the fourth quarter just four weeks ago.

We are a little bearish on Miami hitting a sixth-straight win ATS but have no problem fading Josh Allen’s Bills who are putting up just 288 yards of total offense over the last three weeks, good for sixth-worst. Their once stellar defense now sits 12th in Wtd DVOA — 9th against the pass and 27th against the run.

The Bills needed 22 4th-quarter points in their last meeting to cover their team total and we don’t see Brian Daboll’s offense clearing 23.5 points since they are 2-5 O/U that total in their last seven.

Get on the Bills’ team total Under 23.5 now, as it may drop under this key number later in the week.