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Using history to handicap the 2019 Breeders’ Futurity

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The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues this weekend at Keeneland in Kentucky with four “Win and You’re In” qualifying races, including the $500,000 Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep race, broadcast live on NBCSN on Saturday starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.

What does it take to win the Breeders’ Futurity? A good horse, that’s for certain. Four of the last five winners have gone on to finish first, second, or third in the prestigious Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so there’s a good chance you’ll see a serious Breeders’ Cup contender (and a potential division champion) in the Keeneland winner’s circle on Saturday.

But how can you identify the Breeders’ Futurity winner before he’s an established star? These tips and trends based on the last ten editions of the Breeders’ Futurity can help point you in the right direction:

Any running style can win (but maybe favor speed horses)

Over the last ten years, we’ve seen front-runners and deep closers alike prevail in the Breeders’ Futurity. The race has drawn 11 or more starters every year since 2009 and over time large fields can produce just about any kind of result.

Since Keeneland transitioned from a Polytrack racing surface to dirt in 2014, the Breeders’ Futurity has generally favored horses with tactical speed. Four of the last five winners were racing within three lengths of the pace after the opening half-mile, with the lone exception being Brody’s Cause, who rallied from far behind to win over a muddy track in 2015.

Assuming the Keeneland main track comes up dry on Saturday, look for horses with tactical speed to perform best in the Breeders’ Futurity. By securing forwardly placed positions, they’re better able to stay out of traffic and receive clean trips.

Year Winner Position after first 1/2-mile 1/2-mile & 3/4-mile (track condition)
2018 Knicks Go 1st by 1 length (13 starters) 47.59, 1:12.68 (fast)
2017 Free Drop Billy 5th by 3 lengths (11 starters) 47.11, 1:12.66 (fast)
2016 Classic Empire 3rd by 1.5 lengths (12 starters) 46.63, 1:11.17 (fast)
2015 Brody’s Cause 10th by 7.25 lengths (11 starters) 47.33, 1:11.66 (muddy)
2014 Carpe Diem 2nd by 0.5 lengths (12 starters) 48.09, 1:12.16 (fast)
2013 We Miss Artie 9th by a 5.5 lengths (12 starters) 46.84, 1:11.94 (fast)
2012 Joha 1st by 0.5 lengths (13 starters) 48.41, 1:12.86 (fast)
2011 Dullahan 9th by 10.25 lengths (13 starters) 46.15, 1:11.03 (fast)
2010 J. B.’s Thunder 1st by 1 length (11 starters) 48.64, 1:13.40 (fast)
2009 Noble’s Promise 3rd by 1 length (14 starters) 47.73, 1:12.18 (fast)


Saratoga shippers hold an advantage

Some of the best young two-year-olds compete at Saratoga each summer and when they ship down to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Futurity, it’s wise to pay attention. Seven of the last ten Breeders’ Futurity winners prepped at Saratoga, along with 14 of the last 30 trifecta finishers. More specifically, two of the last three Breeders’ Futurity winners (Free Drop Billy and Classic Empire) exited the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.

Churchill Downs has also been a productive prepping ground for Breeders’ Futurity contenders. Since Churchill Downs introduced its September meet in 2013, the track has produced eight of the 18 trifecta finishers in the Breeders’ Futurity, including 11-1 winner Brody’s Cause in 2015.

Favor stakes-experienced runners

While maiden winners occasionally step up in class and emerge victorious in the Breeders’ Futurity, it’s more common for experienced stakes runners to come out on top. Seven of the last ten Breeders’ Futurity winners (Knicks Go, Free Drop Billy, Classic Empire, We Miss Artie, Joha, Dullahan, and Noble’s Promise) contested a stakes race in their previous start. Also noteworthy? Six of the seven were defeated in their stakes effort.

The other three Breeders’ Futurity winners (Brody’s Cause, Carpe Diem, and J. B.’s Thunder entered the race off maiden victories.

Longshots often prevail

Although three favorites (Free Drop Billy, Classic Empire, and Carpe Diem) have won the Breeders’ Futurity in the last decade, the large fields tend to produce upset winners. Six of the last ten Breeders’ Futurity winners started at 8-1 or higher, including 70-1 shocker Knicks Go in 2018. Furthermore, 17 of the last 30 trifecta finishers started at 8-1 or higher. If you like betting longshots, both on top and in the exotic wagers, the Breeders’ Futurity is a great race to play!

Classic-winning trainers Dale Romans and Todd Pletcher have enjoyed ample success in the Breeders’ Futurity. Romans has saddled three winners over the last ten years (Free Drop Billy, Brody’s Cause, and Dullahan), while Pletcher has saddled two winners (Carpe Diem and We Miss Artie) plus two runners-up during the same timeframe.

Among jockeys, watch out for John Velazquez. He doesn’t ride in the Breeders’ Futurity very often, but he’s nevertheless gone 2-for-2 over the last decade, winning aboard Carpe Diem and We Miss Artie.


On paper, the horse to beat by most measures is By Your Side. Winner of the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, By Your Side failed to fire when trudging home fifth in the Hopeful Stakes, but the Hopeful has been a productive prep for the Breeders’ Futurity, and By Your Side has the tactical speed to secure a clean trip at Keeneland.

But By Your Side will face some formidable opponents in the Breeders’ Futurity, including Todd Pletcher’s Gouverneur Morris. With John Velazquez in the saddle, this son of Constitution won his debut at Saratoga by nine eye-catching lengths, a sharp performance that has marked Gouverneur Morris as a very promising prospect.

With his tactical speed, strong connections, and big maiden win at Saratoga, Gouverneur Morris’ form resembles that of 2014 Breeders’ Futurity winner Carpe Diem. If Velazquez travels to Keeneland to retain the mount, watch out – another victory could be in the offing.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with Fall Stars Weekend from Keeneland on October 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and October 6 at 4:30 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)