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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.

Unbeaten Aztecs to start hot, and the NCAA basketball best bets you need to make this weekend

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The San Diego State Aztecs will look to keep their perfect season going on Sunday, while Texas Tech and Kentucky tangle in a matchup between two Top-20 teams on Saturday night. Rohit Ponnaiya digs into the college basketball odds and brings you his favorite bets and predictions for the weekend.


The game of the night Friday will take place in the Big East as Marquette tangles with Butler. After falling 76-61 to Villanova on Tuesday (which made us a bit of money), Butler has now lost three straight games after beginning the season with a 15-1 record. In Butler’s last three games they’ve allowed 112.3 points per 100 possessions and a large reason for that is that they’ve been sending opposing teams to the line. Over that three game span they’ve given foes an average of 26.7 free throw attempts per game.

That’s bad news against a Marquette squad that has scored at least 82 points in each of it’s last three games and is led by the leading scorer in the country in Markus Howard. Howard has averaged 35 points per game over his last five contests and has averaged 12.5 FTA over his last two. As a team the Golden Eagles know how to get to the line, attempting 23.6 free throws per game, 18th highest in the country. We like the Over 64.5 on Marquette’s team total. 


Two Top-20 teams face off in the Lone Star State on Saturday as the Kentucky Wildcats travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech at 6:00 p.m ET. This matchup should get plenty of action with the Red Raiders coming off a Final Four finish while Kentucky is…well Kentucky.

Texas Tech is coming off a road loss against TCU but is 9-1 at home. Chris Beard’s Red Raiders are known for their defensive intensity and this year’s squad ranks 7th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the KenPom rating system. That said, Kentucky ranks 42nd in defensive efficiency and 32nd in offensive efficiency (while Texas Tech ranks 97th on offense).

Kentucky has three guards (Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey) that love to apply pressure on opposing ball-handlers while also being able to create their own shot. With Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, Calipari’s squad has a (pardon the pun) big edge in size and rebounding ability. And unlike past editions of the Wildcats, this team has plenty of veteran experience so don’t expect them to be rattled playing in hostile territory.

We’re expecting Texas Tech to have the chalk and backing UK as the likely underdog, but if public action makes the Wildcats the faves the value will be on the Red Raiders.


It’s the battle of Arizona on Saturday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils host the Arizona Wildcats. These teams met up on January 4, with the Wildcats routing ASU by a score of 75-47. But don’t expect to see a repeat of that score with the Sun Devils now enjoying home-court advantage.

The Wildcats led by guard Nico Mannion and big man Zeke Nnaji are 13-5 but they have been very beatable when playing outside of Tucson. They’re 9-2 ATS at home but just 1-6 ATS on the road and at neutral sites. They have an average scoring margin of plus-26.6 ppg at home but that falls to minus-1 ppg away from home.

The Sun Devils also play way better in front of their home crowd, outscoring opponents by a margin of plus-15.7 ppg in Tempe, compared to minus-7.2 ppg when they have to travel. Take the home side to cover as underdogs.


The last unbeaten team in the country are the No. 4 San Diego Aztecs who head to Vegas to take on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Sunday. The Aztecs have an aggressive defense and have been holding opponents to just 56.7 ppg on 36.7 percent shooting. But SDSU has been effective on the offensive end of the floor as well, ranking 14th in the country in offensive efficiency.

UNLV has been solid, winning seven of the their last nine games and going 6-3 ATS, but they might be out of their depth here. Their two losses during that span were by 14 points against Nevada and seven points against Boise State. The Aztecs beat Nevada by 13 points and clobbered BSU by 18 after leading by 23 points at halftime.

UNLV has been sloppy with the ball turning the ball over 14.6 times per game, second-worst among all Mountain West teams. SDSU has just 11.1 turnovers per game on offense while their pesky defense forces 15.2 TO per game. The full game spread might be a bit too rich for our blood but with the Aztecs fifth in the nation with an average first-half scoring margin of plus-9.2 ppg, look for them to cover the 1H spread. 

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: DAYTON (17-2 SU, 11-8 ATS, 13-6 O/U)

Dayton is flying up the rankings currently sitting at No. 7. Their 17-2 record is even more impressive when you consider that both defeats were in overtime to quality opponents, falling 90-84 to Kansas and 78-76 to Colorado.

Led by forward Obi Toppin (19.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 62.3 percent shooting) the Flyers are first in the country in field goal percentage at 52.5 percent and rank third in scoring with 83 ppg. On Saturday they take on the Richmond Spiders who can also fill up the basket converting at a clip of 47.5 percent from the field, including a sizzling 57.6 percent from the floor over their last three games. The Over is worth looking at.


Gonzaga isn’t a program to sleep on anymore, currently sitting at No. 1 in the polls and with the best odds to win the National Championship at +1000. The Zags have the top rated offense in the nation, putting up 88.8 ppg on 50.6 percent shooting and those numbers jump up to 93.5 ppg and 52.5 percent at home.

On Saturday, Gonzaga hosts Pacific and will probably be favored by more than 20 points. Gonzaga is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings at home between the two teams dating back to 2016, and the average score of those games was 80-52 in favor of Gonzaga.

If you want to look at a team that’s tumbled down the odds board look no further than the Memphis Tigers who came into the season at +1300 after a terrific recruiting class. After top freshman James Wiseman was suspended and then chose to leave the school, Memphis has looked ugly, coming off a 80-40 smackdown at the hands of Tulsa on Wednesday night. The Tigers currently sit at +6000 odds and even that might be generous. Memphis will try to get back on track on Saturday as they host SMU.


• By holding Memphis to just 40 points, Tulsa managed to cash the Under for the sixth game in a row. The Golden Hurricanes are 15-4 to the Under and will take on UConn on Sunday. Thanks to a defense that ranks inside the Top-50 teams in the country in opponent FG percentage and an offense that ranks outside the Top-250 in FG percentage, the Huskies have also been a great Under bet, going below the total in 12 of their last 16 contests.

• Virginia has been awful on offense, terrific on defense and plays at the slowest pace in Div 1. But oddsmakers might set the total for their Sunday matchup on the road against Wake Forest a tad too low. The Demon Deacons have gone 8-0-1 to the Over in their last nine games and are 7-1 O/U at home this season.

• Austin Peay is 7-0 ATS in their last seven games overall and is a perfect 6-0 ATS at home this season. On Saturday, the Governors will host the Belmont Bruins in a Ohio Valley Conference matchup. The Bruins are coming off a 10-point loss on the road against Murray State and have failed to cover in their last two away contests.

NHL Midseason betting review: Stanley Cup futures odds and best bets

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With the NHL heading into the All-Star break we take a look the updated futures odds to win the Stanley Cup as well as the best and worst teams to wager on in terms of Moneyline, Puckline and Over/Under bets.

Despite Washington leading the way for the Presidents’ Trophy this season, Tampa Bay still has the best odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are followed by the Boston Bruins and the defending Stanley Cup champions the St. Louis Blues.

On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fallen outside the Top-5 and now sit at +2000, while the San Jose Sharks have plummeted from a Stanley Cup contender to a +8000 long shot.

Here are every teams’ odds to win the Stanley Cup, courtesy of the Superbook at Westgate:

Teams Odds to win Stanley Cup (as of Jan 23)
Tampa Bay Lightning +600
Boston Bruins +800
St. Louis Blues +800
Washington Capitals +1,000
Colorado Avalanche +1,000
Vegas Golden Knights +1,000
Pittsburgh Penguins +1,200
Dallas Stars +1,200
Arizona Coyotes +1,600
Florida Panthers +2,000
Toronto Maple Leafs +2,000
Vancouver Canucks +2,000
Edmonton Oilers +2,500
Calgary Flames +2,500
New York Islanders +4,000
Carolina Hurricanes +4,000
Nashville Predators +4,000
Columbus Blue Jackets +4,000
Philadelphia Flyers +5,000
Winnpeg Jets +5,000
Minnesota Wild +6,000
San Jose Sharks +8,000
Montreal Canadiens +10,000
New York Rangers +10,000
Buffalo Sabres +10,000
Chicago Blackhawks +10,000
Los Angelas Kings +50,000
Anahiem Ducks +100,000
Ottawa Senators +200,000
New Jersey Devils +200,000
Detroit Red Wings +1,000,000

The Capitals don’t just have the best record in the league, they’ve also been the best Over bet as well as the top team to back on the moneyline returning a profit of +9.35 units for bettors this season.

Thanks to rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins and a group of forwards that can’t find the back of the net, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been the NHL’s best Under bet. The top team to back on the puckline as a favorite has been the surprising Vancouver Canucks who lead the Pacific Division.

While the Golden Knights were sweating sportsbooks when they made their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, oddsmakers have made some of that money back this season as the Knights have been the second-worst money team in the league. The Knights are still way ahead of Detroit who has cost bettors dearly with a loss of almost 20 units.


Teams Over/Under
Washington Capitals 31-18
Florida Panthers 30-17
Nashville Predators 28-17
Toronto Maple Leafs 28-18
Tampa Bay Lightning 27-20


Teams Over/Under
Colombus Blue Jackets 18-32
Dallas Stars 16-29
Carolina Hurricanes 21-29
San Jose Sharks 21-28
Calgary Flames 20-27


Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Washington Capitals $935
New York Islanders $700
Colombus Blue Jackets $605
Pittsburgh Penguins $596
New York Rangers $567


Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Detroit Red Wings $-1992
Las Vegas Golden Knights $-1010
Los Angelas Kings $-916
San Jose Sharks $-895
Toronto Maple Leafs $-829


Teams Total Money Won as Puckline Favorite (PL record as favorite)
Vancouver Canucks $840 (11-12)
Colorado Avalanche $771 (14-14)
Chicago Blackhawks $480 (7-8)
Florida Panthers $410 (13-17)
New York Rangers $375 (5-5)