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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.

Conclusions

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.

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

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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

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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.