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Using history to handicap the 2019 Spinster Stakes

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Get ready, racing fans! As the Breeders’ Cup draws closer and closer, NBC Sports will head to Keeneland on Sunday to broadcast the $500,000 Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes.

This 1 1/8-mile race is expected to draw a high-quality field of prominent contenders for the Nov. 2 Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita with the winner of the Spinster receiving an automatic “Win and You’re In” qualifying berth to the Distaff.

Looking forward to watching the action unfold? The broadcast kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET. Want to get a head start identifying the most likely winner? We’ve got you covered there too. The following tips and trends (based off the last ten editions of the Spinster) will help point you toward the filly or mare most likely to reach the winner’s circle at Keeneland this Sunday.

Let’s dig in!

Support late runners and deep closers

Speed horses haven’t fared very well in recent editions of the Spinster Stakes. While the return of dirt racing at Keeneland has marginally improved their results – Romantic Vision (2017) and I’m a Chatterbox (2016) employed pace-tracking tactics to prevail – overall, seven of the last ten Spinster winners raced in the back half of the field during the opening half-mile.

As a general rule, I don’t recommend relying heavily on deep closers in major dirt races. But the Spinster Stakes seems to go against the grain more often than not, so if the horse you like employs a late-running style, you can consider this a positive.

Year Winner Position after first 1/2-mile 1/2-mile & 3/4-mile (track condition)
2018 Blue Prize 8th by 4.25 lengths (11 starters) 47.62, 1:12.27 (fast)
2017 Romantic Vision 2nd by 1.5 lengths (9 starters) 48.26, 1:12.56 (sloppy, sealed)
2016 I’m a Chatterbox 2nd by 1 length (5 starters) 48.30, 1:12.57 (fast)
2015 Got Lucky 8th by 6 lengths (9 starters) 46.89, 1:11.01 (fast)
2014 Don’t Tell Sophia 6th by 10.5 lengths (6 starters) 47.47, 1:11.71 (fast)
2013 Emollient 11th by a 6.75 lengths (11 starters) 47.30, 1:11.03 (fast)
2012 In Lingerie 4th by 1.5 lengths (10 starters) 47.97, 1:12.41 (fast)
2011 Aruna 7th by 6.5 lengths (12 starters) 46.41, 1:10.76 (fast)
2010 Acoma 6th by 7 lengths (10 starters) 47.34, 1:11.48 (fast)
2009 Mushka 9th by 8 lengths (11 starters) 46.96, 1:11.12 (fast)

Bet runners from Churchill Downs and Saratoga

Fillies and mares who prepped for the Spinster at nearby Churchill Downs have been running well in recent editions of the Spinster, producing three of the last five winners and seven of the last fifteen trifecta finishers.

But spanning back over the last decade, Saratoga in New York still rates as the key place to prep, producing five winners and 10 of the last 30 trifecta finishers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, avoid playing shippers from California. Over the last decade, nine fillies who prepped in the Golden State have contested the Spinster, with only a single third-place finish to show for their efforts.

Experience at Keeneland is beneficial

It pays to have experience at Keeneland under your belt. Seven of the last ten Spinster winners had previously contested a race over the Keeneland main track, with six of them scoring at least one victory at Keeneland prior to their Spinster success.

Favor proven Grade 1 competitors

The Spinster is a Grade 1 race and Grade 1-quality fillies and mares typically wind up in the winner’s circle. Every Spinster winner over the last decade had previously contested a Grade 1 race, with nine of the ten winning or placing at the Grade 1 level. The lone exception was Mushka, who was awarded victory in the 2009 Spinster via the disqualification of Grade 1-placed Proviso. Mushka’s previous best finish in a Grade 1 event was a fourth-place effort in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

The bettors usually get it right

While longshots occasionally prevail in the Spinster – 23-1 Acoma in 2010 being one example – for the most part, favorites and short-priced contenders reap the rewards. Over the last decade, four favorites have reached the Spinster winner’s circle, while another five winners offered odds between 3.60-1 and 6.40-1. Furthermore, horses starting at single-digit odds have filled 21 of the 30 trifecta spots since 2009.

Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott warrant respect

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott don’t enter fillies and mares in the Spinster every time they turn around, so it’s noteworthy that they’ve each won this race twice since 2009. Pletcher saddled Got Lucky (2015) and In Lingerie (2012), while Mott achieved his victories with Emollient (2013) and Mushka (2009).

Mares often outrun their younger rivals

While major dirt races tend to be the domain of younger horses, mares aged five and older have accounted for four of the last ten editions of the Spinster. This is significant when you consider fillies aged three or four have won 18 of the last 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which more accurately reflects the youth-favoring tendencies of races like these.


There are a few high-quality Grade 1 competitors targeting the Spinster Stakes, including the 3-year-old sensation Dunbar Road, the consistent She’s a Julie, and the versatile veteran Vexatious.

But from a historical perspective, they’ll be hard-pressed to defeat Elate, who fits every single tip and trend we’ve outlined:

  • She’s a late runner.
  • She prepped at Saratoga with a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes.
  • She ran over the Keeneland main track in the 2017 Grade 1 Ashland Stakes.
  • She’s a two-time Grade 1 winner with ample experience contesting races at the highest level.
  • She’ll almost certainly be favored in the wagering.
  • She’s trained by Bill Mott
  • She’s five years old.

From the perspective of history, how can we possibly play against Elate in the Spinster? By these metrics, she appears to be a shoo-in for victory.

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)