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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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.