Five vulnerable favorites in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup

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The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is the ultimate handicapping puzzle for horseplayers, and it’s especially appealing to those who adhere to the maxim of “bet a little to win a lot.”

The 14-race slate brings together great horses from all regions in the U.S. as well as from overseas, which means that year after year, top-class runners with full résumés go off at odds far higher than they would in any other setting.

Finding and playing longshots in the Breeders’ Cup can become even more lucrative if you are able to also select – and toss from your betting slips – several horses that are underlays; that is, ones that are receiving more support from bettors than they should and thus carrying lower odds. Zigging while everyone else zags is the essence of astute betting in any environment, and in horse racing it can lead to astronomical payouts.

So, which morning-line favorites in the 36th Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park are most vulnerable to lose at short odds? Here are five candidates:

1. McKinzie (3-1, Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic)

McKinzie may actually not be the Classic favorite once the starting gates open. Vino Rosso and Code of Honor are both 4-1 on the morning line, and both could end up receiving more support from bettors. Still, Bob Baffert’s charge is the top California-based contender and his 12-for-13 career record in the exacta speaks for itself. The one blemish does stand out, though: last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, where McKinzie packed it in early and finished 12th of 14. It’s hard to forget that effort, or lack thereof, and while McKinzie did run much better at a mile and a quarter earlier this year in the Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, he still couldn’t seal the deal and lost by a nose to Gift Box. Shorten this race up by a furlong, or better yet a furlong and a half, and McKinzie looks much more formidable. But it’s called the Classic for a reason.

2. Arizona (5-2, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America)

Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Juvenile Turf four times since the race was introduced in 2007, and has also finished second four times. It’s therefore no wonder his Group 2-winning colt is the morning-line favorite for this year’s edition. But the competition is very tough, and it’s worth noting that a) Arizona has never run the mile distance before; and b) his young sire No Nay Never, while off to a good start at stud, was a sprinter. This colt prefers to race on or near the lead, and should have a lot of company. A hot pace should set things up for the closers, led by impressive Summer Stakes winner Decorated Invader and the three horses coming out of the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park. Local Zuma Beach Stakes winner Hit the Road is also interesting here at 10-1 odds.

3. Mitole (8-5, Breeders’ Cup Sprint)

I’ve been following Mitole since the very beginning when he dazzled during Oaklawn Park’s 2018 meet, and his win in the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap back in June is easily one of the year’s standout performances. However, 8-5 odds on a horse competing in Southern California for the first time – even if his workouts at Santa Anita have been good – are too low to accept in a race of this quality. Ultra-fast Shancelot already has a race on Santa Anita’s track under his belt, and Imperial Hint may actually get the best trip sitting just behind the speed if he breaks well. But the biggest threat in my view comes from Catalina Cruiser, who’s 7-for-8 lifetime, 2-for-2 at Santa Anita (both wins coming in his first two starts, and at six furlongs), and 3-for-3 breaking from the inside post, where he’ll be Saturday. If his 4-1 morning-line odds hold up come post time, and Mitole’s also stay steady, Catalina Cruiser’s the better play.

4. Sistercharlie (8-5, Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf)

Sistercharlie’s “rabbit” stablemate Thais is entered in Saturday’s Filly and Mare Turf, and her potential biggest rival in this race, Coolmore’s star filly Magical, spiked a temperature earlier this week and was retired. Those are two big advantages for Sistercharlie, who already deserved favoritism based to the fact that she won this race last year and is currently on a six-race winning streak (all Grade 1 events). Truth be told, if Thais does her job and Sistercharlie gets a good trip and a clear run through the lane (something John Velazquez almost always pulls off), she could make 8-5 look like a gift. But seven of Sistercharlie’s 10 wins have been by a length or less, so the margin for error is slight with this confirmed closer. Furthermore, I think this is the toughest field she’s faced since last fall’s Filly and Mare Turf, even without Magical. Vasilika is 11 for 12 lifetime (!) on Santa Anita’s turf course, and Mrs. Sippy held her own against Sistercharlie last out in the Flower Bowl Stakes. Furthermore, Euro shippers Villa MarinaFanny Logan, and Castle Lady (the last a gorgeous Shamardal filly who I think will improve off of her U.S. debut in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Lane’s End at Keeneland) are all worthy of consideration as longshot upset candidates.

5. Omaha Beach (8-5, Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile)

You won’t find many bigger Omaha Beach fans than myself, having pegged him as an under-the-radar Kentucky Derby candidate early last winter and even seeking out a future bet on him in Las Vegas that, fortunately as it turned out, was not made. Based on pure talent, I think he’s a cut above his Dirt Mile opponents, with only Mr. Money (who should appreciate the cutback in distance) and Improbable (ditto) in his orbit. Omaha Beach has posted three stellar workouts at Santa Anita following his rousing comeback win in the six-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship over Shancelot last month, and by all appearances is ready to extend his cruising speed up to a mile … still, I think that both of his 3-year-old foes mentioned above, along with 5-year-old multiple graded stakes winner Coal Front, will not let him get an uncontested lead, and that could make Mike Smith use more of his colt’s energy earlier than anticipated. Omaha Beach has a proven well of stamina to draw from in the stretch if a fast pace does occur, but he’s no ironclad lock in a race that I think shapes up to be tougher than it initially appeared.

Watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup starting with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 1 from 4-8 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and continuing with Championship Saturday on Nov. 2 from 3:30-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN until 8, NBC from 8-9). 

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)