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). 

Canucks vs Golden Knights picks and predictions for Game 1

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Perhaps no team has been more fun to follow during the NHL playoffs than the Vancouver Canucks, and hockey bettors can still get the Canucks at +1,300 to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup. Vancouver is coming off a thrilling series win against the defending champion St. Louis Blues, but now a much more difficult challenge awaits. The Vegas Golden Knights are +350 favorites to win it all, and they’ve certainly looked the part while dropping only one playoff contest.

Game 1 of this series gets underway Sunday, so we’re here to bring you our NHL picks and predictions in this Western Conference semifinal showdown.

Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights betting preview

Starting Goalies

Canucks: Jacob Markstrom – playoffs – 7-3, 2.44 GAA, .929 SV% (season – 23-16, 2.75 GAA, .918 SV%)

Golden Knights: Robin Lehner – playoffs – 5-1, 2.44 GAA, .904 SV% (season – 19-10, 2.89, .920 SV%)

If this game was actually played in Las Vegas, then Markstrom could easily spend a few hours performing with Cirque du Soleil. The 30-year-old dazzled against Blues with an eye-opening array of acrobatic saves and an impressive 7-3 record. He’ll need to provide more of the same against a dangerous Vegas squad.

The Knights will likely roll with Robin Lehner, who has taken over the spot as Vegas’s starter in the crease—and rightfully so. Still, the Knights have the luxury of having Marc-Andre Fleury as their “backup.” The five-time All-Star matched an NHL record this season with his 14th consecutive playoff appearance.

Injuries

Vancouver: Tyler Myers D (out), Tyler Toffoli RW (out), Micheal Ferland LW (out), Josh Leivo LW (out)

Vegas: Tomas Nosek LW (out)

Betting Trend to Know

Canucks are 0-6 in their last six Sunday games. Find the latest NHL betting trends for Canucks vs. Golden Knights.

MONEYLINE PICK

The Canucks have been a force with the extra man during the postseason, converting 26.2% of their power plays. While the Knights are known for their offensive firepower, it’s their stingy defense that allows them to suffocate opponents—as evidenced by an 86.4% penalty kill during their playoff run. Vancouver is the only team in the league to never beat Vegas in regulation, going 0-11 all time. That’s something I just can’t ignore.

PREDICTION: Vegas ML (-175)

OVER/UNDER PICK

Each team is filled with loads of offensive talent. Vancouver’s Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller have combined for 11 goals thus far. Elias Pettersson has racked up 13 points, tied with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon for the playoff lead.

The Knights can match Vancouver’s scorers, but they’re more balanced—Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Mark Stone have each lit the lamp four times during the postseason. The difference is on defense, where Vancouver has allowed the most high-danger chances of all remaining playoff teams.

PREDICTION: Over 5.5 (-110)

PROP PICK

Though I like Vegas to win, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks kept it close and continued their offensive success. I’ll take a flyer on Vancouver scoring at least three goals.

PREDICTION: Canucks total goals Over 2.5 (-100)

Canucks vs Golden Knights Betting Card

  • Vegas ML (-175)
  • Over 5.5 (-110)
  • Canucks total goals Over 2.5 (-100)
NHL Parlays

Did you know that if you parlayed today’s NHL Canucks vs Golden Knights picks, you could win $104.93 on a $10 bet?

Use our NHL parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.

Verlander injury shuffles Astros’ MLB futures odds

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MLB betting got a shake-up Sunday afternoon, specifically on World Series odds and AL pennant odds, with news that Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander could miss the rest of the season – or at least a significant chunk of it – with an arm injury.

Initial reports suggested Verlander had an elbow ailment, but both he and manager Dusty Baker quickly denied that. Baker called it a forearm strain and said that Verlander would be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks.” The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched a solid six innings in an 8-2 Opening Day rout of the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Verlander’s injury led oddsmakers to shuffle futures book odds on the defending AL champions. Covers checked in on the MLB odds moves with a couple of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ World Series odds?

At CG Technology books, risk analyst Rich Zanco said the Astros quickly moved from +1,200 to +1,800 in World Series futures. The SuperBook at Westgate also had Houston pegged +1,200 prior to Sunday’s news and initially went to +1,600, then dialed it a little further to +1,800.

However, there were apparently buyers on the Astros at that point, prompting the SuperBook to reel the price in to +1,400.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ American League odds?

In AL pennant futures, the Astros initially moved from +600 to +800 at The SuperBook, then ticked back to +700.

World Series odds

Team Odds to win
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
New York Yankees +350
Houston Astros +600
Atlanta Braves +1,600
Minnesota Twins +1,600
Tampa Bay Rays +1,800
Washington Nationals +2,000
Cleveland Indians +2,000
New York Mets +2,000
Chicago Cubs +2,000
Oakland Athletics +2,000
St. Louis Cardinals +2,500
Cincinnati Reds +2,500
San Diego Padres +2,500
Philadelphia Phillies +3,000
Chicago White Sox +3,000
Los Angeles Angels +3,000
Milwaukee Brewers +4,000
Boston Red Sox +5,000
Arizona Diamondbacks +6,000
Colorado Rockies +8,000
Toronto Blue Jays +10,000
Texas Rangers +10,000
Pittsburgh Pirates +20,000
Detroit Tigers +20,000
San Francisco Giants +30,000
Seattle Mariners +30,000
Miami Marlins +30,000
Baltimore Orioles +30,000
Kansas City Royals +30,000

Odds courtesy The SuperBook