Interesting historical trends help narrow focus for 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile

Leave a comment

The $2 million, Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile typically is a highlight of the World Championships card because it almost always features a powerhouse field that includes top U.S.-based turf runners mixed with standout European milers and usually delivers an exciting finish.

In fact, 13 of the last 20 editions of the Mile were decided by a length or less.

The Mile also has produced its share of memorable upsets, including $62 winner Karakontie in 2014 and $131.60 winner Court Vision in 2011.

Let’s take a closer look at the last 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile to try to identify some historical trends that could provide key handicapping angles to consider. Then, we’ll narrow the scope to go in depth on the seven editions held at Santa Anita Park over the last two decades – 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Finally, we’ll explore some of the expected participants for this year’s event at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 to try and identify a couple of runners that fit the profile of a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner.

What are some of the key takeaways from the last 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile?

  • The Mile is not kind to front-runners. In the last 20 years there has not been a winner in the race who led after the opening quarter-mile or half-mile.
  • In fact, World Approval in 2017 is the only press-the-pace type horse to win in last 20 years, and he settled a little farther back than usual in fifth after the first quarter-mile.
  • There were three winners who profiled as press the pace/stalkers from 1999-2018, but the other 16 were a mix of stalkers and closers with six winners 10th or worse at the midpoint of the race.
  • Over the last 20 years, Breeders’ Cup Mile winners have been on average 5 ¾ lengths behind the leader after the first quarter-mile and 4 ¾ lengths back at the midway point of the race, with an average position between seventh and eighth.
  • Looking at the median, winners have been eighth and 5 ¾ lengths back after the first quarter-mile. After a half-mile, median places the winner seventh and between 4 ½ and 4 ¾ lengths back.
  • Elite milers typically have world-class acceleration, and that appears to be an important trait in winners of this race. Mile winners are on average within 1.34 lengths in early stretch, which shaved about 3 ½ lengths off the average after a half-mile.
  • During this 20-year time frame, the Mile has been won exclusively by horses who had at least one Grade or Group 2 victory or better to their credit entering the race. Expert Eye’s win last year snapped a stretch of 11 straight editions that had been won by Group/Grade 1 winners.
  • Ten of the 20 winners won their final prep race and only three finished outside of the top three – Karakontie, 11th by 7 ¾ lengths in in a French Group 1 in 2014; Court Vision, seventh by three lengths in the Woodbine Mile in 2011; and Miesque’s Approval, fourth in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland in 2006.
  • Favorites have won seven of the last 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile with 12 horses prevailing at less than 6-1 odds since 1999.
  • The average odds of the Mile winner were 11.5-1 with a median of 5.45-1.
  • There have been six Mile winners at double-digit odds or higher and four winners at 24.30-1 or higher: Karakontie at 30-1 in 2014, Miesque’s Approval at 24.30-1 in 2006, Domedriver at 26-1 in 2002, and Court Vision was the biggest longshot in the race’s history, winning at 64.80-1 odds in 2011.
  • What do the longshots have in common? All were deep closers (seeing a thread here?) positioned ninth or worse after the first quarter-mile. Karakontie was a French classic winner; Court Vision was a Grade 1 winner who had competed in two previous editions of the Mile (finishing fifth in 2010 and fourth in 2009); Miesque’s Approval was a leading miler earlier in the season; and Domedriver entered the race off a Group 2 win in France.
  • This is a race usually won by true milers rather than sprinters attempting to stretch out or horses cutting back in distance from longer races. The average distance raced (pre-Breeders’ Cup) by Mile winners in the year of their victory was 8.21 furlongs (there are eight furlongs in a mile) with a median of 8.25.
  • The average age of the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner is 4.35 with a median of 4. Five 3-year-olds have won the race – three were elite European invaders who either won or placed in classic races, Expert Eye was an accomplished European miler, and the other was War Chant (2000), a U.S. Kentucky Derby runner who shifted to grass.
  • Seven of the last 20 Mile winners completed their final prep race in France, including Goldikova before each of her three wins from 2008-’10. Five winners prepped at Keeneland and four at Santa Anita Park.
  • The average Equibase Speed Figure of the winner is 120.35 with a median of 120.5.

What changes when narrowing the focus to the seven Breeders’ Cup Mile races held at Santa Anita Park from 1999-2018?

  • The winners of four of the seven editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile held at Santa Anita from 1999-2018 completed their final prep races in France. The other three came out of the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.
  • Stalkers have performed well at Santa Anita with three horses who profiled as stalkers winning, two winners that profiled as stalker/closer types, and one victor that profiled as a press the pace/stalker. The other winner was dedicated closer Karakontie in 2014.
  • Five of the seven winners were sixth or worse after a half-mile. Goldikova in 2008 and Wise Dan in 2012 both raced in third at the midway point of the race.
  • Mile winners at Santa Anita from 1999-2018 were an average of a little more than 5 ½ lengths back after a half-mile with a median of six lengths.
  • The winners made up significant ground between the midpoint of the race and early stretch (about an eighth of a mile to the finish line), cutting the average distance behind the winner from 5 ½ lengths to less than two lengths and the median from six lengths to 1 ¾ lengths.
  • Three of the seven winners at Santa Anita during this stretch were 3-year-olds.
  • All seven winners from 1999-2018 at Santa Anita were Group/Grade1 winners entering the Mile.
  • Four of the seven winners were favorites: Goldikova in 2008 and 2009; and Wise Dan in 2012 and 2013.
  • Two of the seven winners prevailed at double-digit odds: Karakontie at 30-1 in 2014 and Tourist at 12.4-1 in 2016. They significantly helped boost the average winning odds at Santa Anita from 1999-2018 to 7.6-1 with a median of 9-5.
  • The average Equibase Speed Figure of the winner for these seven races was 120.7 with a median of 121, both slightly higher than the last 20 editions of the Mile.

Which of this year’s contenders fit the typical profile of a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner?

While I don’t think the stat itself is incredibly significant that the last seven winners of the Breeders’ Cup Mile came out of prep races in either France or at Keeneland, it actually does provide a great starting point when looking at 2019 contenders. Two top stateside hopefuls come out of Grade 1 wins at a mile at Keeneland and another top contender enters out of a Group 1 prep race in France.

Let’s start with the international contingent, which has produced seven winners over the last 20 years, including four of seven at Santa Anita.

Circus Maximus won the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp Sept. 8 by a nose for his second win at the highest level this season for trainer Aidan O’Brien. He also won the St. James’s Palace Stakes in June at Royal Ascot and finished second in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes in July. The Galileo colt has two unplaced finishes this year, but both came when stretching out in distance as it looks like he’s best-suited to a mile. He’s won three of six lifetime at one mile with a second, a third, and a fourth in which he was beaten by less than a length. Circus Maximus has some tactical speed and has pressed the pace effectively in Europe, but a stalking trip seems more likely in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and he has shown comfort rating a few lengths behind the leader. Circus Maximus has a nice turn of foot and showed some serious tenacity late in winning his two Group 1 races by a nose and a neck. The 3-year-old should be among the Mile favorites and looks like a serious win candidate.

Iridessa is not coming out of a prep race in France, but the talented 3-year-old filly has won a pair of Group 1 races in Ireland this season and enters the Mile off a third-place finish, beaten by two lengths, in the Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes. All but two of her 11 career starts have come at a mile or seven eighths of a mile, but she has won a Group 1 at 1 ¼ miles, so the Ruler of the World filly has plenty of stamina. She also has shown a nice turn of foot accelerating from her typical stalking position. I have no doubt she can compete in the Mile and a big key with differentiating between the European invaders is finding a little luck with the one that gets the best trip.

The Mile pre-entries included quite a few other European contenders, including Group 1 winner Lord Glitters and group stakes winners Hey Gaman and Space Traveller. Lord Glitters made the trans-Atlantic trip to North America a year ago and finished sixth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. He’s won only one of six starts this year, but it was a big victory as he scored by a neck at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at a mile. Of this trio, the one that most interests me is Hey Gaman, specifically as a price play to use in second and third. While he is only a Group 3 winner, the 4-year-old New Approach colt finished second in the French Two Thousand Guineas in 2018 and his form improves noticeably when he gets firmer turf. He has two wins and two seconds this year on good to firm ground and two unplaced finishes on soft turf. The fact that those two races on soft ground are his most recent should help inflate Hey Gaman’s price.

Moving on to the U.S. contenders, let’s start with Uni coming off a victory in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes Oct. 5 at Keeneland, where she set a course record for one mile in 1:32.87 in her third start of the year. The More Than Ready filly completed her final quarter-mile in a blistering 22.68 seconds to complete a rally from 11th and win by 2 ½ lengths. She earned a career-best 122 Equibase Speed Figure for the First Lady, which places her as a legitimate contender. Stretching back to 2018, she has won six of her last seven starts. The only defeat in that timeframe was a third-place finish to fellow Mile hopeful Got Stormy in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap Aug. 10 when she was 17 lengths back after the opening quarter-mile. Uni does typically close from far back, which could be an issue on a turf course where you probably don’t want to have too much ground to make up late.

Bowies Hero also was an impressive winner at Keeneland during the fall meet, closing to win the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes by three-quarters of a length Oct. 5. While the final time was about 1 ½ seconds slower that the First Lady earlier on the card, so too was the early pace, which was out of Bowies Hero’s control. His final quarter-mile, like Uni’s, was very impressive as he blitzed that section of the race in 22.82 seconds. Bowies Hero also does his best running from off the pace, but he’s a Grade 1 winner on the Santa Anita turf course and has shown the ability to race a bit closer to the front. He was only three lengths back after a half-mile when winning the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March 2018. I prefer Uni to Bowies Hero, but I could see him closing late for a minor share.

I mentioned Got Stormy earlier as the winner of the race that was Uni’s lone defeat in the last two years. Got Stormy enters off a second in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile in which she was caught late, but with a string of 110-118-120 Equibase Speed Figures, she is in terrific form and fast enough to win. Combine that with an ideal stalking running style and I think it would be foolish to leave the 4-year-old Get Stormy filly off your tickets.

Woodbine Mile winner El Tormenta turned in a career-best performance on that day to earn a new top 121 Equibase Speed Figure. That was a 13-point jump from his previous best, but he has held his own against strong competition before and could be a factor with the right trip.

After a couple of unplaced finishes in his first two U.S. starts in 2018, True Valour has come around nicely in 2019. A Group 3 winner in Ireland, he won the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes by a half-length in February then came back off an eight-month layoff to win the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile at the Breeders’ Cup Mile course and distance Oct. 5, completing the mile in 1:32.82 to equal his career-top 114 Equibase Speed Figure. He has a chance to spice up the exotics at a nice price.

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

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

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. 

EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS

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.

HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN DEVILS

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 OF THE UNBEATENS

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.

NATIONAL TITLE ODDS

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.

BETTING TRENDS

• 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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

BEST OVER BETS

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

BEST UNDER BETS

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

BEST MONEY BETS

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

WORST MONEY BETS

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

BEST PUCKLINE TEAMS AT -1.5 

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)