Will the trend of longshots running well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile continue?

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The $2 million, Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile historically has been a fun, but challenging exercise for bettors and racing fans looking for a winner and, of course, next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve horse.

Although Game Winner prevailed as the even-money favorite a year ago, favorites have been a poor bet in the Juvenile when looking at the results from 1999-2018 – the last 20 editions of the 1 1/16-mile race – with average winning odds of nearly 11-1 during that time.

Because the Breeders’ Cup brings together the best horses in training from across the country and world, there are so many factors that play into handicapping World Championships races. Two-year-old races present additional variables such as determining quality of competition coming out of stakes filled with maiden winners, runners shipping for the first time, competing in front of a massive crowd, etc. Plus, there is significantly less information in the past performances with which to formulate your opinion.

With that in mind, let’s dig around for some interesting pieces of information in the last 20 editions of the Juvenile that could be helpful as you pare down your list of contenders.

First, let’s focus on all 20 races to try to identify historical trends that could prove useful.

Since this year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, we’ll then narrow the scope to go in depth on the editions of the Juvenile held at Santa Anita – 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 – with an emphasis on the five editions held on dirt.

Finally, we’ll take a closer look at this year’s entrants to try and identify a few runners that fit the profile of a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. The race will be televised on NBC Sports live as part of the “Future Stars Friday” broadcast from 4-8 p.m. ET Nov. 1.

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

  • The favorite has won four times (20%) from 1999-2018 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
  • All four favorites – Game Winner (2018), Shanghai Bobby (2012), Uncle Mo (2010), and War Pass (2007) – were unbeaten and capped perfect championship campaigns in the Juvenile.
  • Eight winners struck at double-digit odds (10-1) or higher, most recently Good Magic at 11.50-1 in 2017. That group includes four at 26.80-1 or higher: Vale of York (30.60-1 in 2009), Wilko (28.30-1 in 2004), Action This Day (26.80-1 in 2003), and Anees (30.3-1 in 1999).
  • The average odds for the winner over the 20-year stretch has been 10.75-1 with a median of 6.70-1. The odds range from even-money for Game Winner in 2018 to 30.6-1 for Vale of York in 2009.
  • All but one of the last 20 winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were bred in Kentucky. Irish-bred Vale of York, who in 2009 won on the synthetic main track at Santa Anita, was the lone exception.
  • Thirteen of the last 20 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners won their final prep race. In fact, all 20 finished in the top three and 18 of 20 won or finished within three lengths of the winner in their final pre-Breeders’ Cup start. None lost by more than five lengths.
  • Eleven of the 13 who won their final prep did so by open lengths (one length or more).
  • Eight of the 13 last-out winners capped unbeaten seasons in the Juvenile.
  • Nine of the last 20 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners were Grade 1 winners entering the World Championships and 11 were graded stakes winners. Only two horses were neither stakes winners nor graded stakes-placed: Action This Day for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, and New Year’s Day for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, both won the Juvenile off maiden victories.
  • Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners entered the race with a combined 46 wins from 73 starts from 1999-2018 for a 63% strike rate.
  • Twelve of the 20 Juvenile winners had experience in a race going around two turns. Three others completed their final prep in Europe and four came out of the one-turn-mile Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
  • The Juvenile historically has been a very fair race for all running styles since its inception, and the last 20 years are no exception. Six winners profiled as pace or press-the-pace type runners, seven profiled as stalkers, four were stalkers/closers, and three profiled as dedicated closers.
  • Three winners led from start to finish and five rallied from eight lengths back or more after a half-mile.
  • Four winners led after the first half-mile in the Juvenile from 1999-2018 and 12 of 20 were fifth or better.
  • The average winner was 3.8 lengths back after first quarter-mile, improving to 3.66 lengths back after the first half-mile. Median position was fifth/fourth at the first two points of call, 2 ¼ lengths back after the first quarter-mile and half-mile.
  • Eleven of the 20 winners led in early stretch and 16 were third or better.
  • Macho Uno’s victory by a nose in 2000 was the smallest margin of victory while Street Sense’s 10-length romp in 2006 was the largest winning margin.
  • Five editions of the Juvenile were decided by a neck or less, while on the other side of the coin five editions were won by 4 ¼ lengths or more.
  • The average margin of victory has been 2 ¼ lengths with the median margin of victory 1 ¼ lengths.
  • The average Equibase Speed Figure for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is 108.7 with a median of 108.5.
  • Shanghai Bobby earned an 86 Equibase Speed Figure for winning the 2012 Juvenile, which was the slowest in the 20-year stretch, while War Pass (2007) and Uncle Mo (2010) both earned a 123, the highest figure.

How does that change when narrowing the focus to seven Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races held at Santa Anita, with a focus on the five editions held on dirt in 2003, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016?

  • The favorite has one only one of the seven editions of the Juvenile held at Santa Anita between 1999 and 2018, when Shanghai Bobby prevailed as the 1.30-1 favorite in 2012.
  • Longshots have performed quite well at this venue with four double-digit-odds winners, including three from the five held on a dirt main track: Action This Day won at 36.8-1 in 2003, New Year’s Day won at 10.5-1 in 2013, and Texas Red struck at 13.90-1 in 2014.
  • One trait the three double-digit longshots mentioned above had in common was that all were closers or closers/stalkers, which might surprise some given speed is typically very dangerous on the dirt at Santa Anita.
  • Looking only at the five dirt races at Santa Anita from 1999-2018, the average odds for the winner were 11.4-1 with a median of 10.5-1.
  • Only one of the seven Juvenile winners at Santa Anita in this 20-year timeframe profiled as a pace or press-the-pace type: Shanghai Bobby in 2013. Classic Empire entered the race as a stalker in 2016 and pressed a moderate pace before pulling away to win by two lengths and pay $11 for a $2 win bet.
  • Six of the seven editions of the Juvenile were won by stalkers or closers, including four of the five editions held on dirt. Texas Red was ninth after a half-mile, New Year’s Day was eighth, and Action This Day was 12th at that point in the race.
  • Three of the seven races at Santa Anita Park were decided by a neck or less, while the other four were open-length victories.
  • Four of the seven winners at Santa Anita from 1999-2018 won their final prep race. Two others finished second by less than a length and Texas Red finished a well-beaten third behind future Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in his final prep in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes (since renamed the American Pharoah Stakes).
  • Recent form definitely seems to be a bigger factor when narrowing down to the five races on dirt at Santa Anita during this 20-year window as four of five entered off a win, with Texas Red the lone exception. The five runners combined to win 10 of 16 starts (62.5%) prior to the Juvenile.
  • When looking at class, it is interesting that the aforementioned two maiden special weight race winners making their stakes debuts in the Juvenile –  Action This Day (2003) and  New Year’s Day (2013) – both won on the dirt at Santa Anita. It’s worth keeping an eye on lightly raced local runners when looking for a possible longshot.
  • The average winning Equibase Speed Figure for the seven editions of the Juvenile from 1999-2018 was 104.3 with a median of 107. For the five races on dirt during that timeframe, the average dipped to 102.8 with a median of 106.

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

On paper, there appears to be a pretty clear duo of Breeders’ Cup standouts in Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes winner Dennis’ Moment and Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes winner Eight Rings.

Dennis’ Moment could easily be undefeated, too, had he not clipped heels and unseated his rider in his debut. He won his second start by 19 ½ lengths July 27 at Ellis Park, earning a 101 Equibase Speed Figure and a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. The bay Tiznow colt stalked the pace in his second start and responded when asked by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to pull away and post a 1 ¾-length win in the Iroquois while geared down late. While his 98 Equibase Speed Figure was a slight step back, when watching the replay it’s clear Dennis’ Moment had plenty left in the tank and he looked excellent in his first try around two turns. It does not look like there is a ton of pace in the race among the probable runners, so that could be a significant advantage for Dennis’ Moment. Twelve of the 20 winners of the Juvenile had two-turn experience and 13 of 20 won their final prep races. With good form, quality speed figures, and what should be an ideal running style, Dennis’ Moment is a logical win candidate.

Likewise, there is much to like from Eight Rings, who will try to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his fifth win in the Juvenile since 2002. The Empire Maker colt generated a ton of buzz when he rolled to a 6 ¼-length romp in his Aug. 4 at debut at Del Mar that earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure and a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. He ducked in and unseated his rider in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity but came back to post a six-length runaway in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes in his first try around two turns. The 103 Equibase Speed Figure indicates he fits well here and, like Dennis’ Moment, he looked like he had something left in the tank. Eight Rings led from start to finish in the American Pharoah and I’d expect him to set or press the pace. While that has not been especially effective over the last 20 years, especially at Santa Anita, there does not look like much speed pointing to this race and I also think he’s ratable if another entrant is sent to the front. The American Pharoah/FrontRunner Stakes has produced three of the last five winners of this race and there is a very strong chance that Eight Rings, a Grade 1 winner with two-turn experience, will be leading entering the stretch.

If you are looking for a bigger price, Iroquois runner-up Scabbard could be the play. It is possible, however, that Scabbard will be the wise-guy tout having encountered traffic in the Iroquois – he was pretty much stopped cold on the turn –before regaining his momentum and rallying for second. He won his debut and then finished second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes before the Iroquois runner-up finish. I thought Scabbard looked better stretching out around two turns, and the 96 Equibase Speed and 87 Beyer Speed Figures he earned were a step in the right direction. He should be finishing well late.

If you are looking for a huge price, one to consider is Wrecking CrewDaily Racing Form has him lasted at 30-1 among the early probables and he’s finished second in both the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes and Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity in his two most recent starts after winning his career debut in July at Del Mar. He’s from the first crop of a sire, Sky Kingdom, who was a two-time graded stakes winner at 1 ½ miles and there is some sneaky stamina in his pedigree that doesn’t jump out in the program. With a career-best 99 Equibase Speed Figure and 79 Beyer Speed Figure, he needs to take a big step forward, but he’s shown he can compete against Grade 1 company, trainer Peter Miller has won four Breeders’ Cup races in the last two years, and I think he’ll be passing horses in the stretch at a huge 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). 

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.

ROOM TO ROAM

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.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

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.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

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.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

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. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

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.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

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.

LOADING SCREEN

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.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

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.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

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.