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). 

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.

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

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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.

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)