Using History to Handicap the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Leave a comment

Get ready, racing fans! The $2 million, Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff is shaping up to be among the biggest highlights of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares is expected to attract a high-quality and competitive field of established Grade 1 stars. Virtually every corner of the U.S. racing scene will be represented as horses from California, New York, and Kentucky square off in a battle for divisional supremacy.

Looking to get a head start handicapping this exciting showdown at Santa Anita? We’ve got you covered! By analyzing the history of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, we have identified seven tips and trends to point you in the direction of the most likely winner when the race is held for the 36th time Nov. 2.

Let’s dig in and examine the data:

Tactical Speed is an Asset

It pays to back a horse with some degree of tactical speed. Eight of the last ten Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners were in the front half of the field after the opening half-mile of the race, and going back even further, only eight horses in history have closed from the back half of the pack to win the Distaff. In other words, like in most dirt races, early speed tends to be an advantage.

At the same time, you want to play a horse with the ability to relax off the lead if necessary. Over the last decade, only one Distaff winner (Royal Delta in 2012) was leading after the opening half-mile. The rest were racing at least a length behind the pacesetter.

Year Winner Position after first 1/2-mile ½-mile & ¾-mile times

(track condition)

2018 Monomoy Girl 2nd by 1 length (11 starters) 47.57, 1:12.11 (fast)
2017 Forever Unbridled 6th by 4 lengths (8 starters) 48.08, 1:12.50 (fast)
2016 Beholder 3rd by 3.5 lengths (8 starters) 47.16, 1:11.14 (fast)
2015 Stopchargingmaria 6th by 1.75 length (14 starters) 47.28, 1:11.49 (fast)
2014 Untapable 6th by 4.5 lengths (11 starters) 46.73, 1:10.95 (fast)
2013 Beholder 3rd by 1.5 length (6 starters) 46.30, 1:10.28 (fast)
2012 Royal Delta 1st by 1 length (8 starters) 45.81, 1:09.80 (fast)
2011 Royal Delta 4th by 3 lengths (9 starters) 49.00, 1:13.72 (good)
2010 Unrivaled Belle 5th by 5 lengths (11 starters) 49.09, 1:13.75 (fast)
2009 Life Is Sweet 8th by 17.5 lengths (8 starters) 45.78, 1:09.74 (fast)

Bet Bill Mott

No trainer has enjoyed more success in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff than Bill Mott, who has won the race five times with four different horses. After nabbing back-to-back editions with Ajina in 1997 and Escena in 1998, Mott returned to the Distaff winner’s circle with Unrivaled Belle in 2010 and subsequently sent out future Hall of Famer Royal Delta to win the race in 2011 and 2012. Mott also sent out the Distaff second-place finishers Mushka in 2009 and Close Hatches in 2013, making it clear that when Mott has a runner in the Distaff, it’s wise to pay attention.

Avoid Bob Baffert

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won countless major races through the years, but surprisingly, he’s 0-for-7 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Only one of his starters has even cracked the top four, that being Abel Tasman, who rallied to finish second in 2017.

Bet the Favorites

While there have been some very big upsets in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, most notably Spain at 55.90-1 in 2000, overall the race has been dominated by favorites and short-priced contenders. Favorites have gone 15-for-35 (43%) in the Distaff, and 26 of the 35 winners (74%) went off at less than 5-1. In addition, 26 of the last 30 horses to finish in the Distaff trifecta started at single-digit odds.

A Recent Victory Isn’t Critical

To win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, you need a horse that is ready to peak on the day of the championship – not four or five weeks prior. Six of the last ten Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners were beaten in their final prep run, proving that a last-out victory isn’t critical.

Don’t Overlook the 3-Year-Olds

While older mares typically attract a lot of attention in the Distaff, 3-year-olds have proven more than capable of holding their own against their elders, winning 11 of the 35 editions of the Distaff. In fact, at least one 3-year-old filly has finished in the Distaff exacta every year since 2010, so if you’re overlooking the sophomores, you’re probably overlooking winning wagers.

Bet Fillies Exiting the Cotillion Stakes

The Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing has been a key prep race for the Distaff in recent years. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies has produced 10 of the last 27 trifecta finishers in the Distaff, including two of the last five winners.

Conclusions

A strong field is shaping up for the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, with the Grade 1 winners Midnight BisouElateParadise WoodsBlue PrizeStreet BandSerengeti Empress, and Dunbar Road all looming as possible starters.

The 4-year-old Midnight Bisou is 7-for-7 this year and figures to be clearly favored in the Distaff, but if you want to think outside the box, history suggests Elate and Street Band could be dangerous rivals. Elate was beaten in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Oct. 6 but is trained by Bill Mott, while the 3-year-old Street Band was an impressive winner of the Cotillion Stakes on Sept. 21 at Parx Racing.

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.