Using History to Handicap the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf

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If turf racing, top-class international competition, and longshot winners are all elements of horse racing that you find appealing, then your favorite race of the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park should surely be the Grade 1, $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The 1 ½-mile turf race typically draws a large and competitive field featuring a handful of horses shipping in from Europe, making it a classic case of “America vs. the World” in a championship showdown.

Of course, handicapping a field filled with foreign runners is easier said than done, particularly when you consider that favorites have enjoyed a surprisingly poor streak of luck in recent editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at the history of the Longines Turf to uncover a few noteworthy tips and trends that can be used to help narrow down the list of contenders.

Let’s examine some of the key data to consider:

Don’t Count Out Deep Closers

While horses with a wide variety of running styles have been successful in recent editions of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (Highland Reel even went gate-to-wire in 2016), deep closers that rally from the back of the pack have enjoyed more success than one might expect. Conduit (2009), Magician (2013), and Found (2015) all rallied from at least 14 ½ lengths back after a half-mile to win, proving that with a proper setup (a fast pace helps), big late rallies can be successful in the Turf.

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

(course condition)

2018 Enable 6th by 5 lengths (13 starters) 49.11, 1:14.22 (good)
2017 Talismanic 5th by 3.5 lengths (13 starters) 48.33, 1:12.86 (firm)
2016 Highland Reel 1st by 2.5 lengths (12 starters) 48.00, 1:12.70 (firm)
2015 Found 7th by 26.75 length (12 starters) 48.38, 1:12.64 (good)
2014 Main Sequence 9th by 4 lengths (12 starters) 47.76, 1:11.15 (good)
2013 Magician 11th by 14.5 length (12 starters) 46.94, 1:10.67 (firm)
2012 Little Mike 3rd by 3.5 lengths (12 starters) 46.77, 1:10.80 (firm)
2011 St Nicholas Abbey 5th by 3 lengths (9 starters) 50.09, 1:14.67 (good)
2010 Dangerous Midge 2nd by 2 lengths (7 starters) 50.17, 1:15.91 (firm)
2009 Conduit 7th by 16 lengths (7 starters) 45.14, 1:09.24 (firm)

Favorites Haven’t Been Winning

Although plenty of well-bet horses have won the Breeders’ Cup, the race has not been kind to favorites in recent years. Since 2003, when High Chaparral and Johar (neither of them favored) finished in a dead-heat for victory, 15 of the 17 Breeders’ Cup Turf winners were not favored in the wagering. The lone exceptions were Conduit (0.90-1 in 2009) and Enable (0.80-1 in 2018); overall, the odds available on those 15 upset winners averaged about 9.50-1.

That said, you don’t want to entirely exclude favorites from your tickets. The betting choice has finished fourth or better for 11 consecutive years, so if you’ve been playing against the favorites entirely, you haven’t been cashing any superfecta tickets.

Bet Foreign-Bred Runners, Especially Irish-Breds

No country has dominated the Breeders’ Cup Turf as thoroughly as Ireland. Over the last 25 years, 13 Breeders’ Cup Turf winners have been bred in Ireland, with all but one of them shipping in from overseas to secure their Breeders’ Cup victory. Great Britain, France, and Germany have also produced winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and all told, 21 of the 36 Breeders’ Cup Turf winners were bred in Europe.

Foreign interests have also enjoyed Breeders’ Cup Turf success with horses bred in North America, and overall, 17 of the last 21 winners of the Turf were based overseas at the time of their Breeders’ Cup victory, leaving very few wins for the home team.

Much of Ireland’s success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf is owed to Ireland’s leading trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won the race a record-setting six times (all with Irish-breds), including four of the last eight renewals. Furthermore, 13 of O’Brien’s 23 Breeders’ Cup Turf starters have finished in the top three, including seven of his last 12.

The record of Sir Michael Stoute is just as impressive with four wins and two seconds in the Turf from just 15 starters, including back-to-back wins with Conduit in 2008-09.

Repeat Winners Are Rare

The Breeders’ Cup Turf is a very competitive race, and it has been difficult for horses to win the race in back-to-back years. High Chaparral narrowly pulled off the feat in 2002-2003, and Conduit matched the achievement in 2008-2009, but over the last twenty years horses like Talismanic, Highland Reel, Found, Little Mike, St. Nicholas Abbey, Red Rocks, Better Talk Now, Buck’s Boy, and Chief Bearhart have fallen short in their attempts to win multiple editions of the race.

A Recent Victory Isn’t Critical

A major key to winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf is to peak in the championship event, not in your previous race. Seven of the last ten Breeders’ Cup Turf winners were actually beaten in their final prep run, often while facing tougher competition in the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France. Five of the last ten Breeders’ Cup Turf winners contested the Arc a few weeks prior, though only Enable managed to prevail in both races.

Conclusions

With defending champion Enable skipping the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf, the race figures to be wide-open, with U.S. star Bricks and Mortar looming as the possible favorite.

But history suggests we should still favor European runners, even in the absence of Enable. One to keep an eye on is Aidan O’Brien’s Irish-bred 3-year-old Anthony Van Dyck. Winner of the historic Grade 1 Investec Derby at Epsom, Anthony Van Dyck also matches the typical profile of a Breeders’ Cup Turf winner and even enters off a defeat, having finished third behind Magical in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 14. The return to 1 ½ miles (the same distance as the Investec Derby) should enhance his chances – and take note, three of O’Brien’s six Breeders’ Cup Turf winners were 3-year-olds. (Note: Magical was originally going to be shipped to the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup but developed an elevated temperature on Oct. 25 and will be retired, according to the Racing Post).

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.