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Bob Baffert’s Nadal vulnerable in second division of Arkansas Derby

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The biggest race in North America on the first Saturday in May this year isn’t the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, which has been moved to the Sept. 5, the first Saturday of that month.

Instead, we have a very good pair of big races in the form of split divisions of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, which occurred after 22 horses were entered to run in the race (two horses have since scratched, one in each division). Each division offers a $500,000 purse and 100 points to the winner via the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series, with 40 to the runner-up, 20 to the third-place finisher and 20 to the fourth-place finisher. Watch the Arkansas Derby on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Saturday, May 2 from 6-8 p.m. ET.

Before the Arkansas Derby, tune into NBC from 3-6 p.m. ET for a special Kentucky Derby broadcast, which includes The First Saturday In May: American Pharoah’s Run to the Triple Crown, a look back at American Pharoah’s 2015 Derby win en route to his historic Triple Crown, and The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown, a socially distant, computer-simulated edition of the Run for the Roses that pits all 13 Triple Crown winners against each other. The broadcast can also be streamed on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.

Stay healthy at home with NBC Sports’ Derby Party Pack, featuring recipes for traditional Kentucky Derby foods and cocktails, printable decorations, at-home fashion tips, kids crafts and more:

Click here to download NBC Sports’ Derby Party Pack

The horses and connections hoping to succeed in the second division of the Arkansas Derby will have to beat the morning-line favorite Nadal to do so. Nadal won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 14, leading from start to finish and earning a 101 Equibase Speed Figure. One race prior to that, in February, Nadal earned an even higher figure, 107, when winning the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. However, the San Vicente was a sprint, run at the distance of seven furlongs. Not only did Nadal earn a lower figure when stretching out to two turns for the Rebel, he was also tiring late in the stretch and losing ground to a fast-closing horse in Excession. Perhaps it was the faster than average early pace which caused Nadal to tire late, but this division of the Arkansas Derby may be run no differently than the Rebel, since contender Wells Bayou led from start to finish to win the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby on March 21 and earned a 100 figure. From an extreme outside post, Wells Bayou will likely have to try to get the lead from the start, perhaps at any cost, in order to not be wide going into the first turn. Another horse likely to try for the early lead is Storm the Court, who posted a 45.90-1 upset in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall when leading from start to finish. In his two starts this year, Storm the Court did not get the lead in the early stages, but that does not change the fact he appears to be a need-the-lead type. In addition to those three horses, Saratogian and Taishan may vie for the lead from the start or take up a stalking position behind the early leaders.

Given the probable faster-than-average early pace scenario, Farmington Road could easily improve off of his runner-up effort in the Oaklawn Stakes on April 11. The Oaklawn Stakes served as a local prep for the Arkansas Derby after the Derby was moved from April 11 to May 2. In that race, Farmington Road added blinkers for the first time, and after lagging in last of 13 early, rallied strongly to miss by a half-length at the finish. Two races before that, Farmington Road earned a career best 100 Equibase Speed Figure, followed by figures of 94 in a Grade 2 stakes at Fair Grounds and 95 in the Oaklawn Stakes. The pattern suggests he is improving once again, and considering his late kick he will benefit from a contested early pace, Farmington Road could pass the field to win this division of the Arkansas Derby.

King Guillermo posted a 49.20-1 upset in the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby in March. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been disregarded by bettors as much as he was, because King Guillermo had earned 105 and 103 Equibase Speed Figures in his two previous races. Both were on turf back in 2019, but in one of them he finished third to Sole Volante in the Pulpit Stakes, who two races later won the Sam F. Davis Stakes on dirt, suggesting King Guillermo might be capable of doing the same thing (which he did, defeating Sole Volante in the Tampa Bay Derby). Considering King Guillermo earned a 110 figure in the Tampa Bay Derby, which is better than the 107 and 101 figures Nadal earned in his two recent stakes wins, King Guillermo must be considered a legitimate contender to win Division Two of the Arkansas Derby.

Silver Prospector proved he belonged at the graded stakes level last fall when he won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and again when he won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in February. After earning a career-best 103 figure in the Southwest, Silver Prospector then regressed and finished sixth in the Rebel. However, before the Southwest, Silver Prospector had finished fourth in the Smarty Jones Stakes, so it may be his pattern is to run a winning race after a poor race. If that occurs in the Arkansas Derby, Silver Prospector could be a factor as well.

As mentioned previously, both Nadal (101 best route figure) and Wells Bayou (101 best route figure) are proven at this level.

Win Contenders:

Farmington Road

King Guillermo

Silver Prospector

The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is: Code Runner (89); Finnick the Fierce (91); Saratogian (76); Storm the Court (106); and Taishan (98).

Watch ‘The First Saturday In May’ on Saturday, May 2 from 3-6 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app and watch the Arkansas Derby from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Verlander injury shuffles Astros’ MLB futures odds

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MLB betting got a shake-up Sunday afternoon, specifically on World Series odds and AL pennant odds, with news that Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander could miss the rest of the season – or at least a significant chunk of it – with an arm injury.

Initial reports suggested Verlander had an elbow ailment, but both he and manager Dusty Baker quickly denied that. Baker called it a forearm strain and said that Verlander would be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks.” The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched a solid six innings in an 8-2 Opening Day rout of the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Verlander’s injury led oddsmakers to shuffle futures book odds on the defending AL champions. Covers checked in on the MLB odds moves with a couple of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ World Series odds?

At CG Technology books, risk analyst Rich Zanco said the Astros quickly moved from +1,200 to +1,800 in World Series futures. The SuperBook at Westgate also had Houston pegged +1,200 prior to Sunday’s news and initially went to +1,600, then dialed it a little further to +1,800.

However, there were apparently buyers on the Astros at that point, prompting the SuperBook to reel the price in to +1,400.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ American League odds?

In AL pennant futures, the Astros initially moved from +600 to +800 at The SuperBook, then ticked back to +700.

World Series odds

Team Odds to win
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
New York Yankees +350
Houston Astros +600
Atlanta Braves +1,600
Minnesota Twins +1,600
Tampa Bay Rays +1,800
Washington Nationals +2,000
Cleveland Indians +2,000
New York Mets +2,000
Chicago Cubs +2,000
Oakland Athletics +2,000
St. Louis Cardinals +2,500
Cincinnati Reds +2,500
San Diego Padres +2,500
Philadelphia Phillies +3,000
Chicago White Sox +3,000
Los Angeles Angels +3,000
Milwaukee Brewers +4,000
Boston Red Sox +5,000
Arizona Diamondbacks +6,000
Colorado Rockies +8,000
Toronto Blue Jays +10,000
Texas Rangers +10,000
Pittsburgh Pirates +20,000
Detroit Tigers +20,000
San Francisco Giants +30,000
Seattle Mariners +30,000
Miami Marlins +30,000
Baltimore Orioles +30,000
Kansas City Royals +30,000

Odds courtesy The SuperBook

MLB picks and predictions for Opening Day

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It was a long and scary road, but we finally get MLB betting back on Thursday, July 23. Opening Day of the pandemic-shortened 60-game baseball schedule is headlined by a pair of matchups, with the New York Yankees visiting the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers rekindling their rivalry with the San Francisco Giants.

Like we do each MLB season (COVID-19 or not), we’ll be taking a swing at today’s baseball odds and giving our best MLB picks and predictions. Up first: Opening Day 2020.

MLB picks for today

New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was supposed to miss the start of the season back in the spring, but the delay to the 2020 campaign allowed the outfielder to heal up from broken ribs and return to his longball-launching self.

Judge looked great in New York’s warmup games, albeit for a limited number of at-bats. He went 3-for-7 with all three hits leaving the ballpark. And he wasn’t alone, with the Yankees’ other power bats providing plenty of pop around him in the order. He’ll get a chance to go yard again on Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Aaron Judge home run (+210)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants are no strangers to Clayton Kershaw, who has long dominated the Dodgers’ divisional foes. In 49 career appearances against San Francisco, The Claw is 23-12 with a 1.74 ERA and has allowed just 0.71 hits per innings pitched in those starts.

The Giants don’t pose much of an offensive threat, averaging 8.22 hits per game in 2019. San Francisco has managed 45 total hits in its last eight starts against Kershaw – an average of 0.86 hits per inning faced. Given the Dodgers’ ace looked ready for work in his tune-up efforts, we could see him go seven innings or more on Thursday, panning out to a little over six hits for San Fran.

PREDICTION: Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)

Mookie Betts has reportedly landed a whale of a contract extension with the Dodgers after joining the ballclub this offseason via a trade with the Boston Red Sox. And what better way to lock down that deal than an impressive effort on Opening Day.

Betts recorded 313 total bases in 2019 (30th) and 353 in 2018 (fourth). He’s been swinging well in training sessions this offseason: in 27 at-bats during the spring/summer schedule, he has 13 total bases, including two doubles and a home run, while hitting leadoff during Summer Camp. We like that to continue into Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)

Top MLB consensus for today

Want to know who today’s biggest MLB betting and consensus bets are right now? Check out our top MLB consensus picks.

Opening Day betting card

  • Aaron Judge home run (+210)
  • Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)
  • Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)