Kentucky Derby Futures: Major shakeups ahead of historic Belmont Stakes

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The road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve has, due to a global public health crisis, stretched out through the summer and widened considerably. With the Derby rescheduled to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, the pool of potential contenders to make the 20-horse starting gate now welcomes late-developing types to join the horses that have already won major preps and earned qualifying points.

The bookmakers at William Hill continue to take fixed-odds future wagers on Kentucky Derby 146 and, as in years past in this blog, we’ll take a periodic look at William Hill’s future-book odds and profile some of the contenders.

The substantially revised Road to the Kentucky prep season is coming into focus as we march into June, and there’s been a major shakeup at the top of the leaderboard due to race results and injuries. In particular, Bob Baffert’s once-formidable lineup has been thinned out, after Arkansas Derby second division winner Nadal was retired due to a condylar fracture and Arkansas Derby first division winner Charlatan was sidelined due to a minor ankle issue. Furthermore, Baffert’s other leading contender Authentic saw his undefeated streak come to an end in the June 6 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. And in a late-breaking development occurring after William Hill’s latest odds were posted, top contender Maxfield suffered an injury during a workout that will take him off of the Kentucky Derby trail and possibly end his career (see below).

Vegas Derby future odds are sure to change even more after June 20, when the 152ndBelmont Stakes will be held. In this unprecedented year, the Belmont is the first leg of the Triple Crown, and it’s been added to the Kentucky Derby prep series offering qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 150-60-30-15 scale.

NBC is home to the 152nd Belmont Stakes, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after the main event. Coverage runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC, just hours after NBC’s coverage of the final day of the Royal Ascot in England. See the broadcast schedule here.

June 7 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:

1) Tiz the Law (4-1)

1) Honor A. P. (4-1)

3) Authentic (6-1)

4) Maxfield (7-1) (Injured–see update below)

5) Sole Volante (10-1)

Notable Changes: Nadal, tied with Tiz the Law at the top of William Hill’s Derby Futures leaderboard in our last update on May 5, and Charlatan, ranked third at the time, are both out of the Derby picture (and Nadal is moving on to a stud career). The biggest move came from Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P., who jumped from 12-1 odds on May 5 to his current 4-1, placing him in a tie with probable Belmont Stakes starter Tiz the Law at the top of the list. Honor A. P. earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure in the win, his third straight triple-digit figure in a row, and his sweeping move to the lead coming out of the far turn, where he put away Authentic, was visually impressive. It will be interesting to see if he can develop more versatility in his running style in his next (and possibly final) Kentucky Derby prep, which may come in either the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4 or the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 1. Read more about Honor A. P.’s rise in Mike Curry’s latest Making the Grade profile.

Authentic saw his Derby future odds rise slightly from 5-1 on May 5 to the current 6-1. He broke slowly and ducked out from his outside post in the Santa Anita Derby, setting up a less than desirable trip, but Authentic was still a clear second over Rushie (who is listed at 85-1 odds by William Hill). Trainer Bob Baffert told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that the July 18 TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park was being considered for Authentic’s next start, a race that Baffert has dominated over the past 20 years that’s on a main track which often favors front-running horses like Authentic.

Two weeks earlier on May 23, Maxfield made a stellar return to the track after a 7 ½-month absence, taking the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. He had remained in the top tier of Kentucky Derby future-book contenders over the winter and spring while recovering from injury and saw his odds drop from 12-1 on May 5 to 7-1 after the Matt Winn. UPDATE: Unfortunately, as reported by Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, Maxfield suffered a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone during a workout on Wednesday, June 10, and will undergo surgery. Trainer Brendan Walsh told McGee that Maxfield is expected to make a full recovery.

Ny Traffic and Pneumatic, runner-up and third in the Matt Winn respectively, both gave good efforts and are sitting at odds of 60-1 and 75-1 in William Hill’s latest sheet. Pneumatic in particular is an intriguing choice at his current odds. The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred, profiled in this blog last month, has only made three career starts and has a good stamina pedigree.

Three to Watch:

Cezanne: As if by design, right after a pair of Bob Baffert-trained phenoms dropped off the Kentucky Derby trail, another one emerged. This son of Hall of Famer Curlin had been on the Thoroughbred industry’s radar since making a huge splash in spring 2019 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, when he sold for $3.65 million to Coolmore interests (the highest price for a 2-year-old horse sold in North America since The Green Monkey went for an astounding $16 million in 2006). Living up to his rep, he won his debut on June 6 at Santa Anita Park in workmanlike fashion that upon a few days’ reflection was a more impressive effort than it first appeared. What struck me most was how well Cezanne ran while bunched in between two other horses through the turn of the six-furlong race, and how patient he was while sitting just off the pace before moving out of that group in early stretch and forging ahead to a 2 ¼-length victory that earned a 101 Equibase Speed Figure.

All that said, Cezanne’s current odds of 20-1 on William Hill’s sheet are an underlay and he’ll have to improve a lot in his next starts (ideally two of them) before the Kentucky Derby to match up against horses such as Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. This colt has the physique of a mile-and-a-quarter horse, though, and the pedigree to match. Curlin, of course, excelled at classic distances, winning the Preakness, Jockey Club Gold Cup twice, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and Cezanne is from a female family highlighted by third dam (maternal great-grandmother) Better Than Honour, a Broodmare of the Year 13 years ago who produced Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, along with two other route stakes winners.

Collusion Illusion: This son of Twirling Candy turned heads last summer with two wins to start out his career at Del Mar – including the Best Pal Stakes – but was pulled up in the Sept. 27 American Pharoah Stakes and given a lengthy break by trainer Mark Glatt due to an unspecified ailment. He resurfaced at Santa Anita on May 17 in a six-furlong allowance and picked right back up with a professional three-length score, good for a 106 Equibase Speed Figure. He has a stalking/closing style that fits well for the Kentucky Derby and a pedigree on his dam’s (mother’s) side that includes several graded stakes winners, although most of them are sprinters-milers. It will be interesting to see where his connections place Collusion Illusion next and if they target the Kentucky Derby. He’s offered at enticing 150-1 odds by William Hill.

Tap It to Win: This Tapit ridgling is not currently offered on William Hill’s Kentucky Derby futures sheet, but he should be listed soon. He’s targeting the June 20 Belmont Stakes and shapes up as an interesting longshot, especially considering that the former “Test of the Champion” is a one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race this year. Tap It to Win first turned heads last summer at Saratoga when he won his career second start by 3 ½ lengths going six furlongs. Elevated to stakes company for his final two starts as a juvenile, he disappointed to say the least, running 10th in both races while defeated by a combined 63 ¾ lengths. Those sorts of efforts will make a horse disappear completely from the Kentucky Derby radar, and that’s what happened over the winter, but this Mark Casse trainee has built up some momentum in his 3-year-old season with two quality wins. Most recently, he took a one-turn, 1 1/16-mile allowance at Belmont Park by five lengths, earning a flashy 108 Equibase Speed Figure. A Live Oak Plantation homebred, Tap It to Win has a nice pedigree that includes close relatives who won graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/16 miles. Second dam (maternal grandmother), Beaties for Real, produced four stakes winners and is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire) to Grade 2 winner Ivanavinalot, the dam of two-time champion Songbird. Tap It to Win should be a major pace factor in this unique Belmont Stakes if nothing more, and has the long-term look of a prime contender in the Preakness Stakes, which closes out the 2020 Triple Crown on Oct. 3.

Watch the 2020 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

PointsBet USA unveils partnership with Detroit Tigers

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In the absence of MLB games until – hopefully – later this month, MLB betting made some news Thursday with the announcement that PointsBet USA is now the official gaming partner of the Detroit Tigers. It’s the first such arrangement between a sports betting entity and an MLB team, made possible by PointsBet USA’s recent agreement with MLB designating the sportsbook as an authorized gaming operator by the league.

“The PointsBet team is excited to announce our groundbreaking deal with the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball, becoming the first legal sports betting operator in U.S. history to partner with an MLB franchise,” PointsBet USA CEO Johnny Aitken said in a news release. “We offer the most betting options in the world on MLB games via our unique PointsBetting product, and we are excited to inject a unique and robust betting proposition into the great state of Michigan.”

Michigan legalized sports betting in December, for both brick-and-mortar and online operators, and books began taking bets in March. PointsBet USA is not only the first book to partner with an MLB franchise, but the first to partner with any Michigan-based professional sports team.

As part of the multi-year deal, PointsBet USA will have TV broadcast-visible branding at Comerica Park, a sponsored presence on the Tigers’ digital platforms, and will be integrated into The District Detroit app and the MLB Ballpark app.

“We are thrilled to welcome PointsBet as a gaming partner of the Detroit Tigers,” said Chris Granger, group president of sports and entertainment for Ilitch Holdings. “Our incredible fans will love the unique experiences and innovative offerings that PointsBet’s personalized platform provides. We look forward to the fan-friendly enhancements this will bring to the game-day experience in and around Comerica Park for years to come.”

NBA betting: Eight seeding games to bet when NBA returns

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NBA betting is back on the board with the NBA season restarting in Orlando after the COVID-19 shutdown. From July 30-August 14, the 22 remaining teams with NBA Championship aspirations will face off against each other to determine playoff seeding, so get ready for some exciting matchups.

We take a look at eight must-bet NBA seeding games to watch as the league returns to action.

Clippers vs Lakers (-1.5, 218.5), July 30, 9 p.m. ET

When the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, take on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers, the NBA doesn’t get much better than this. Opening day and Christmas Day also featured this marquee matchup and the opening night of the restart in Orlando will mark the fourth time this season that these LA rivals have faced off.

The Lakers are third in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 106.9 points per game, while the Clippers hold opponents to just 43.6 percent shooting from the field, also third-best in the league. With both teams coming in off lengthy breaks, there may be some rust on the offensive end of the floor making the Under 218.5 an intriguing play.

Betting trend to watch: The Clips won the first two meetings while the Lakers won the last one in March. The Under hit in each of those contests with an average score of 108.7-106.7 in favor of the Clippers.

Celtics vs Bucks (-5, 217.5), July 31, 6:30 p.m. ET

Barring an absolute collapse, the Milwaukee Bucks will wrap up the No. 1 seed in the East, but they will still likely want to play MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo in this one just to shake off the cobwebs after the break.

This could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals and it will be interesting to see how Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker looks after being hampered by knee issues following the All-Star break. Boston split the series with Milwaukee during the season and Walker torched the Bucks both times, scoring 32 points against them in November and putting up 40 on them in January.

Betting trend to watch: Milwaukee opened as a five-point favorite, with the total set at 217.5, but don’t count out the Celtics, who have gone an impressive 14-4 ATS as an underdog this season.

Rockets vs Mavericks (+1.5, 225.5), July 31, 9 p.m. ET

The battle between James Harden and Luka Doncic will be a treat for basketball fans, but the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks have plenty of firepower in addition to their All-NBA guards.

With the full game total for this contest opening at a reasonable 225.5, keep an eye on the first half total when it drops.

Betting trend to watch: Fast starts have been a trend for both squads, with Houston leading the league with 59.9 first-half points per game and Dallas second with 59.3 ppg. For good measure, the Rockets also rank 25th in the NBA in first-half scoring defense, surrendering 58.1 ppg.

Heat vs Nuggets (-1, 212.5), August 1, 1 p.m ET

Both the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets could see their seeding change dramatically based on how they perform in Orlando. Miami has an absolute gauntlet to run through with its first four games against Denver, Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee.

The Nuggets have long had a massive edge at home, due to the increased elevation at the Pepsi Center, and losing that advantage in Orlando could hurt. Then again, Miami could be in the same boat considering that they posted an average scoring margin of plus-9.3 ppg at home — and that plummeted to minus-2.7 in away contests.

Betting trend to watch: The Heat have been one of the highest-scoring teams in the league during the first quarter, but have really struggled to put the ball in the hoop at the end of games, averaging just 26 ppg in the fourth quarter. With Denver holding opponents to just 26.2 fourth-quarter points per game on the road, this is a trend you’ll want to consider when live betting in the final 12 minutes.

Bucks vs Rockets, August 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s always a blast watching two MVP favorites face off against each other, and after Harden came up short against Antetokounmpo last year there seems to be a lack of respect between the two superstars. The Greek Freak took a potshot at Harden when he selected his team during All-Star weekend, with the Rockets guard responding with, “I wish I could be 7 feet and run and just dunk. Like, that takes no skill at all.”

Betting trend to watch: Unfortunately for the small-ball Rockets, defending in the paint is their biggest weakness, especially after trading away Clint Capela left them with the 6’5″ PJ Tucker often manning the center position. Houston allows 51.5 ppg in the paint, sixth-worst in the league, and Giannis is the most dominant inside scorer since Shaq, putting up 29.6 ppg this season.

Grizzlies vs Pelicans, August 3, 6:30 p.m. ET

Not only will this matchup feature the two best rookies in the league in Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, but it will also be a prime spot for the New Orleans Pelicans to gain ground on the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

New Orleans was impressive on offense even without Zion and have become even more unstoppable since the first-overall draft pick joined the team on January 22. Once Zion joined the fold the Pelicans averaged 120.1 ppg and played at the fastest pace in the league.

Betting trend to watch: Thanks in large part to Morant, Memphis also looks good on the offensive end of the floor, ranking seventh in the league in both possessions per game and shooting percentage. With both teams electrifying on offense – and terrible on defense – this should be a very fun game with the Over worth looking at.

Trail Blazers vs Nuggets, August 6, 8 p.m ET

There might not a more dangerous team currently outside a playoff spot than the Portland Trail Blazers, who arguably boast the second-best backcourt out of all 22 teams in Orlando and will also get center Jusuf Nurkic back from a broken leg. The Nuggets are third in the West but sit only 1.5 games behind the Clippers and 1.5 games ahead of the Jazz, so every game matters.

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semifinals, where the Blazers upset the Nuggets in seven games. In three games head-to-head this year the Nuggets went 3-0 SU and ATS.

Betting trend to watch: Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has struggled against Denver, averaging 21.6 ppg on 37.7 percent shooting over his last seven regular-season games against the Nuggets. Although he played better during the playoff series last season, it was CJ McCollum who carried the Blazers offense, especially in Game 7 when Lillard went 3-17 from the field.

Raptors vs 76ers, August 12, 6:30 p.m. ET

There might not be much on the line if the Toronto Raptors have already secured a seed by this time, but if their nerve-wracking seven-game playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers last year is any indication, this should still be a great game.

Betting trend to watch: It will be interesting to see how these teams play on neutral ground. Toronto has been one of the best teams in the league away from home, going 23-9 SU and 16-15 ATS and posting an average scoring margin of plus-4.2 ppg. On the other hand, the 76ers have been terrible on the road, going 10-24 SU, 9-23 ATS and posting a scoring margin of minus-5.3.