Mapping out a trifecta play for the Jaipur Stakes

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The Belmont Stakes isn’t the only major horse race taking place on Saturday at Belmont Park. Five other prestigious stakes races are on the agenda, including the $250,000, Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes Presented by America’s Best Racing, which serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland on Nov. 7.

Held at just three-quarters of a mile, the Jaipur is a test of speed on a blazingly fast turf course conducive to producing fast times. The Jaipur runs on Saturday, June 20 as an undercard to the Belmont Stakes.

NBC is home to the 152nd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after the main event. Coverage runs from 2:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC, just hours after NBC’s coverage of the final day of the Royal Ascot in England. Stream the 2020 Belmont Stakes here.

Three years ago, the talented Disco Partner won the Jaipur in the remarkable time of 1:05.67, setting a North American record.

But three-quarters of a mile is an unfamiliar ballgame for many turf sprinters. Most of the division’s biggest races are held at shorter distances, and running an extra sixteenth of a mile or two can make a big difference for pure speedsters accustomed to running virtually all-out from start to finish. Negotiating three-quarters of a mile requires a bit of nuance and pacing, as well as a subtle dose of stamina.

This could be a critical factor affecting the chances of #4 Pure Sensation, a 9-year-old veteran who has cracked the top three in 11 of his 13 races dating back to September 2017. The two exceptions were solid fifth-place efforts against tough competition in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and all told Pure Sensation has won 11 stakes races during his decorated career.

The Jaipur has been a summer target on Pure Sensation’s agenda three times in the past, and he actually nabbed first prize in 2016, holding off none other than Disco Partner to win by a neck in 1:06.76. But these days, Pure Sensation seems better running shorter — he hasn’t won a race longer than five-eighths of a mile since October 2016. In his last run at the Jaipur distance, Pure Sensation carved out the pace in the 2018 Belmont Turf Sprint Stakes, only to weaken in the final eighth of a mile and finish a distant third behind Disco Partner.

There isn’t much speed in the 2020 Jaipur field, so perhaps Pure Sensation can shake loose on an easy lead and stretch his speed farther than usual. But returning from a 7 1/2-month layoff is also a question mark, considering Pure Sensation is getting older and trainer Christophe Clement wins at just a 14% rate with horses returning from extended breaks.

If you’re searching for a runner who figures to thrive at the Jaipur distance, look no further than the lone female in the field, #2 Oleksandra. The 6-year-old mare by 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is 2-for-3 sprinting three-quarters of a mile, with both victories coming on the Belmont Park turf course. Just as importantly, Oleksandra has proven herself against a high level of competition, rallying to win the 2019 Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes by two lengths over the classy stakes winners Morticia and Girls Know Best.

Oleksandra kicked off her 2020 campaign with a gallant runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita, where she gained six lengths in the final eighth of a mile to fall just short of catching Brazilian Group 1 winner and heavy favorite Jolie Olimpica. Oleksandra figures to show improvement in her second start of the season, and stretching out to three-quarters of a mile should give this classy mare a little more time to unfurl her powerful closing strides.

The wildcard in the Jaipur field is #6 Hidden Scroll, who has shown flashes of brilliance while racing on dirt for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. After finishing off the board in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, the 4-year-old Hard Spun colt attempted to give turf a try in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Belmont. Unfortunately, Hidden Scroll stumbled severely at the start and unseated his rider before running off and completing the race for his own amusement.

Granted, Hidden Scroll was unencumbered by a jockey, but he seemed to handle grass just fine while sprinting to a commanding “early lead.” He’s also trained encouragingly on the turf course at Palm Meadows, and with his excellent tactical speed, Hidden Scroll figures to set or press a modest pace in the Jaipur. From there, he might just feel inclined to hang around and finish in the money.

#7 White Flag, the second sprinter hailing from the stable of Clement, is another who warrants respect after accumulating four wins, a second, and two thirds from seven starts on the grass at Belmont Park, including two wins and a second in three tries on this inner turf course. The son of War Front handles three-quarters of a mile just fine and has placed against Grade 1 company, but like stablemate Pure Sensation, he’s returning from a long layoff and might need to get a race under his belt before returning to peak form.

So how do we turn these opinions into a viable wagering strategy? Let’s focus our attention on Oleksandra, betting the mare to win and playing her in the top two slots of a trifecta. For the remaining slots, we’ll use Pure Sensation, Hidden Scroll, White Flag, and also #4 Stubbins, the stretch-running winner of the 2019 Grade 2 Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select.


Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget

$8 to win on #2 Oleksandra

What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 9th race, $8 to win on #2

$0.50 trifecta: 2 with 4,5,6,7 with 4,5,6,7 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 9th race, $0.50 trifecta: 2 with 4,5,6,7 with 4,5,6,7

$0.50 trifecta: 4,5,6,7 with 2 with 4,5,6,7 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 9th race, $0.50 trifecta: 4,5,6,7 with 2 with 4,5,6,7

Watch the 2020 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20 from 2:45 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.