Belmont Stakes Predictions 2019

I’m still amazed War of Will won the Preakness. I didn’t see it coming. So bear that level of prognosticatin’ genius in mind as I make my picks for the final leg in this year’s Triple Crown races, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

My general rule is to throw out any horse that ran in the Preakness when they have to run against some killer route runners that have gotten a lot more rest. I made exceptions when I (along with many others) correctly picked the recent Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify, or when I woulda picked I’ll Have Another if he’d run the Belmont. So when I tell you that #9 War Of Will at the opening line of 2-1 is totally beatable, it’s NOT because I’m still whinin’ over missing the Preakness, I’m simply applying a proven historic standard that horses who have run in the Preakness (AND the Derby in this case) don’t muster the energy against fresh horses of a similar class.

So who is left? Well, the opening line favorite at 9-5, #10 Tacitus is a good bet to win it. I picked him as a possibility in the Derby, and he did decently down the stretch to come in 4th (oh EXCUSE me, 3rd thanks to disqualification, that LAME disqualification…. and I call it lame since I picked that horse to win. You can’t fault me for honesty.).

But checking the numbers, I gotta say that Tacitus is beatable here, and I can point to two strong possibles to do it: The first is another Derby runner who was gaining on all of ’em down the stretch and given another 1/4 mile, the grueling length of the Belmont, had an excellent chance of catching & overtaking Tacitus – #3 Master Fencer, opening at a nice 8-1, though I’d expect that to fall to 4-1 or 9-2 by post time. He’s mostly raced in Japan and not at this distance, but he’s got the speed and class, and it looks like they’re stretching him out a bit by looking at the works. If he and Tacitus run similar to how they did in the Derby, and that was on a sloppy track – this time we’ll get a fast one – Master Fencer should outrun him in the end.

My other possible is #7 Sir Winston. While he’s never really competed at this level, he’s the only horse in the field to achieve the speed figures usually associated with winners of this race, albeit at the G3 level Peter Pan stakes last month. He had veteran Joel Rosario in the saddle for that one, and Rosario is on him again this time. This horse closes… and while he lost earlier in the year to Tacitus, much like Master Fencer in the Derby, he was gaining on him and had a real shot at overtaking him had the distance been longer. And he’s 12-1 on the opening line, maybe 8-1 by post time.

So it all comes down to whether or not Tacitus can maintain the lead down that long distance, or be caught by #3 or #7, in my opinion. I’ll probably wuss out and do a trifecta box of them. This field doesn’t look like it will yield monster pools & payouts on all the exotics, so I’ll probably just limit myself to a “let’s see if I just get it right this time” type bet.

And yeah, I might throw War of Will in there on the exotics, but not to win.

Preakness 2019 Predictions

After that debacle of a Kentucky Derby, perhaps we can begin anew with some Preakness handicapping, eh?

Not that I was too wrong in my Derby predictions, picking Maximum Security to win before that lame disqualification. But I would have messed up my combos regardless, with 2 long shots running into the money and knocking some my other horses down to 4, 5, and 6.

I’m always less excited about the Preakness, to be honest. Fewer horses, smaller pools, and in way too many years a lopsided favorite destroying any chance of decent payoffs on combos.

But not this year! The Derby Champ and REAL Derby Champ aren’t in it, a few other horses dropped, and our favorite, Baffert’s Improbable, is opening at 5-2 and will probably go up as other horses, like the ones I’m about to mention, come down.

So I might put some other combos together, or I might just stick with the two horses I think have a really good shot at winning it despite their lack of experience at this class level.

My top choice is #7 Alwaysmining, winner of his last 6 races by multiple lengths, and whose consistent clock times indicate a strong chance to go gate to wire here. He’s in great form, got some killer workouts… the only caveat is a poor trainer record in graded stakes, something this horse has not run. BUT he’s got a good pedigree for stakes winners…. so I’m liking it. He’s 8-1 on the opening line, but expect that to drop to maybe 5-1 or so by post-time.

After that, another non-graded stakes, non-stakes winner of ANY caliber is the increasingly speedy #3 Warrior’s Charge, coming off of 2 straight wins by multiple lengths. Again, great time, solid works, good form… raring to go. And he’s 12-1 opening line, probably knocked down to 8-1 or so by post time.

I think Improbable is a totally beatable favorite here. I also think that other highly-touted horses like War of Will, Win Win Win or Bourbon War don’t have the speed to catch my 2 choices. The other horses I can see vying for money spots might be #5 Owendale at 10-1 opening, #12 Anothertwistafate (although he does MUCH better on artificial surface) and #4 Improbable (not a winner, but I can see him 2, 3 or 4).

If I’m right and it’s 3 or 7 followed by those others, those combos are gonna be worth it, especially if everyone decides they love Improbable enough to knock him down to 2-1 or so. But we’ll see. The weather should be decent, and the track won’t be the mudslide we got at Kentucky.

Here’s hoping we get a winner without the instant replay committee BS. And here’s hoping it’s my horse again.

The Future Is Now: We Are All Saints Fans For 15 Minutes

Welcome to 21st century sports, where the results get to change due to bad calls and committee meetings after the fact.

Maximum Security may have crossed the finish line at the Derby first, but after some interminable review of tape, his move to impede a horse slowing down anyway somehow determines that the 2nd place 65-1 shot Country House gets to win.

Barely a bump. Never affected the 2nd place horse. No one watching those replays would think it changed the outcome of the race.

No matter! Maximum Security gets disqualified!

AND ALL MY TICKETS GO DOWN. (And yes, that’s why I’m really angry).

From the volume & quantity of the booing as they hand out the trophy, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess the crowd at Churchill Downs feels the same way I do.

Vox populi sez BULLSHIT.

We’ve been treated to horrible reffing during the NBA finals, we got to see the egregious non-call of pass interference knocking the Saints from the Superbowl, we get bad umpiring over balls and strikes every day in baseball.

And we get endless reviews, replays, and bullshit.

Not just in sports, either, we can get it all over. We can have endlessly disputed election results where people refuse to concede, or public policies bounced around friendly and unfriendly judges at different court levels, criminal sentences thrown out the window, juries ignored, conspiracy theories abounding and accepted as fact by idiots… you name it.

Nothing is allowed to be a mutually agreed upon outcome. Nothing.

It’s all about endless hot take debates and arguing, and if someone’s argument rubs you the wrong way, well, just deplatform them or disqualify them and then claim you won.

Granted, most of my bets would have gone down the toilet with the longshot Country House placing 2nd, but COULDN’T I JUST GET MY 9/2 WIN BET, YOU FRIGGIN BASTARDS??? (Yes, that’s the TRUE reason for this rant).

Bah.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Predictions

I’ve been on a self-imposed break from horse betting for some months now. It’s partly a resting-on-my-laurels feeling after finally hitting a Pick 6 at Santa Anita last fall, along with a hesitation to go back to betting Santa Anita during their recent tragic Winter meet which featured so many mysterious horse deaths that racing got suspended for weeks on end.

But now it’s the first Saturday in May, and that means the Kentucky Derby.

And when you’re talkin’ a 20+ horse race with pools the size of oceans, I’ll set aside those Pick 6 laurels and venture back into handicapping the thing and seeing if I can put together some winning tickets. I did well with last year’s race and again with the Belmont (the Preakness always disappoints me from a betting standpoint) so here we go again for 2019.

The original opening favorite, Omaha Beach, has been scratched, making the race more interesting on a lot of levels. I’d originally had Omaha Beach among my possible winners, and his absence doesn’t simply bump everyone else up a notch since horses who have raced against each other before or are next to each other at the outset and so forth sometimes personally duel within a race, and with him gone, all of that strategery went out the window. Went back and ‘capped the race a 2nd time.

On top of that, it’s supposed to rain all day in Kentucky on Saturday, so I’d expect a muddy track. Went back over it all AGAIN.

And here’s the result: I think #7 Maximum Security has a real shot at victory with Omaha Beach on the sideline. Maximum Security is undefeated in 4 races, steadily improving (most recently winning the Florida Derby), and demonstrates speed and class numbers superior to the majority of the field. Opening line on him is also 10-1, but expect that to drop to 9/2 or the like, he might even wind up the post time favorite. He runs just as well in the mud, too.

The other two horses I’d put in the can-win-it category are #5 Improbable and #17 Roadster, two of the three Bob Baffert entries in the race. Improbable has faster speed than Roadster, whose form has been improving enough to overtake the other Baffert entry right next to him, #16 Game Winner. Roadster overtook Game Winner from behind to win the Santa Anita Derby, and Improbable finished 2nd to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. But what makes me think they might all be battling for 2nd place is how they have been placing 2nd since returning from layoffs. Third-after-layoff is a legendary handicapping item to look for, and that gives us both Game Winner & Improbable… while Roadster has been a winner both times after layoff, albeit with Mike Smith as jockey, not Florent Geroux, who hasn’t won with Baffert this year.

Roadster seems to have the best shot here, I’d put Improbable next and then Game Winner.

The other horses I’ll throw into possible trifecta and superfecta combos: #6 Vekoma and #8 Tacitus, both speedy enough to keep up with my top horses, but less likely to close at the end.

So there you go, the half-dozen best I can cull from my figurin’. I feel rich enough with my Pick 6 money to box some combo bets with ’em all, since it looks like the odds indicate larger pools in those exotics than in more recent years where a runaway favorite didn’t disappoint.

So crank up those mint juleps! Will it be bad karma for me if I drink my preferred Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey on Derby day? I like it better than Kentucky bourbon, sorry. Though my favorite brand of rye comes from Kentucky. Maybe I’ll have that for good luck.

And maybe I’ll start now.

At Long Last…. The Holy Grail Of Horse Betting Has Been Attained!

I don’t bet horse races as often as I used to. I’ve been a good boy and have spent more time trying to write & actually be productive in my off hours and especially over the summer.

It’d been a long while since I’d handicapped a race card and spent an afternoon watching Santa Anita. But the closing day of the fall meet came along Sunday, along with a mandatory pay-out of a rather large Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot.

I’ve come close to winning a Pick 6 jackpot a few times… got 5 out of 6 for the consolation pool three different times. One time I’d nailed the Pick 6 on paper in my handicapping but hadn’t bet it.

I’ve gotten trifectas, superfectas, pick 3s, pick 4s, and a couple of pick 5s…. but never a pick 6…

UNTIL SUNDAY!!!!

I got the Pick 6, which due to a large number of favorites and a twenty cent betting amount instead of the usual $2 paid less than most jackpots…

BUT I STILL GOT IT!

Felt great watching every race in the sequence, too… watching my picks either leading or coming from behind, even to beat other selections of mine. I tripled the opener since it had a lot of new runners, and doubled all the rest for a bet of $19.20. I threw in a matching pick 4 for $8.

So for $27.20, I won about $750!

HELL YEAH!

I’ll leave it in the account and use it to bet races for the next several years. There’s absolutely no reason to stop being cheap.

But picking 6 races in a row for essentially a 35-1 bet makes me feel like a genius. I’ll just kick back and savor that.

Belmont Stakes Predictions 2018

The last moments of this year’s Preakness made me think that Justified would not win the Belmont and Triple Crown this year. He ran beautifully for the first mile and into the stretch, but a couple of closers gained on him steadily in the last moments, and had that race been another quarter mile, would have passed him easily.

So when I combine that performance, plus the amount of work for any horse to run in both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, AND add the lousy draw Justify got for the Belmont at the rail position of 1, I gotta think he’s totally beatable.

I could see him getting off to a good start and keeping pace, but how easily will be get boxed in at the rail? And how could he spend the energy to get out and still have the stamina for that killer mile and a half length when there are fresher horses in this race, many of ’em great closers?

So while Justify is currently a big 4-5 favorite, and while I might include him in trifectas and supers at the 3-4 position, I don’t think I’ll be betting him to win.

Hey, it’d be cool if he did – Triple Crowns being as rare as they are –  but they’re rare for a reason.

So who do I think has what it takes to knock this one out?

Well, putting aside my bias as a Pats fan, I gotta like #6 Gronkowski (12-1) as a possibility, winner of some mile races overseas against admittedly weaker fields, but the overall time and class ratings on this one, plus some nice works on the Belmont track recently make him a very nice play at those high odds.

My other best bet would be the #10 Blended Citizen (15-1). I always like horses that skip both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness who drop into the Belmont fresh, and this one is that but not TOO fresh, winning the Peter Pan back on May 12. While he runs WAY better on artificial than on dirt, his ability to grind out the distance might be key here, and I think he’ll be in the money at the end, somewhere.

Both #7 Tenfold and #3 Bravazo chased Justify down at the end of the Preakness, and as I said before, in a longer race, Bravazo would have passed him – but if they’re chasing Justify down at 3rd or 4th position, I don’t see it as intense, and yet ANOTHER late closing horse who has the added rest of skipping the Preakness, #4 Hofburg (9-2) would be my pick for passing them.

So what might those exotics look like? Well, I’d have the 4-6-10 for getting in the money, with maybe adding the 1, 3 and 7 into third/fourth in a super. Dunno yet, I’ll sleep on it a couple of nights and see. But if I’m right about the 4-6-10 up front, the exotics should pay nicely, as they often do in this, my favorite of the Triple Crowns to bet.

A Quick Preakness Post for 2018

14020c_lg

I don’t think I’ll be betting this race very big.

The favorite and likely winner Justify is currently at 1-3 on the morning line, the likely runner up Good Magic is 3-1, and the only big-odds horse that has some potential to money in this thing beyond show might be Lone Sailor, at 15-1.

Between those odds and the small field, the exotics won’t really be worth it. Maybe a couple of bucks on something, but not much more.

I’ll save my bankroll for the Belmont. If Justify can take this one and stir up a lot of excitement for a Triple Crown, AND face some high-odds ringer horse who runs the Belmont without running this or the Kentucky Derby, we may have the ingredients for tempting trifecta and superfecta combos.

Kentucky Derby Picks 2018

I’m sitting here nursing a sudden spring cold, trying to make sense of past performances while running on soup and antihistamine.

So take that into account as I break down this year’s Kentucky Derby, running this Saturday around 3:50pm Pacific.

The opening line favorite, #7 Justify, certainly earns the spot – 3 and 0 lifetime, Baffert trained, Mike Smith in the seat and coming off a blazing gate-to-wire Santa Anita Derby.

But the field provides a lot of ammo for Justify to be a beatable favorite. Running 2nd in Santa Anita was #11 Bolt D’Oro, a horse that has all the earmarks of a bunch of commentator’s “safe” pick for an upset, but I don’t think so. I’d put this one on exotic combos, to be sure, but at 2-3-4, not first, even with the switch to Victor Espinoza in the saddle.

My candidates for upsetting Justify? Well, let’s start with #5 Audible, 4-1 lifetime and showing great speed in the Florida Derby recently, along with some solid works.  Trainer Tod Pletcher’s two other horses in this race are also interesting picks – #16 Magnum Moon (6-1) and #18 Vino Rosso (How can I resist Italian red wine, especially at 12-1) – they both show competitive speed with Justify and Audible, although their far-out post positions mean they’ll have to start pretty well and not get boxed out.

My real wild card is #14 Mendelssohn, the 2nd favorite at 5-1. No split times available for this foreign import for anything other than his winning Breeder’s Cup juvenile turf race, but finish times & other ratings are certainly strong.

If I had to pick a likely upset to Justify, I’d go with Mendelssohn. I’ll think about various exotics with the others between now and Saturday, depending on how zonked out I am on cold medicine.

Random Thoughts On My Sports Betting Bibliography

14020c_lg

So one day while killing time between a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment, I wandered the nearby neighborhood and wound up in one of what’s probably one of the few used bookstores left in LA in the age of the internet.  As much as finding specific old rare stuff online is easier, browsing through smelly old stacks of long-abandoned tomes always turns up stuff I’d NEVER heard of or would have even thought of. Web surfing doesn’t quite produce the same effect.

I rolled the reach-to-the-top-shelf store ladder over to explore the top shelf of old dusty sports books, and came across a pristine copy of Sports Betting by Jim Jasper, dated 1979. A quick skim of the thing  fascinated me – not so much for the advice and system offered, but in that the 1979 world I’d stepped into involved a book suggesting I base my betting systems on the lines of BASIC he offered up for me to punch into my TRS-80 to determine whether or not Ron Guidry and the Yankees would defeat Scott Macgregor and the Orioles.

Turns out Jasper wrote two other books (at least) filled with suggested BASIC coded programs for tracking football & baseball bets throughout the year, as well as following horse tracks. I found them both at the LA Central library. I’m guessing they haven’t been loaned out in quite a while.

As out of date as they all were, Jasper’s basic theories and structures are fairly sound – he number crunches all the data he can to determine league averages in various categories, assigns some weighting in terms of home field and the like, and then bases his betting on how far above or below average particular matchups turn out to be, in both baseball and football.

In other words, a general method easily reproduced using whatever categories of comparative stats are readily available online.

Much of Jasper’s number crunching and data recording, especially when I got to the horse racing portions of the two BASIC books, reminded me of the olden days where handicappers would calculate their own speed figures and track biases. When I used to haunt the sports books in Vegas betting the tracks whenever I was there, I’d see the older guys with their notebooks filled with their own timesheets and speed figures. Old habits die hard, I guess.  I have some older horse handicapping books that painstakingly go through how to do it, like Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners or the more recent (1995) Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping, but since relative speed figures are now available in nearly any racing form, there’s not much point (at least to me) in doing my own calculations. And as far as comparing the value of speed figures on Brisnet sheets versus Equifax versys the Beyer speed numbers in the Daily Racing Form… well, if I’m comparing different speed numbers calculated the same way between horses in the same race, I don’t really see what difference it makes. I’m getting comparative ratios, aren’t I?

While I use websites like Statfox to see comparative football, baseball and basketball team stats, spread records and the like, I use Brisnet past performances for horse racing, because like Statfox, they’re available free online if you know where to look.

The best basic edjumacation in reading horse past performances I can recommend would be DRF’s Brad Free’s Handicapping 101, the first book I read on how to go through the racing form. It covered everything in plain language and served as a nice launch point for studying more complex material or systems offered up by others.

My own systems? Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my own book about betting methods, whether in Vegas where I can bet the team sports legally, or back home where I can bet the track in person or online. But I think I’d want to string some sort of Wagstaff story around it. This post served as  a way to empty my mind of all the things I’d probably try to work in and get them down in print. Maybe I’ll post more in the future about particular strategeries that work, maybe I’ll try to weave them into some hybrid how-to book down the line.

In the meantime, I wonder if I could dig out my old copy of Microsoft Quickbasic on floppy disc and use it to create a totally foolproof horse picking program….hmmmm…..

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑