jump to navigation

Wagstaff’s Picks: Belmont Stakes 2017 June 8, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

The house feels weird without my cat around. It seems bigger. It’s definitely quieter. And making some chicken salad yesterday without her pestering and bullying me for some felt very lonely.

So I’ve been keeping busy. I’m refining the story outlines for two more books and preparing another for publication in the next few months. Watch this blog for updates! This new book will be the start of a second series, a scifi adventure series for older kids, but certainly one that adults could also enjoy. As much as I bitch about living in the age of terminal adolescence, I may as well try to cash in on it.

And speaking of cashing in, I’ve gone through the lineup and past performances of this year’s Belmont Stakes entries, and have the following thoughts. (more…)

Wagstaff’s Picks: Kentucky Derby 2017 May 4, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

a-day-at-the-races_tootsie-fruitsey

This year’s Derby gives us one of the most open fields in years. Add to that the weather conditions – 3 straight days of likely rain – and we get the random factor of sloppy track conditions to make it all the more unpredictable.

So I’ll go ahead and make some predictions. It’s the rebel in me.

After going through the past performances, I looked at speed, condition, jockey and trainer records… the usual sort of thing. I looked at which horses like to close, which like to lead, and which ones like stouts and porters as opposed to pale ales.

Twenty horses running on a sloppy track means a lot of mud kicked up in the faces of the horses off the lead. The majority of the horses running have no racing experience with that. How will they react?

Some horses have run in the mud before. Some of ’em did pretty well, too. Some of ’em came from behind to win, telling us that the mud-in-the-face factor only makes ’em MAD!

When I put it all together, I’d lean towards the following. I don’t have a definite winner like I did with American Pharoah & The Belmont, or like I did with the pasta I made last night. But I think I’ve got some good prospects here with some good odds to use in various combo bets that might pay well.

#8 Hence at 15-1 (!) looks fast, well conditioned and ready to go. He closes well, and has closed well in sloppy track conditions.

#5 Always Dreaming at 5-1 hasn’t run in the mud, but his overall speed is near the top, and he’s in great shape right now. If (and it’s always a big if) he can handle the mud, he should do fine.

#14 Classic Empire is the current favorite at 4-1, and usually when an opening line favorite is that high, it means there’ll be a lot of changing of that particular status come post time. He’s got the best speed of the bunch, but the only time he ran in mud was for a 4 1/2 furlong low-level race…. but he came from behind and won. I wouldn’t count him out here, not at all.

#2 Thunder Snow at a big 20-1 is my wildcard. He’s only been races overseas, I have no fraction times for him… but he wins. And he wins at decent times, and at least from the reports, he comes from behind and closes. No mud, but he’s one of the few horses who have run on turf, and he’s run & won on soft turf. That tells me the feel of a muddy track won’t bother him at all – it’s only the mud-in-the-face factor that might come into play. Still, I’ll have him in my combo bets, and 50 cent trifecta combos might be the way I go overall.

I had two other horses as possibles before cutting them on a second go-round, and they were #16 Tapcrit and #18 Gormley. I just don’t think the speed is there in either case, and I think trainer Todd Pletcher has a better shot with Always Dreaming than he does with Tapcrit. Could they finish 3rd or 4th for a trifecta or superfecta? Maybe, but I’m thinking my top 4 picks will out run them.

Will I bet a lot under these conditions? Probably not. But with the odds where they are, the idea of hitting a trifecta could potentially mean a big payoff for a small bet, my favorite score at the track every time.

It’s also supposed to rain here in sunny southern California on Saturday, a rarity for May. Maybe I’ll take that as a sign to stay indoors & gamble.

And on other days, I’ll remind myself that it’s probably raining somewhere.

Three NFL Playoff Bets January 21, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

I never bet for or against a team I root for (meaning the Patriots in this case), but nevertheless I have three picks relating to this weekend’s conference championship games that I’m very confident with.

While the Patriots are 6 point favorites over the visiting Steelers, the Steelers were the LAST team I wanted to come to Foxboro for the title game since they’ll be the toughest foe the Pats could face. While the Patriots played great down the stretch, the only time they faced a quarterback at the top tier was Wilson & the Seahawks, and they lost. And while they beat the Texans by a sizable point margin last week, they played poorly in nearly every aspect of the game. And the Steelers are 7-0 when Rothelsberger, Brown and Bell all play. And I’m a worry-wart.

In any case, it’ll be a great matchup, and I don’t think Pittsburgh will be held to nothing but field goals by what can often be an erratic Patriot secondary. And Brady should be able to slice through the Pittsburgh secondary. So why is the over/under only 50 1/2??

So while not picking a winner, I would definitely take the OVER 50.5 in the Steelers/Patriots game.

Over in the NFC,  with the whoever-has-the-ball-last wins likelihood scenario of another high-scoring shootout between the high powered offenses & quarterbacks involved, the historically high 60.5 over/under figure seems low to me. Again, take the OVER 60.5 in the NFC game, and while once again I can’t be sure of a winner, I can be fairly confident in the game being decided by a narrow margin, so the 5 1/2 point spread seems excessive. Take the Packers plus the 5 1/2 since I think they’d beat that spread even if they lose.

Any one of these four teams could make sense as a Superbowl winner this year. I hope it’s my team, and even for you Pats haters and non-fans…. you KNOW you also hate Roger Goodell, and you KNOW how great it would be for him to have to totally eat shit and hand Kraft, Belichick & Brady that trophy.

I’d like to see it go down like this (except with the Pats winning, of course….)

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of December 2,2016 December 2, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

0085A special Friday edition, since I want to pick a Friday night game.

And that game is the PAC12 championship between Colorado & Washington, where the stakes for Washington are very high indeed – win, and they are most certainly in to the 4 team playoff. Lose, and they are sent on the one-way road to Palookabowl, whichever lesser bowl it turns out to be.

A great matchup, and certainly tops on my Friday night TV schedule while I make my szechuan chicken. It’s also a big spread – Washington is favored by 9, and as much as I think they’ll win, Colorado is a really good team with a lot of experienced players, and I think they’ll keep it close. So, I’ll go with Colorado plus 9 against Washington.

In a few of tomorrow’s big match-ups, I have mixed feelings, but here’s a shot:

In the big SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida, I fully expect Alabama to win, since they’re probably the best college team out there. Florida’s offense leaves a lot to be desired – does that justify a 21 point spread in favor of ‘Bama? Well, I think it does.  Not only because Alabama COULD score that much more than them, but I think that, even in a conference championship game, that assistant Lane Kiffin will want to run up the score to demonstrate his offensive props while he’s out interviewing for head coaching jobs next year, most notably at Houston. So, my “Lane Kiffin’s audition” factor outweighs other stuff, and I’ll take Alabama to cover 21 over Florida.

In the Big 10 championship, it’s an interesting set-up, where we have a red-hot Wisconsin team playing an equally hot Penn State team, even if fellow conference members Ohio State & Michigan are the ones either in or flirting with making the playoff. But, if Washington does lose, there’s a good chance that the winner of this game gets in there, especially if Clemson loses to Virginia Tech (which they won’t).  The spread is Wisconsin by 2. I think it’ll be close, and I think Wisconsin is the better team. I’d take Wisconsin to cover 2 over Penn State.

As mentioned above, I like Clemson by 11 in the ACC championship over Virginia Tech. VT has been weaker against the spread than Clemson, though not by much…. but Clemson has been playing better lately, and can taste the playoff. I think they can win by 2 touchdowns.

In another great matchup, Oklahoma is favored by 11 over Oklahoma State. I think these teams are far more evenly matched than that, and despite Oklahoma looking like a better team, I think this will be closer. So, I’ll go with Oklahoma State plus the 11 points.

In the pros, I like the Chiefs plus 5 1/2 against the Falcons, the Eagles plus 1 1/2 against the Bengals, the Raiders by 3 over the Bills, and the Redskins plus 1 1/2 against the Cardinals.

I went 4-3 last week overall, bringing the college totals to 25-16-1 & the pros to 17-12, for a grand total of 42-28-1. That winning percentage needs to go up, pronto!

And Gronk is out for the season. There is no joy in Patriotland for your humble prognosticator.

 

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 26, 2016 November 25, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Football, Horse Racing.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

mattel-footballboxIs anyone making money following my advice?  You could be, I guess.  Especially last week, where I was a mere half point away from running the table and going 8-0.  Perfection eluded me, but I improved my totals: 22-15-1 in college, 16-10 in the pros, for a grand total of 38-25-1.

I’m taking a bigger chance this week, picking favorites to cover only. I’d like to think the push for better bowl bids will drive a lot of the college picks, but who the hell knows? I’m going with teams I think will want to score big in the college games, and teams I think will simply win outright in the pros. It’s not an exact science.

The idea of “exact science” in sports handicapping always fascinates me, however. It’s what attracts me to the horse races as well. And in a BIG THRIFT STORE SCORE this week, it turned out that some fellow degenerate gambler donated a stock of horse handicapping books to Goodwill, just waiting for me to find them.

Well, three out of the four, anyway. I already had a copy of Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing

But I did not have On Track/Off Track by James Quinn, a collection of short pieces on various aspects of horse betting that, perfect for me, focuses mostly on Santa Anita racetrack. I also picked up a copy of Steven Davidowitz’ Betting Thoroughbreds, and a copy of Thoroughbred Handicapping, State of the Art by William Quirin.

Well, state of the art for the mid 1990s, when all these books were published, which makes them a little out of date in terms of what sorts of information is readily available nowadays as opposed to calculating stuff on your own (like pace figures and such), but the general advice & strategies are still sound.

Each book was only two bucks!

I love poring through outdated sports betting books from the days of scratch sheets and people programming their Bowmar calculators to figure point spreads. There’s something about digging through all the outdated technical and computer instructions to get at the fundamental algorithms in making the picks, and then applying them to the current technologies and data available.  This is what I did when reading the long out of print Sports Betting by Jim Jasper. You have to wade through all sorts of instructions about what numbers to punch into the pocket calculator to figure baseball and football odds, but once translated into modern available data, a lot of Jasper’s overriding ideas are good ones.

Whatever. It provided me some nice reading material during my week off.

Oh yeah, my picks….

In the college games, I’ll stick with Temple to cover 21 over East Carolina, Penn State by 11 over Michigan State, Colorado by 9 over Utah, and USC to cover 17 1/2 over Notre Dame.

In the NFL, I like the Chargers coming off a bye by 1 over the Texans, the surging Dolphins by 7 1/2 over the Forty Niners, and the strengthening Seahawks by 6 over the Buccaneers.

And now, back to goofing off….

 

 

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 19, 2016 November 18, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Writing.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

grfootThe new Wagstaff novel is at the proofreaders/immediate feedback sources. I’m aiming for sometime in January to have it available on Amazon. Watch this space for any updates on that.

In the meantime, this means I can devote whatever gray matter I have left (most likely my internal organs at this point) towards making these picks, right? I keep reverting back to matching a coin flip, however, going 3-3 overall last week to bring my college totals to 18-15-1 and the NFL to 13-9, totalling 31-24-1. 56%. Ugh. I gotta do better than that.

Perhaps my constant trolling of people on Facebook with snark will sharpen my mind. And if not, well, at least I’m getting my jollies.

I think I will take advantage of the Thanksgiving break to design some possible covers for the new book. I’m aiming for something a little flashier than last time, something a little more colorful. The black & white noir thing worked well last time, but it’s time to gussy things up a bit. I have a decent camera and compositing software…. I ought to be able to put something together that’s nice. I have a concept in mind that shouldn’t be too difficult to stage.

Which reminds me… I need to rent a truckload of kangaroos dressed as clowns in bondage gear. Like I said, my concept shouldn’t be too difficult to stage.

In the meantime, in the college games this week, I like Virginia Tech plus 2 against Notre Dame, Temple by 15 over Tulane, Penn State to cover a big 28 over Rutgers, and as much as I LOVE home underdogs in rivalry games, I’m going to go against that and pick USC to cover 13 over UCLA.

In the NFL, I’ll take the Jaguars plus 6 1/2 against the Lions in a game where my cat will have no idea who to root for, the Cowboys by 7 over the Ravens, the Redskins by 3 over the Packers, and since I think it will be a low-scoring affair, I’ll take the UNDER 39.5 in the Rams/Dolphins matchup.

Looking forward to some much-needed downtime this week. I wish you all the same!

 

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 12,2016 November 11, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

f411fd693d84ae6cb3bec2db3f772c6eI’ve been so desperate to avoid politics on TV this week that I wound up watching ALL of the Cleveland Browns game last night.

ALL OF IT.

The Browns may be a fascinating study in repeated failure, considering how many years they’ve sucked, how many draft picks they’ve had & blown, how many quarterbacks they’ve gone through, etc etc. But they are not a fun team to watch.

Switching gears to a totally different sport for a moment – to avoid watching election returns the other night, I watched my first regular season Lakers game in a number of years… and now, without Kobe sucking up all the oxygen, those hungry young guys ARE a fun team to watch.

By the way, my choice to avoid watching those election return has NOTHING to do with my political leanings (I hate everyone). It has to do with my total disdain for political “journalists” and “pundits,” who blather and bloviate endlessly, and are ALWAYS WRONG AND STUPID. And if this election didn’t prove just how stupid and wrong they can be, I don’t know what would.

Speaking of wrong and stupid, I’ve made my football picks for the weekend. Last week I was even, bringing my totals to 17-13-1 for college and 11-8 in the pros for a total of 28-21-1 overall.

And in the Breeder’s Cup, I only got the Turf Sprint & The Classic. Sorry about that. I wound up down $25. I hope you did better.

Also speaking of wrong and stupid, I view most sports radio prognosticators with nearly the same respect I view political pundits.  I’m usually only interested in when I wind up agreeing with any of ’em (and this includes horse pickers) because I wonder if we use the same methods.

Anyway, this week in the college games, I like UCF by 11 1/2 over Cincy, Oregon plus 3 against Stanford, and Washington to cover 7 1/2 over USC.

In the NFL, I’ll go with the Texans plus 1 1/2 against the Jaguars, the Falcons to cover 1 1/2 over the Eagles, and in the second best matchup of the week, the Cowboys plus 2 1/2 against the Steelers.

The best matchup? Well, duh! The Patriots against the Seahawks, Sunday night. I never pick a Pats game since it’s bad luck, but I WILL predict that Carrie Underwood’s new Sunday Night Football theme song will continue to SUCK.

Preparing the last bits for a draft of the new Wagstaff novel to go to the proofreaders. Stay tuned for more news on that front!

 

Some Breeder’s Cup Picks (A Pick 6 Sequence) For November 5, 2016 November 4, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

marxbroraceWell, I don’t mean to brag…. but I’m ahead FOUR DOLLARS after making two bets on two different Breeder’s Cup races today (Friday). With that amazing amount of confidence on hand, I went ahead and handicapped the Pick 6 sequence in Saturday’s line up, culminating with the big 6 million dollar Breeder’s Cup Classic.

And the Pick 6 will be worth taking a shot at. There’s a half million dollar two day carryover going into it, which pretty much translates to a Pick 6 pool of at least 2 million dollars. And with all those pick 6 players (like me) also playing the late pick 4, the pick 4 pool ought to be north of a million, at least.

In these picks, I’ve listed the horse I most think will most likely win first, and second the horse I think will win if Horse #1 messes up. In one race, I’ve picked 3 for reasons I’ll go into.

Race 7: Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint (2pm PDT): 2 Obviously, 13 Holy Lute

Race 8: BC Juvenile (2:43pm PDT): 6 Three Rules, 2 Syndergaard

Race 9 (also the start of the Pick 4): BC Turf (3:22pm PDT): 4 Flintshire, 10 Found

Race 10: BC Filly & Mare Sprint (4:01pm PDT): 2 Haveyougoneaway, 8 Carina Mia

Race 11: BC Mile (4:40pm PDT): 10 Limato, 2 Alice Springs & 13 Midnight Storm. Both Limato and Alice Springs are foreign horses with very identical profiles, so I’m throwing them both in. Out of the American horses (STAND UP AND SALUTE, MISTER!) my top pick would be Midnight Storm. I’ll use all 3 in my pick 4, mix ’em up for pick 6 combos.

Race 12: BC Classic (5:35pm PDT): 10 Arrogate, 4 California Chrome. Yeah, that’s right. Every handicapper I’ve looked at says to single California Chrome here, but I’m thinking Arrogate is a better bet. So there.

There’s no way I play a $196 monster pick 6 ticket for all of my picks. I’ll play different combos, not sure how I’ll mix them up yet. However, a $12 monster pick 4 ticket is certainly within the cheapskate Wagstaff betting bankroll budget.

The weather should be clear & beautiful. Races at this level, well… anything can happen, really. But it’s worth a shot. Here’s hoping I run the table….

 

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 5 November 3, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Horse Racing.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

07-07-20_mr_creosoteThe gut continues to be more successful than the deep analysis. I went 5-2 last week, bringing the college pick totals to 16-11-1 and the NFL to 9-7, for an overall total of 25-18-1.

Not too bad, not too great. I’d like to get a winning percentage above 67% by season’s end, although keeping it over 50% is always the basic goal.

The Breeder’s Cup races are at Santa Anita November 4 & 5, a bunch of high stakes races with the best horses in the world. The weather ought to be perfect, and I haven’t looked at ANY of those races and past performances yet, but if I put together some picks over the next day or so, I’ll post ’em here, since I may as well make this a one-stop shopping central for all things sports gambling.

Although my stats tell me that not too many people care about these picks. Well, YOUR LOSS if I keep my average up. Watch the Dow Jones tank, suckers… I’M giving you free ways to make money here, regardless of the election results next week.

AND the gut will get its due this weekend – I’m planning on cooking myself some nice dinners.

This week in the college games, I like Kentucky plus 2 1/2 against Georgia (sorry David), Washington to cover 17 over California, and Baylor by 7 1/2 over TCU.

In the NFL, I’ll go with the Eagles plus 2 1/2 against the Giants, the Cowboys to cover 7 1/2 over the Browns, and the Saints to cover 4 1/2 over the Forty Niners.

My Patriots have a bye week, so it will be a relatively unemotional weekend…. until I pet my cat and swoon.

Or if I manage to hit a pick 4 betting the Breeder’s Cup. But we’ll see about that after I handicap the lot of ’em.

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 22, 2016 October 21, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

18767Here’s a secret: pick the OPPOSITE of what I pick, and you’ll make TONS of money.

Not just with football, either. Ask me about stocks & mutual funds sometime. You won’t go wrong.

Trying something a little new this week. I’m subordinating number crunching to looking more at trends and gut feelings. And considering the dinner I just had, the gut is on the upswing.

In the college games, I’ll go with West Virginia to cover 6 over TCU, Wisconsin to cover 4 1/2 over Iowa, and Utah plus 7 against UCLA.

I think West VA is looking very good, Wisconsin will not lose 3 in a row, and Utah/UCLA will be a close one.

In the pros, how about the Eagles plus 3 against the Vikings, the Raiders plus 1 against the Jaguars, and the Chargers plus 6 against the Falcons.

I think the Eagles won’t lose 3 in a row either, the Raiders are looking good, and the Chargers have kept things close even when they’ve lost games or badly blown them.

So there.

Now call that bookie & bet your life savings. You’re welcome.