In search of winners

Analysis and plays for Friday's and Saturday's Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita

Getty Images

The Breeders' Cup races will be Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita. It should be an entertaining two days. There are only a few races I really like; due to work commitments and the World Series I have not been able to dive in as deeply as usual. However, I will throw a few opinions out on each race.

Friday's races

These are all pretty wide open. Keep in mind there are a lot of evenly matched horses, so shopping for prices is critical. So that is the approach we are taking:

Race 5, BC Juvenile Turf Sprint

A'Ali is an intriguing European runner who will be a solid price (6-1 morning line). He has had only one bad start at a slightly longer distance. Europeans tend to have an edge in turf races, and this guy is worth a play across the board or maybe an exacta wheel up and down with the field.

Race 6, BC Juvenile Turf

Probably a pass race. No. 12 Arizona will be the favorite and looks pretty tough. There might be more value in No. 13 Fort Myers, who finished just behind the favorite at Ascot in June. Might be worth a weighted wager, with more to show and place than win. Something like $10 to win, $20 to place and $40 to show.

Race 7, BC Juvenile Fillies

Another I will likely be passing on. If you must play it, maybe take No. 4 British Idiom, but the price will likely not be good enough to warrant a play.

Race 8, BC Juvenile Filly Turf

The Europeans should have this one covered. I like the idea of keying No. 3 Shadn (10-1) first and second with all the other Euros in the exactas - 1-5-6-8-9-14.

Race 9, BC Juvenile

No. 5 Scabbard offers the best value after a troubled second against the favorite, No. 1 Dennis' Moment last time out. No. 9 Maxfield will take a lot of action as well. Could easily come down to the 1 and 9, but 8-1 on the 5 is too juicy to pass on.

Saturday's races

The main event, with some really competitive races featuring some of the best horses in the world in the latter part of the card.

Race 4, BC Filly Mare Sprint

I like No. 4 Come Dancing, but the price will be pretty short, although Covfefe will take the bulk of the money. We are going to key the 4 first and second in the exactas and tris with 1-3-8-9 as we will go closer heavy in a speed-dominated race.

Race 5, BC Turf Sprint

Pretty much throwing darts at a board here. I do like the 1 horse at 5-1 and might look at a 1-all all-1 exacta play.

Race 6, BC Dirt Mile

Omaha Beach will be the heavy favorite off a nice win over the surface at a distance shorter than he wanted to go against an excellent sprinter. Hard to get around him, but I will throw in the 1-2-4-7-8 in boxed exactas and tris and hope for the best.

Race 7, BC Filly/Mare Turf

I like No. 9 Villa Marina quite a bit in here. Her only off the board finish of her career came at a much longer distance and she still was only beaten two lengths. Will play her across the board, and will also use her in exactas first and second with 1-2-3-4-7-8-12.

Race 8, BC Sprint

Mitole will be favored, but we will take a shot against him. The only time he was in a race with a sub-22 opening quarter, he faded in the lane. Shancelot all but guarantees that fraction. The key horses will be a pair of long shot closers, No. 2 Hog Creek Hustle and No. 7 Whitmore, who appears to be rounding back into form and tends to show up in big spots. So the exactas would be 2-7 with 1-2-3-4-6-7-9.

Race 9, BC Mile

Another I have very little clue on. Lucallan across the board is worth a play but not worth a big investment.

Race 10, BC Distaff

Midnight Bisou, who ran at Sam Houston earlier this year, has been a win machine in 2019 with seven wins in seven starts. She will be tough here, but this field is loaded. Would throw her in exacta and trifecta boxes with 3-5-6-9-11.

Race 11, BC Turf

Bricks and Mortar (9) is the favorite and has five wins in five starts this year, but this might be longer than he wants to go. The 5 and 10 horses might be viable alternatives, but don't expect much value. Probably pass on this one.

Race 12, BC Classic

No. 11 Code of Honor has been in sharp form and always fires his shot. No. 8 McKinzie is the favorite and has never been worse than second in seven starts at Santa Anita. Hard to get past those two, but if you toss in long shots Owendale (3) and Yoshida (5) you might get a price. I will also key the 11 first and second in the try with 3-5-8 with all in third, and 3-5-8 with 11 with all.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Urquidy should get the nod over McCullers. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After being basically overmatched in their season opening loss at Kansas City, the Texans try it this week against the other team vastly superior to them in the AFC last season with the Baltimore Ravens at fan-less NRG Stadium Sunday. They met last year with the Ravens humiliating the Texans 41-7 in Baltimore.

The Chiefs are a tough measuring stick, but the Texans didn't measure up in any area. Meanwhile, in their opener last Sunday the Ravens bashed the Browns 38-6 with reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson completing 20 of 25 passes with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Jackson ran only seven times, last time he had fewer carries was the season opener last season. On paper there is little reason to think the Texans win. They have no position unit advantage with the possible exception of wide receiver, but given the puny outputs of Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Kenny Stills in Kansas City let's see them have a good game before giving them any checkmarks over opponents. The Ravens are seven point favorites.

The playoffs are in sight for the Astros

The Astros continue to slog (slog, not slug) their way to the postseason. Entering the weekend with just 10 games left in this truncated regular season they sit as a paragon of mediocrity: 25 wins and 25 losses. That has about clinched a playoff spot though since in the gimmicky short season postseason format the Astros are a virtual lock to qualify by finishing second in the American League West. They are three games ahead of Seattle. If somehow they wind up tied there is no one game playoff, and the Astros have already clinched the tiebreaker over the Mariners. The Astros play only lousy teams to close. Three this weekend vs. the Diamondbacks, then three to try to polish off the Mariners in Seattle, then four in Arlington at the Rangers.

The Astros' bullpen will be stronger in the playoffs

The Astros' lousy bullpen has been a big weakness in the 60 game schedule and would have been a bigger problem over a 162 game schedule. In the playoffs, that weakness could be greatly diminished. In the opening round best of three Zack Greinke is sure to start one of the first two games. If Justin Verlander makes it back to start the other, that leaves just one starting spot left for Dusty Baker to decide likely between Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers. That would add Framber Valdez and Christian Javier to the Astros' pen.

Since the Astros will have no playoff games at Minute Maid Park, Urquidy (with two more decent starts) should get the nod over McCullers. It is bizarre that McCullers has been so regularly outstanding at MMP while so often inept elsewhere. In five home starts this season McCullers has a 1.42 earned run average. In four road starts his ERA is 13.50. It's not just a short season small sample size thing. For his career McCullers has 44 home starts, ERA 2.51. 45 road starts (plus three relief appearances), ERA 5.22. It's not as if MMP is a great pitchers' park.

Timing is running out for the Rockets

The Rockets turned out to be irrelevant as real NBA championship contenders go. The Lakers are excellent so there is no shame in losing to them, but the Rockets getting destroyed in the fourth quarter of two games and then not even being competitive in the closeout game made a complete mockery of General Manager Daryl Morey's "we should win this thing" claim. With one of the oldest starting lineups in the NBA the Rockets' future is perilous. Head Coach Mike D'Antoni opting to not be part of it in telling the organization goodbye without even waiting on a new contract offer. If for the third consecutive offseason the Rockets make personnel moves on the cheap, they are not to be taken seriously as a title threat in 2020-21.

The Denver Nuggets should give the Lakers a better series than did the Rockets. That in and of itself isn't saying much, but the Nuggets are younger, deeper, and more versatile than the Rockets.

Last season Kyle Lowry played stellar point guard in helping the Toronto Raptors win the NBA championship. This season Goran Dragic is playing stellar point guard in helping the Miami Heat to within two wins of playing for the NBA championship. Once upon a time the Rockets had Lowry and Dragic on their roster at the same time. The Rockets are at 25 seasons and counting since last playing in the NBA Finals.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Maybe a postseason revival is to come, but Jose Altuve has never so regularly looked so messed up at the plate. His batting average down to .216, Altuve has been by far the worst Astro regular in 2020.

2. Other than at the Masters it looks like it will be a major surprise (and event) if Tiger Woods seriously contends to win another major.

3. Best doodles: Bronze-Yankee Silver-Snicker Gold-Golden

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome