TRIPLE CROWN THREAT

Fred Faour: Picks and plays for Saturday's Belmont Stakes

Can Justify win the Triple Crown? We are betting against it. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Saturday’s Belmont Stakes will feature Justify attempting to become the 13th Triple Crown winner. He will face nine other mostly mediocre runners as he attempts to make history. A perfect 5-for-5 in his career, he will face a tough test trying to go a mile and a half.

The positives

He looks like the controlling pace of the race, and with that in mind he will be able to dictate to the others. That is a huge advantage. Unless a horse like Noble Indy pushes him early, he will have an easy trip.

He is still the most talented horse in the field. He regressed significantly in the Preakness, and still posted a 97 Beyer Speed figure. The only other horse to better that in any of his races is Vino Rosso, who posted a career-best 98 when he won the Wood Memorial. If Justify runs back to his prior numbers -- 103, 107, 101 and 104 -- he will be next to impossible to beat.

We might not have seen his best race yet. If that happens, he should roll.

His trainer, Bob Baffert, knows what it takes to win the Triple Crown, having done it with American Pharoah in 2015 after several near-misses.

The negatives

His Preakness regression might be a sign that he is wearing down. He has had a lot of races in a short time, and the distance of the Belmont might prove to be too much.

While he has solid breeding, it does not scream a mile and a half. Several others might be better suited.

Favorites do not do well in this race. In the last 15 runnings, only two favorites have won the race -- Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) and Afleet Alex (2005).

The picks

With all that in mind, we will be taking a shot at beating Justify. We could still cash if he wins, but if he runs out of the money, we will clean up.

The horse I like to upset the field is Hofburg, who was a decent 7th in the Derby despite trouble. He is bred to get the distance, his trainer knows how to win big races and he should be well rested. He also is lightly raced and has every right to improve. He will need to in order to win this, but he should be sitting on a big effort. We will be playing him across the board and keyed in exactas with the key contenders.

  1. Hofburg

  2. Justify

  3. Bravazo

  4. Vino Rosso

  5. Tenfold

The plays

Here are our trifecta plays. We will box the top five picks ($30 based on a .50 cent ticket). So a .50 trifecta box 1-3-4-7-8.

We will also key Hofburg and Bravazo 1-2 in the trifectas. If Justify runs out of the mix, we are looking at a nice score. So a .50 tri 3-4 with 1-3-4-7-8 with ALL, and 1-3-4-7-8 with 3-4 with ALL. That will be $32 per bet or $64 total.

Good luck on your wagers!


 

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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