The Breeders' Cup returns to Churchill Downs. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The Breeders' Cup - horse racing's championship weekend -- is Friday and Saturday at Churchill, and we are taking a different approach this year. We are just focusing on a few races for a change and not giving picks for the full two days. Here are some plays we like (my favorite plays are Saturday in the Sprint, Mile and Classic. I do not have any strong opinions on the races I did not list and anything I throw out there would be guesswork). We are playing against favorites and looking to hit just a couple of these to make a profit and be happy.
As always, I am assuming you have some knowledge of the terminology. If not, Acing Racing 2016 is a great resource.
BREEDERS CUP JUVENILE FILLIES, RACE 7
We will playing much lighter on Friday than Saturday. In this race we will play one of our weighted show/place/win bets on No. 1 Reflect (basically something like $40 to show, $20 to place, $10 to win or $8-$4-$2 if you are playing with a smaller budget), who improved in her first try at the distance and could surprise with another step forward.
BC JUVENILE TURF, RACE 8
Will bet No. 5 Line of Duty across the board at 10-1.
BC JUVENILE, RACE 9
We will bet No. 8 Standard Deviation wheeled in exactas first and second with the field.
BC DIRT MILE, RACE 5
Most of the money will go to City of Light and unbeaten Catalina Cruiser, who will be very tough here. But we will take a swing with a nice price on No. 7 Firenze Fire, who is 3 for 4 at the distance and his win in the Dwyer puts him right there with the favorites. Will back weight this play with more money to show and place than win; basically $40 to show, $20 to place, $10 to win or $8-$4-$2 if you are playing with a smaller budget (same concept as the race on Friday). Will also tie him in exactas and trifectas first and second with the two favorites and ALL in third on the tris.
BREEDERS CUP SPRINT, RACE 7
No. 1 Whitmore simply does not run bad races. He always fires, and while he does not always win, he is always close at the finish. While he faces some speedsters that have beaten him before - Promises Fulfilled, Limosine Liberal, Imperial Hint and Roy H - this is his best distance and the race should set up beautifully. His only bad effort in the last year was in the slop at Churchill going longer, so caution should be used if the track is a mess, but even in that one he was beaten less than four lengths despite traffic. Will be playing him hard in the win/place spots, and keying him first and second in the tris and exactas with the horses listed above and ALL in third on the tris.
BREEDERS CUP MILE, RACE 8
Love European runners in this race, and will be going for a kill shot here by betting both No. 7 Expert Eye and No. 14 Mustashry across the board and will be wheeling them both in first and second with the field in exactas.
BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC, RACE 11
Well, we have to play the Classic, right? Accelerate will be the favorite but is stuck in the 14 post. Worth using, but I like the four inside horses as well (Thunder Snow, Roaring Lion, Catholic Boy and Gunnevara) plus the 6 McKinzie, the 7 West Coast and the 10 Yoshida. So pretty wide open. Will likely key Gunnevara and Yoshida first and second with all the horses listed above plus the favorite. A strong case can also be made for playing Roaring Lion. Depending on how the day goes, I might do the same with him.
Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.
Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.
Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.
Who pitches the sixth inning?
Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”
While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.
And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.
But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.
Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!
Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!