Playing the ponies

Saturday is Derby Day! Well, Arkansas Derby Day. And here are some plays

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Saturday was supposed to be an epic day. The Kentucky Derby followed by a Shinedown Concert at Revention Music Center. Obviously, the Rona had other plans. Still, it has a chance to be a hell of a day. The Arkansas Derby will be run today in two divisions at Oaklawn Park, and the Oaklawn Handicap will also be run. In addition, we will be hosting the last of our charity poker tournaments.

If you are looking for some horse action, we have some plays on the three big races at Oaklawn. While there are no online sites in Texas, you can use offshore sites such as mybookie.ag and betusracing.

So if you are so inclined, here are some plays for Saturday. These are done for a fast track. The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies but there should be no rain. If so we will update this.

Disclaimer: Nobody bats .1000 on horse racing. I look for live horses at decent prices. If we hit one of these, we're probably profiting. More than one? We will be very happy. So here we go.

ARKANSAS DERBY DIVISION 1 (Race 11 on the card)

It will be very hard to get around the probable odds-on favorite, Charlatan. He is unbeaten in two very fast starts and has all the look of the next Bob Baffert superstar. The second favorite, Gouverneur Morris, might have the best shot at an upset. He was a good fourth in the Florida Derby behind Tiz the Law, perhaps the division leader. Anneau d'Or offers some value at 6-1; his last race was an unmitigated disaster but prior to that he proved he belonged at this level. Crypto Cash and Basin are big long shots that could have an impact.

It will be hard to make much off this, especially if Charlatan is the real deal. We will play some exactas, 1 with 4-8-10-11 and hope we get one of our prices home.

If you want to take a stab against him, I would consider keying the 4 with 1-8-10-11 and 1-8-10-11 with 4 in exactas, but you are probably wasting money.

OAKLAWN HANDICAP (Race 12 on the card)

This is a wide open, competitive race, but I do like a horse with decent odds: No. 4 Mr. Freeze at 6-1. While he is probably better going a mile, he has been competitive at this distance. His losses have come against some of the best in the country in Tom's D'Etat and Mucho Gusto. Would feel better if he had a race over the Oaklawn surface, but he should get a nice trip on or near the lead and I expect him to be in the mix. Beyond that, it is a crap shoot. I will be playing at least one 4-all and all-4 exacta tickets. I will also narrow it down a little and take 4 with 2-3-5-6-8-9-12 and 2-3-5-6-8-9-12 with 4.

Another massive price horse I think has a shot in here is the 8 at 20-1 morning line. He will have to come out of the clouds, but he has been very good in two Oaklawn starts, and almost every horse his trainer sends out these days runs big. I will play weighted win/place/show wagers on him. An example would be based on a $100 bankroll: $50 to show, $30 to place, $20 to win. Obviously you can do it for $10 and go $5, $3, $2, or whatever you want based on how much you are playing. I think he has a much better chance of running third than first, hence the weighted wager.

ARKANSAS DERBY DIVISION 2 (Race 13 on the card)

Nadal is unbeaten and will be a strong favorite. However, I think we can take a shot at beating him. He will face some pace pressure from Wells Bayou, and the hope is these two hook up and battle early, setting it up for a long shot closer. The horse we will use is No. 10 Farmington Road at 12-1. We will bet him much like the eight horse in the prior race, with show/place/win bets weighted with more bet to show and place.

In addition, we will wheel him top and bottom in exactas with a few other contenders. So exactas 10 with 1-3-4-5-7-11 and 1-3-4-5-7-11 with 10. We are banking on a speed duel here, which should set it up for Farmington Road. If it doesn't develop you can probably tear your virtual tickets up on the back stretch.

STARTER ALLOWANCE (Race 14 on the card)

I added this race because it is the last of the Oaklawn meet and one of my favorite races every year; a mile and three quarters starter allowance. Not overthinking things here; I like Carlos Sixes at 4-1. He has won three races and just missed in his fourth at the meet. I will bet him across the board, and wheel him top and bottom in exactas with the field (5-all, all with 5).

Good luck!

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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