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Drawing out the Derby: Full field and head-to-head matchups

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Today's newsletter is sponsored by NYRA Bets. Get details on a $200 new member sign-up bonus.

The Kentucky Derby draw is done…and now it’s time to map out the race! That plus more from the NBA, NHL, and NFL as Derby week continues in VSiN City.

Kentucky Derby: Favorites largely favored by Wednesday’s draw

Churchill Downs held the official draw for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby late Wednesday morning track time. There was mostly good news, and no really horrible news for the popular betting choices.

Let’s run through the starting positions. Westgate’s updated post-draw odds from Wednesday afternoon are in parenthesis.

Longshots on the rail

1…Lookin at Lee (20/1)

2…Thunder Snow (20/1)

3…Fast and Accurate (100/1)

4…Untrapped (40/1)

Tougher now to love any of these longshots given their cramped quarters at the start of the race. Though, Lookin at Lee is seen as a strong finisher, which helps negate any disadvantage from the one spot this time around. None of the favorites are in tight.

Dreaming of a better spot

5…Always Dreaming (5/1, fell from 4/1 in spots after draw)

6…State of Honor (30/1)

7…Girvin (15/1)

8…Hence (15/1)

9…Irap (20/1)

In fact, Always Dreaming was the only public favorite to draw a position within the first nine. This was seen by the marketplace as damaging enough to drop that horse down into an odds tie with the other top contenders. Far from fatal. 

Advantageous positions for three favorites

10…Gunnevera (6/1)

11…Battle of Midway (30/1)

12…Sonneteer (50/1)

13…J Boys Echo (20/1)

14…Classic Empire (5/1)

15…McCraken (5/1)

You see Gunnevera, Classic Empire, and McCraken all in this hunk well away from the rail. Their braintrusts were fairly ecstatic with these results. Note that the main starting gate holds the first 14 horses, with the auxiliary gate starting at horse #15. The extra space between the two gates should allow a clean start for both Classic Empire and McCraken.

Longshots (with one favorite) way outside

16…Tapwrit (20/1)

17…Irish War Cry (7/1)

18…Gormley (18/1)

19…Practical Joke (25/1)

20…Patch (40/1)

Irish War Cry is the most dangerous threat from the five positions furthest outside. This will at least allow the horse to pick its spot in the early going. Better far outside than far inside to start this crowded race. Note that Patch is missing his left eye (the result of an ulcer, a freakish circumstance that Patch was named before losing the eye), so all he’ll see at the start is the crowd on his right. You know that’s going to be a compelling story told during race day coverage on NBC. 

(If you don’t want to wait until Saturday to learn more about this inspirational story, here are articles from the Washington Post, AOL, and even wideopenpets.)

VSiN’s erudite equestrian expert extraordinaire Ron Flatter discussed the draw and its ramifications in an article here at the website Wednesday afternoon.

Kentucky Derby Bonus Viewing: Ron Flatter talks to renowned NYRA handicapper Andy Serling

Fully 10 years ago the NY Times called him “The Sage of Saratoga.” Five years ago, the Washington Post said “when Andy Serling talks horses, people listen.” He’s been one of the most respected and distinguished voices in horse racing handicapping for as years. If you missed his chat Wednesday with Ron Flatter on “My Guys in the Desert,” be sure you catch it by clicking here

(Hey…Andy picked two longshots to finish 1-2! This is not a Practical Joke. Hence, you should go find out why!)

Kentucky Derby: Handicapping the Head-to-Heads

The Westgate Sportsbook posted some head-to-head betting options several days ago. While sports bettors are mostly focused on win, place, and show, they can also ponder these handicapping challenges. All you have to do is pick which horse will post the better finish between the two (moneylines in parenthesis).

Classic Empire (-170) vs. Girvin ( 140)

Irish War Cry (-135) vs. Always Dreaming ( 105)

McCraken (-130) vs. Guennerva (even)

Practical Joke (-150) vs. Gormley ( 120)

Hence (-150) vs. Patch ( 120)

Tapwrit (-140) vs. J Boys Echo ( 110)

Thunder Snow (-135) vs. Royal Mo ( 105)

Lookin at Lee (-145) vs. State of Honor ( 115)

If you enjoyed Ron Flatter’s article on the Final Fractions theory, you can apply those numbers to the head-to-head’s. We’ll save you some time. Remember that the key numbers are 13 (the time in the last furlong of their last prep), 38 (the time in their last 3 furlongs of their last prep), and 95 (minimum Beyer number to use for consideration, oh…by the way…that’s Andrew Beyer, creator of the Beyer scale, who penned the “people listen” line about Andy Serling!). 

You want to focus on horses that ran 13 or less, 38 or less in those times, but graded out at 95 or higher with their Beyer number. Also note that an approach which is helpful in terms of “eliminating” non-qualifiers for the winner’s circle might also expose “bet against” horses in these particular props. 

Classic Empire (-170) vs. Girvin ( 140)

  • Classic Empire (12.2, 37.4, 102) vs. Girvin (13, 37.6, 93)

You can see why Classic Empire is the favorite. An easy qualifier for the Final Fractions with a Beyer edge of nine. 

Irish War Cry (-135) vs. Always Dreaming ( 105)

  • Irish War Cry (13.1, 39.1, 101), vs. Always Dreaming (12.5, 36.5, 97)

Always Dreaming was certainly wide awake in the final furlongs of its last prep race. But the Beyer number might be a concern for dog bettors. 

McCraken (-130) vs. Gunnevera (even)

  • McCraken (13.2, 38.2, 95) vs. Gunnevera (12.2, 36.2, 97)

This particular approach shows a sweep for Gunnevera. Obviously we must add the usual caveats about small sample sizes, and monitoring race day news for any developments. A bettor SOLELY trusting the Final Fractions theory would be taking a close look at the dog. 

Practical Joke (-150) vs. Gormley ( 120)

  • Practical Joke (12.9, 37.9, 92) vs. Gormley (13.5, 39.7, 94)

Interesting contrast. If you place a lot of weight on the times, then that favorite price is clearly justified. But it’s the underdog that has the better Beyer number.

Hence (-150) vs. Patch ( 120)

  • Hence (12.4, 37.6, 97) vs. Patch (12.9, 37.9, 89)

A clean sweep for the favorite in this battle of one-syllable stalwarts. Is the Beyer advantage suggesting that -150 is still too low? 

Tapwrit (-140) vs. J Boys Echo ( 110)

  • Tapwrit (13.8, 39.6, 96) vs. J Boys Echo (13.3, 38.5, 102)

The underdog takes all three categories, with a Beyer that’s noticeable for the perceived inferior horse. Another option for your consideration.

Lookin at Lee (-145) vs. State of Honor ( 115)

  • Lookin at Lee (12, 37, 91) vs. State of Honor (13, 37.2, 96)

The favorite closed with better times in the last prep, but the underdog has the superior Beyer number. 

We don’t post formal selections here in VSiN City. We try to present information that you can add to your arsenal when finalizing your choices. Best of luck with all of your bets this weekend!

NBA Playoffs: Cavs crush again, Spurs explode late

Cleveland remained the class of the East with another blowout win. San Antonio had a HUGE fourth quarter to run away and hide from Houston.

Cleveland (-7) 125, Toronto 103

  • Two-Point Pct: Toronto 51%, Cleveland 54%
  • Three-Pointers: Toronto 5/17, Cleveland 18/33
  • Free Throws: Toronto 14/19, Cleveland 25/34

What can you say about Game 2 that you couldn’t say about Game 1? Virtually nothing! It was a bigger rout because Cleveland was 18 of 33 on two-pointers (55%!) instead of 14 of 34. Those 12 points essentially turned a 11-point Game 1 victory into a 22-point Game 2 victory give or take a play. A replay otherwise up and down the boxscore. Even the pace was the same with a speedy 100 possession count. The Cavs are 2-0 straight up, 2-0 ATS, and have driven both games Over the Vegas total with their offensive onslaught. 

San Antonio (-5.5) 121, Houston 96

  • Two-Point Pct: Houston 53%, San Antonio 61%
  • Rebounds: Houston 32, San Antonio 47
  • Turnovers: Houston 11, San Antonio 7

The Spurs won the fourth quarter 33-13. But, enthusiasm was dampened by what appeared to be a serious knee injury suffered by Tony Parker. Houston still has home court advantage after the Alamo split. Tougher for the Spurs to break serve on the road if Parker is done for the series. 

After a racehorse opener at 103 possessions, the Spurs were able to slow this one way down to 88 possessions. Reminiscent of the SA/Memphis series with those 121 points on just 88 possessions for the hosts (111 on 86, 116 on 83, and 103 on 82 in that first round series for SA). The nightly tug-of-war with pace will likely determine who grabs four wins in the Battle of Texas. 

Thursday’s pointspreads (Boston leads 2-0, Golden State leads 1-0)

  • Boston at Washington (-5.5, total of 218.5); 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Utah at Golden State (-12.5, total of 204.5); 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

NHL Playoffs: Penguins and Ducks win Wednesday

Pre-playoff favorite Washington is now a game away from elimination. Anaheim avoided that fate with their second service break in Edmonton. 

Pittsburgh (plus 125) 3, Washington 2

  • Shots: Washington 38, Pittsburgh 18

Seems like it would be tough to do a “rope-a-dope” on ice. Even tougher to park a bus in front of the net. Pick your metaphor. The Pittsburgh Penguins are letting the Washington Capitals shoot like crazy amidst a four-game sequence that’s almost impossible to believe.

  • Shots: Washington 142, Pittsburgh 93
  • Goals: Washington 9, Pittsburgh 14

Washington has scored on 6% of its shots. Pittsburgh on 15% of its shots. Tonight’s victory consolidates home ice while giving the Penguins a 3-1 series lead. They can wrap it up at home in Game 6 even if they lose Game 5 Friday in the nation’s capital. For now, the Penguins have a 7-2 record in the postseason against a tough schedule (Columbus and Washington). The Caps are 5-5 despite being the betting favorite in all 10 games (laying -140 or more in nine of the 10). 

Anaheim (plus 110) 4, Edmonton 3 (in overtime)

  • Shots: Anaheim 39, Edmonton 32

Anaheim was moments away from winning in regulation. Edmonton scored at 18:18 of the third period to force extra time. But the Ducks bit back just 45 seconds into OT to get their second straight road win. We're tied at 2-2, with the visitors sweeping all four. 

Thursday’s moneyline (Ottawa leads series 2-1 in Thursday’s only game)

Ottawa at NY Rangers (-170, 5--Under -115); 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

NFL Regular Season Win Totals: Volatility zone

As our series on NFL Regular Season Win totals continues, we look today at teams who are priced between 8.5 and 9 wins. This group, by definition, is already full of potential playoff threats, but is also amidst the parity hunk where there’s little margin for error. A few bad breaks, tough injuries, or melting chemistry, and some of these teams will be looking at 5-11 or 6-10. 

Tennessee 9 (Over -125)

  • Plus 0.2 ypp differential (5.7/5.5), even turnovers, #31 schedule

Tennessee has some young talent looking to improve, and likely helped themselves in the draft. That said, they had pretty lousy stats last year considering they were facing such an easy schedule. You have to assume negative differentials in our key categories if they played an average slate. Definitely a team that can arrive in 2017, but beware potential skeletons in the closet. 

Kansas City 9 (Over -120)

  • Even ypp differential (5.5/5.5), plus 16 turnovers, #22 schedule 

Andy Reid teams usually have great fundamentals, which helps them overachieve regular season expectations before breaking hearts in the playoffs vs. opponents who don’t make many mistakes. Given the stability within the franchise at the moment, that trend is reasonably likely to continue. 

Carolina 9 (Over -120)

  • Minus 0.4 ypp differential (5.2/5.6), minus 2 turnovers, #6 schedule

A killer schedule and a slew of hampering injuries caused Carolina to fall out of the championship picture. If you assume the schedule will at least be slightly easier (nothing’s certain), and that health luck will be better, a case can be made for the Over. Just remember that summer odds assume full health for everybody! If you only bet Overs, injuries plus the inherent vig will eat you up. 

Baltimore 9 (Over -120)

  • Even ypp differential (5.2/5.2), plus 5 turnovers, #9 schedule

Baltimore was fairly generic against a tough schedule, which means they were probably at least Wildcard caliber against a league average schedule. Definitely a team that can be back in the thick of things in short order. We can say that about every team on today’s list! It’s basically a who’s who of annual contenders who deserve playoff consideration, but who all can’t fit in the brackets at the same time. 

NY Giants 9 (Under -120)

  • Plus 0.1 ypp differential (5.2/5.1), -2 turnovers, #5 schedule 

You can see how much parity there is in the NFL these days by mentally penciling in what teams would have done vs. an average schedule. Often, the only tie-breaker is strength of schedule in this class. Great defense from the Giants, but too much slop on offense. The 2017 schedule probably won’t be as tough.

Indianapolis 9 (Under -115)

  • Minus 0.4 ypp differential (5.6/6.0), -5 turnovers, #29 schedule

Big concerns here…because those are lousy stats considering the weak schedule. And, management doesn’t seem well-equipped to put together a great team for a great quarterback. That line is based largely on Andrew Luck’s skill set…and the assumption that the schedule will be fairly soft again. Be wary of investing in horrible defenses!

Denver 8.5 (Over -120)

  • Plus 0.4 ypp differential (5.1/4.7), plus 2 turnovers, #4 schedule

On the other hand, you also have to be wary of investing in teams without quarterbacks. Denver had a historically fantastic defense last season considering how tough the schedule was. Sticking in a “mediocre” quarterback puts the Broncos in the championship picture. Can they lift that position to “mediocre” in time for the 2017 campaign? A smart Over bet if they do. 

Houston 8.5 (Over -125)

  • Minus 0.4 ypp differential (4.7/5.1), -7 turnovers, #11 schedule

You see the numbers of a horrible offense, a great defense, and a slightly above average schedule even though they played in a mediocre division. This year, rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has a chance to be the next Dak Prescott, in front of that great defense vs. a manageable schedule. Many sharps are looking Over here because a defense that good can drive a lot of wins all by itself. 

Cincinnati 8.5 (Over -120)

  • Even ypp differential (5.4/5.4), plus 3 turnovers, #14 schedule

Very generic, which is a step backward for the Red Rifle and his gang. This is where they belong until they prove on the field they’re once again a 10-11 win team. 

Minnesota 8.5

  • Minus 0.1 ypp differential (5.0/5.1), plus 11 turnovers, #20 schedule

Similar to Kansas City in terms of fundamentals, but with a better defense and dormant offense. Pay close attention to the teams on today’s list that shine defensively. If any start getting much of anything from the quarterback position, they become threats to win their division. Defenses are less fragile to injuries, which means teams who already have great defenses provide some insurance for your Over bets. If you’re looking to bet Unders, do so against the bad defenses who can’t force turnovers.

Thanks for visiting VSiN City on Thursday. See you again tomorrow. If you’ve been enjoying your visits to VSiN City, drop us a note to tell us why. (If not, tell us what you’d like to see!). You can subscribe for daily email delivery by clicking here. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter for programming and news updates throughout the day.

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