This is an exciting week for us in the Tuley’s Takes home office with the confluence of the four major sports with the NFL Draft thrown in with NBA, NHL and MLB, plus the Kentucky Derby returning to its rightful place on the first Saturday in May.
I’ll get to my first impressions of Tuesday’s Derby draw in a bit, but let’s start with the much-anticipated NFL Draft, which commences with its first round at 8 p.m. ET Thursday and runs through Saturday (with the vast majority of betting action taking place on Thursday).
I’ll leave the betting advice to my VSiN colleagues who have been following all the news and rumors more than yours truly. Besides, most of the “obvious” bets have already been snapped up, and I haven’t found any props where I’m willing to fade the early wise action that tends to do very well year after year in the draft. I’ve had success with draft betting in the past, but nothing jumped off the board to me this year (and trying to sort through the countless mock drafts out there nowadays seems like a fool’s errand).
I’m curious to see if the early stream on Justin Fields as the 49ers’ pick at No. 3 comes in or if Michael Lombardi and his sources were right all along and it won’t be Fields but Mac Jones to the 49ers. I also want to see if the Falcons trade the No. 4 pick or keep it and take Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. But, ultimately, more of my focus is going to be devoted to seeing where the players end up going and how they fit in with their new teams and if there’s any change to how I see these teams performing this year.
I already went on record in this column (and reprinted in the New York Post) right after the Super Bowl that I have Super Bowl LVI futures on the Indianapolis Colts at 25-1 and Arizona Cardinals at 40-1, plus Colts 12-1 to win the AFC and Cardinals 20-1 to win the NFC. We’ll revisit those bets as well as make our Over/Under season win total recommendations later this spring and of course our annual early look at NFL Week 1 lines after the schedule is released on May 12.
Tuley’s Take on football contests
For those who follow me here and on Twitter @ViewFromVegas for my coverage of the Vegas football contests, the delayed release of the 2021 NFL schedule is why you haven’t heard any announcements about the Circa Sports Million, Circa Survivor, Westgate SuperContest or any other contests and also why none of the contests have opened yet for registration.
Last year, the SuperContest opened registration in January and the Circa contests, as well as the Golden Nugget’s Ultimate Football Challenge, opened in March in attempts to give NCAA Tournament visitors a chance to sign up early. Of course, March Madness was canceled and Nevada’s brick-and-mortar casinos were shut down from March 18 until June 3 as the sportsbooks and contest players waited to see if we would even have an NFL season.
When the casinos reopened, the Golden Nugget canceled its contest while the SuperContest saw a drop in its entries from the record 3,328 in 2019 to 1,172 in 2020, and Circa exploded from 1,875 Circa Sports Million entries in 2019 to 3,148 entries in 2020, plus another 1,390 in its inaugural Circa Survivor.
Both properties are hoping for even bigger numbers in 2021 with sports betting thriving from coast to coast with more mainstream acceptance, but the NFL threw a curveball by adding a 17th game for each team this season and delaying its schedule release, which is usually out by now. The casinos need to see the official schedule to make sure they cover all bases in their rules in regard to the number of weeks and when they fall on the calendar, plus any midweek games that could affect deadlines for posting of contest lines, weekly contest windows as well as deadlines, etc.
With the NFL announcing the May 12 release of the schedule, we’re expecting that rules won’t be finalized until late May. I haven’t received any confirmation from Circa or Westgate, but registrations could start around June 1, which is the date the SuperContest used for several years last decade before moving it earlier.
The vast majority of Vegas football contest players sign up during August and the first week of September, so there’s plenty of time for everyone to make plans to enter (and get together with their proxy if using one). For the uninitiated, Nevada football picks must be submitted in person each week, so out-of-state entrants can hire a local proxy to put in their plays during the season. Both Circa and Westgate are planning to have special promotions for sign-up weekends per usual in August, so stay tuned for details in the next month or so.
Tuley’s Take on Kentucky Derby
Last year, the Derby was held on the first Saturday in September because of the pandemic, but it’s back on the first Saturday in May.
For those who have been following my Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes every Saturday at vsin.com/horses (along with picks from other handicappers), I’ve mentioned several Derby hopefuls along the way that I’ve had future-book tickets on. Over the years, I’ve been shying away from Derby futures because it usually ends up that no matter how many tickets I buy, I have a hard time getting even one to the starting gate.
However, this year, I had several friends talk me into partnering with them on several futures. Several fell by the wayside, though I thought I had great chances with Concert Tour (bet as high as 125-1 and was down to 10-1 at some books as one of the top contenders), Greatest Honour, The Great One and Dynamic One. But then The Great One and Greatest Honour were both taken off the Derby trail and Bob Baffert decided to skip the Derby with Concert Tour after his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. So I’m left with just Dynamic One (owned by Mike Repole, trained by Todd Pletcher, ridden by Jose Ortiz) as my one live ticket after he drew No. 11 and opened at 20-1 at Tuesday’s draw.
Essential Quality, rumored to be the subject of a $2 million bet by Mattress Mack, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite and drew post No. 14. Possible pacesetter Rock Your World drew just outside Essential Quality at No. 15 and is the second choice at 5-1. The third betting choice is Known Agenda, who drew the previously dreaded No. 1 post. However, Churchill Downs is using a new Derby starting gate this year that will move the No. 1 gate from inside the rail and supposedly make it easier for the inside horse to get in a better early position. Known Agenda has the hottest jockey going in Irad Ortiz Jr., so the draw probably won’t deter his fans from backing him.
I’m still watching replays and breaking down how I expect the race to be run, which is always a tough puzzle with a full 20-horse field. I do like the chances of some of the long shots (besides my vested interest in Dynamic One) and will post my final recommendations in my Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes column at vsin.com on Thursday.