2023 NFL First Round Draft Mock

It is Christmas for NFL fans once again! The NFL Draft heads to Kansas City where the future stars of the sport will see where they will be heading off to. The Carolina Panthers kicked off the draft by trading up to 1st overall to take, what looks to be a QB in Bryce Young, while the best prospect in the draft, Alabama’s Will Anderson, Jr. may make it teammates going 1-2 for the first time since the 1967 NFL Draft.

There are many questions that linger into the 2023 NFL Draft: how many quarterbacks will go, where will the big offensive tackles fall, how will early trades shake up this years draft, and will character issues cause some of the top names to drop. On Thursday night in Kansas City, these questions, and more, will finally get their answers. Let’s see where these future stars start their careers!

With all that said, here is how I see the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft playing out, as well as what players I’d pick if I was the GM. Take a look below and download the PDF copy of my draft big board and position rankings.

Last Updated: April 26th, 2023 12:40AM

PkTeamProjected PickMy GM Pick
1Carolina PanthersBryce Young, QB, AlabamaBryce Young, QB Alabama
2Houston TexansWill Anderson Jr., DE, AlabamaWill Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama
3Arizona CardinalsTyree Wilson, DE, Texas TechTyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
4Indianapolis ColtsC.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio StateC.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
5Seattle SeahawksJalen Carter, DT, GeorgiaJalen Carter, DT, Georgia
6Detroit LionsDevon Witherspoon, CB, IllinoisChristian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
7Las Vegas RaidersChristian Gonzalez, CB, OregonJoey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
8Atlanta FalconsNolan Smith, DE, GeorgiaLuke Van Ness, DE, Iowa
9Chicago BearsParis Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio StateParis Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
10Philadelphia EaglesLukas Van Ness, DE, IowaDevon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
11Tennessee TitansAnthony Richardson, QB, FloridaPeter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
12Houston TexansJaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio StateWill Levis, QB, Kentucky
13Green Bay PackersDalton Kincaid, TE, UtahDalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
14New England PatriotsZay Flowers, WR, Boston CollegeZay Flowers, WR, Boston College
15Green Bay PackersPeter Skoronski, OT, NorthwesternBroderick Jones, OT, Georgia
16Washington CommandersEmmanuel Forbes, CB, Miss StateDeonte Banks, CB, Maryland
17Pittsburgh SteelersDarnell Wright, OT, TennesseeDarnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
18Detroit LionsBijan Robinson, RB, TexasBijan Robinson, RB, Texas
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersBroderick Jones, OT, GeorgiaMyles Murphy, DE, Clemson
20Seattle SeahawksMyles Murphy, DE, ClemsonJordan Addison, WR, USC
21Los Angeles ChargersJordan Addison, WR, USCQuentin Johnston, WR, TCU
22Baltimore RavensJoey Porter Jr., CB, Penn StateAdetomiwa Adebawore, DE, Northwestern
23Minnesota VikingsQuentin Johnston, WR, TCUCam Smith, CB, South Carolina
24Jacksonville JaguarsDeonte Banks, CB, MarylandBrian Branch, CB/S, Alabama
25New York GiantsJack Campbell, LB, IowaJohn Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
26Dallas CowboysMichael Mayer, TE, Notre DameMichael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
27Buffalo BillsO’Cyrus Torrence, G, FloridaJahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
28Cincinnati BengalsAnton Harrison, OT, OklahomaCody Mauch, OT, North Dakota State
29New Orleans SaintsCalijah Kancey, DT, PittsburghBryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
30Philadelphia EaglesBrian Branch, S, AlabamaNolan Smith, LB, Georgia
31Kansas City ChiefsAdetomiwa Adebawore, DT, NorthwesternJack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Breeders’ Cup 2022 Analysis (Saturday)

The Big Day is among us! The World Championships of Horse Racing heat up on Saturday, headlined by an absolute thriller of a race on paper in the Turf and a potential legendary performance in the Classic. Here is how I see the day shape up.

Race 3 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) Sat. 11:50am
$1,000,000 7 Furlongs Dirt For Older, Fillies & Mare
Top Selections: 11- Wicked Halo 4- Ce Ce 13- Echo Zulu
This race is loaded with speed. With so much early speed, I’ll take Wicked Halo who will likely rate off the pace and take a late run at the lead. With a similar race and win last out over course and distance, this daughter of Gun Runner finds herself in a spot that works to her running style and advantage. The class and pace will be tough, but she is suited well to take on the step up here. As for another stalker, Ce Ce took a similar route this year as she did last year to the F&M Sprint – with this being her only race of the year that she comes into off of just one month rest. This is where her form does best – off a “quick” turnaround, and her stalking style and class will poise her as one to watch. Meanwhile, Echo Zulu at a slight price is tempting. I love her coming from the outside post, giving her a clear path to take the lead right out of the gate. I don’t think she has the best case to be made with this pace, but if she is the one on the lead, I can’t go against a horse that has never lost when leading out of the gate.

Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) Sat. 12:29pm
$1,000,000 5 1/2 Furlongs Turf For Older
Top Selections: 8- Golden Pal 12- Bran 1- Creative Force
Could this very well be the worst field that Golden Pal has ever faced? This son of Uncle Mo goes in an easy group for the Turf Sprint and should crush it. His four for four record at Keeneland and near perfect record in these types of spots makes him very hard to bet against. This field doesn’t pose much of a challenge and is an easy single in the card. Underneath, I’ll use Bran, who was impressive last out at Kentucky Downs and has been close in just about every start, and Creative Force, who is looking to turn it up based on the current form cycle.

Race 5 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) Sat. 1:10pm
$1,000,000 1 Mile Dirt For Older
Top Selections: 3- Pipeline 2- Simplification 6- Laurel River
Few horses have impressed me more this year than Pipeline, who continues to improve and impress. Last year was far from an ideal year for this son of Speightstown, but once turning four, he has been a different beast. Sure, its only three races, but it was against great company and in pretty tough spots. The draw to the inside should help him stop losing so much ground, and the more average pace he will face here will go towards his liking. I’m willing to take a chance on him in this wide-open spot. I’ll be throwing in Simplification, who I’ve been waiting to get back to a mile – I think this is his best distance by far, and Laurel River, who truly impressed me last out in the Pat O’Brien and should continue to advance well going forwards.

Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) Sat. 1:50pm
$2,000,000 1 3/16 Miles Turf For Older, Filles & Mares
Top Selections: 3- Nashwa 12- Moira 11- In Italian
This is as tough a race as can be. Until proven otherwise, my attention has to go with Nashwa, the winner of the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood earlier this year. This daughter of Frankel towers over this field in all ways, with perhaps the best closing kick on this card. Hard to ignore. Moira is an interesting one here, having really crushed on the synthetic before making the switch to turf and nearly coming up with a win over Rougir last out in a troubled trip (though later DQ’ed). Her talent is hard to ignore – just will she have it all together and find a non-troubled trip. I’ll also use In Italian, who should be near or on the lead the entire time and is dangerous down the stretch for Chad Brown.

Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) Sat. 2:30pm
$2,000,000 6 Furlongs Dirt For Older
Top Selections: 9- Jackie’s Warrior 4- American Theorem 2- Kimari
I have too much respect for Jackie’s Warrior to go against him in a spot that sets up for him perfectly. Unlike last year where almost an entire field of speed was signed up, Jackie’s Warrior is the lone take the lead type anyone would need to worry about. Putting him alone on the lead is dangerous and knowing that makes this a sure bet – all in here. Will use American Theorem and Kimari for value underneath – only two that seem to be anywhere close to Jackie’s Warrior in this field and should be around to pick up the pieces after him late.

Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) Sat. 3:10pm
$2,000,000 1 Mile Turf For Older
Top Selections: 4- Modern Games 6- Ivar 13- Kinross/1- Pogo
Modern Games is the clear best choice in this field – he is the top horse of both the Euros and American raced horses and looks to build off his Breeders’ Cup success last year with a win here. This race sets up well for him, he has been in form, and he has been tested against others also in form. His turn of foot is top in this class and should relish this firmer surface once again. I’ll be taking Ivar underneath as one who has matched up well with Modern Games and others here, but always seemed to find trouble when drawing more inside. Would’ve preferred an even more outer post, but I’ll take this and look at another similar performance to the last two times he ran in this race. I also can’t avoid Kinross and Pogo, who if you like one you need to like the other – Kinross has been a force over in England and France racing at 7 furlongs and takes the step up today while Pogo is right there with him two back and is coming out of an impressive front running win in the Newmarket Challenge Stakes.

Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) Sat. 3:55pm
$2,000,000 1 1/8 Miles Dirt For Older, Fillies & Mares
Top Selections: 6- Nest 8- Society 2- Blue Stripe
This race goes through Nest, the clear top three-year-old filly this year. She has done all she has needed to do to get into the favorite spot this weekend and will look to continue to build on that here. Her Beldame win wasn’t her best of the year against a very weak field but served as a good tune-up for this race. Her tactical speed to rate or get to the lead helps in a spot that seems to have a good bit of speed but no one who clearly wants to get to the lead. I look for her to go right to the front early and never give anyone an inch later. Now, what would’ve have happened in the C. C. American Oaks had Society not stumbled at the break? Her races have been just as good as Nest’s. I think a clean trip for her may yield a race on similar footing; if she can get the lead early, perhaps she is the one that will take them all the way. I’ll also play Blue Stripe underneath – has been improving this year and getting into a nice spot in form since racing in this race last year. Not of the same class, but she has the tactical ability to get into a spot to get a piece of the trifecta.

Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) Sat. 4:40pm
$4,000,000 1 1/2 Miles Turf For Older
Top Selections: 13- Highland Chief 5- Rebel’s Romance 10- Red Knight
Graham Motion’s Highland Chief should likely be four for four in his last four stakes races, had it not been for some early trouble. He gets to stay away from the early gate bumping and settle into a cleaner trip here with the outside post, which should help him move up. John Velazquez has really improved this son of Gleneagles and has taken a step up going into this spot. Rebel’s Romance is a must use – an easy winner if he is on his game, and Red Knight takes my fancy if you scratch out his last out run where he lost all chance, he fits well with this field and gets Luis Saez aboard on the step up in class.

Race 11 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) Sat. 5:40pm
$6,000,000 1 1/4 Miles Dirt For Older
Top Selections: 4- Flightline 6- Epicenter 2- Life Is Good
Flightline is the best horse in the world this year. No argument. No one in this field can go with him early. There is no way that I’m not going to sit back and watch this horse just crush the field. I’ll take Epicenter underneath – this sone of Not This Time is finally finding his will to win again after runner up finishes in the Derby and Preakness. He is tactical and knows how to stay strong against firm speed – maybe gets up for second. If I am trying to beat Flightline, Life Is Good is the only one in the field that – on his best day – has a chance to beat Flightline. Now, trying to get the lead from Flightline is impossible, but if Life Is Good can rate just off Flightline, there is a chance he can close in and win. I’ll also not ignore Olympiad – he caved to Saratoga two back but looked good otherwise this year – maybe an upset chance?

Breeders Cup 2022 Analysis (Friday)

Another year, another World Championships… and a stacked one at that! Let’s check out the Future Stars Friday card from Keeneland for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup.

Race 5 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (GII) Fri. 2:15pm
$350,000 1 5/8 Miles Dirt For Older
Top Selections: 4- Heywoods Beach 5- Sheriff Brown 2- Next
Hard not to like Heywoods Beach in a spot that comes up light without a lot of long-range speed. Looks to be the one to likely grab an early lead and keep on going with tons of stamina to take them all the distance. I’ll key with a probable long-shot in Sheriff Brown who comes out of races at Albuquerque, Lone Star, and Sunland. His back form doesn’t look too bad against very tough company at Del Mar and now got a year to just gain confidence. When he is on his game, he performs very well coming from way back and running front runners down. This distance is more his style. If we happen to get some rain, Next, will be super live on the wet dirt.

Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (GI) Fri. 3:00pm
$1,000,000 5 1/2 Furlongs Turf For 2-Year-Olds
Top Selections: 3- Private Creed 8- American Apple 12- The Platinum Queen
The first Breeder’s Cup race of the weekend is primed for an upset, with a mixed back of youngsters going at it on the turf. Private Creed gets the nod with the win over this course and distance last out in the Indian Summer, having improved each start thus far, and coming into a strong form cycle. This son of Jimmy Creed keeps Joel Rosario aboard, draws a great post, and finds himself in a race with almost entirely front runners. Expect a solid early pace opening up for a sweeping and driving move late. I have to use American Apple who seems to potentially be the one in this group that may have the most upside later in life; this daughter of American Pharoah is starting to turn it up enroute to her win at Aqueduct last out in the Matron. While this may be a bit up in class from last out, she is life to beat the boys, and many may need to move up a few lengths to beat her if she puts on her performance last out again. I can’t leave The Platinum Queen off any of my tickets – she has done everything there is for Richard Fahey; I just worry about the post and the price.

Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) Fri. 3:40pm
$2,000,000 1 1/16 Miles Dirt For 2-Year-Olds, Fillies
Top Selections: 7- Chop Chop 10- Chocolate Gelato 3- And Tell Me Nolies
The best horse this weekend might be Chop Chop who had no luck last out over course and distance after a slow start and wide trip to finish just a nose behind Wonder Wheel. These two match up again, but if Chop Chop can stay out of trouble, this is her race for the taking. No one has had as easy a trip into this race than Chocolate Gelato, who has easily cruised to back-to-back wins with almost no effort. The daughter of Practical Joke exudes tactical speed much like an older mare – very live if her class translates from NY to this group. Meanwhile And Tell Me Nolies, a daughter of Arrogate, is lightly raced and finished a close second to Chocolate Gelato last out in the Frizette. She is still getting better and I giver her a good growth moving into this race. This could be her best day – her 14.5 length win first out at Saratoga still sticks in my mind and puts her in a very high spot.

Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI) Fri. 4:20pm
$1,000,000 1 Mile Turf For 2-Year-Olds, Fillies
Top Selections: 4- Free Look 10- Meditate 14- Basil Martini
I don’t love betting on last out winners in the Breeders’ Cup, but Free Look has a clear excuse. Been a sharp horse and improving well in last two for Chad Brown, she just finds ways to be unlucky. Taking a stab that her pinball-like mentality is fixed here and she uses her powerful turn of foot to blow away the competition. Meditate for Aidan O’Brien is hard to ignore based on her form, while his son Joseph O’Brien brings in a very devastating front runner in Basil Martini.

Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) Fri. 5:00pm
$2,000,000 1 1/16 Miles Dirt For 2-Year-Olds, C&G
Top Selections: 3- Cave Rock 6- Blazing Sevens 5- Verifying
Baffert isn’t going to bring his best 2-year-old out here unless he has a chance to embarrass the competition. Cave Rock could do just that; this son of Arrogate might end up as the shortest price the entire weekend, coming out of devastating wins in the Del Mar Futurity and American Pharoah. I’ve yet to see another two-year-old colt on dirt do what he is doing right now. Underneath, Blazing Sevens and Verifying exit the Champagne in good order, with both being must uses. Blazing Sevens took last out by going wide throughout and taking by far the longest path around to beat Verifying. I think that may have been the best prep race of the season and see Blazing Sevens as tough with a good trip while Verifying is a horse that is going to be even better in this spot than last out.

Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) Fri. 5:40pm
$1,000,000 1 Mile Turf For 2-Year-Olds, C&G
Top Selections: 8- I’m Very Busy 9- Nagirroc 2- Packs A Whalop
The Chad Brown I’m Very Busy gets the nod for me over the Euros in a race that looks to go through a few. I’ll excuse last out based on the wide and troubled trip, but improving and getting better. Flavien should have this one in top form. Nagirroc looks intriguing at a price, with back to back good wins and looks to take to the Keeneland turf well. And Packs A Wahlop has to be a must play, although the CA to KY connection isn’t very strong in this type of play.

Tagline Sports 2022 College Football Preseason Preview

College football is back again! Just eight months removed from a huge shakeup of the college football world, with Georgia capturing the National Championship, Group of Five Cincinnati & Michigan making the playoffs, and the last year of expected normalcy in the sport, we return with shaky grounds and a very uncertain (but hopeful) future. With conference realignment starting next season, the 2022 College Football Season is the last chance at a season of what we know… but also brings in perhaps the most intriguing season in recent history. With the final year of many “extra year of eligibility” coming up this year, and young players finally getting a full year under their belt, the fusion of talent and age comes together in what will present itself as a great year for both up and coming programs and perennial champions. The SEC looks to be one of the closest years in a long time while the ACC looks to rebound with a very strong QB class. Meanwhile, the Big Ten tries to shake up the table again with more improving programs while the Big 12 and Pac-12 look to get back to the big boy table with squads that are ready for a playoff run. And will the Group of Five be able to build off last season’s success with Cincinnati and find themselves back in the hunt once again? The 2022 College Football Season presents itself with many questions and few answers this preseason. Tagline Sports takes you on a season preview – ranking the prospective best teams in the nation, taking a look at potential conference winners and previews, and a look at the most anticipated games of the upcoming season.

Alabama, Ohio State, and Utah return a lot of talent and will be three of the most dominant schools to deal with throughout the year. Georgia looks to follow up its Championship season with another successful year with depth at all positions. Big 12 darlings Baylor and Oklahoma State aim to continue their upward trend, while ACC hopefuly NC State and perennial contender Clemson try to put the conference back on the map. And the two up and coming SEC programs round out the Top 10 as Kentucky and Texas A&M look to find their way into the playoff hunt.


1Alabama Crimson Tide
2Ohio State Buckeyes
3Utah Utes
4Georgia Bulldogs
5Baylor Bears
6NC State Wolfpack
7Oklahoma State Cowboys
8Clemson Tigers
9Kentucky Wildcats
10Texas A&M Aggies
11Pittsburgh Panthers
12Arkansas Razorbacks
13Wake Forest Demon Deacons
14Notre Dame Fighting Irish
15Oklahoma Sooners
16Purdue Boilermakers
17BYU Cougars
18Ole Miss Rebels
19Oregon Ducks
20Tennessee Volunteers
21Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
22Houston Cougars
23USC Trojans
24Michigan Wolverines
25Cincinnati Bearcats


Utah Utes

Maybe calling this program on the rise is an insult, but the Utes have finally found themselves in the right spot coming off their first Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance. Now, they get a highly awaited matchup with Florida to open the season in the Swamp, national attention, and perhaps a smooth path to the Pac-12 title game again with the chaning format. A dangerous defense led by CB Clark Phillips and an offnese that won’t let up led by QB Cam Rising will be a one-two punch that no one will want to go against.

NC State Wolfpack

Dave Doeren has spent years building up this Wolfpack squad and with QB Devin Leary this looks to be the year. Hopes are high after a win last year over Clemson as well as a combination of many dominant wins… but also close losses. The schedule isn’t easy, especially with a trip into Death Valley, but get around that, and the sky is the limit for this team that keeps a ton of talent. This is a group that is built to sustain, with a strong offense and a veteran defense – year’s of taking little steps forward will finally provide the success they’ve been looking for.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Keeping things in the ACC – Pitt may have to find a way to keep up the momentum without Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, but they return pretty much everyone else and get Kedon Slovis in to start. With the expectation of a more balance offense and a schedule that leans to be easy (but with revenge games on the slate at Western Michigan and at Miami), this can be a continued move forward for a Pitt team that is trying to take over a constantly shifting ACC.

Purdue Boilermakers

If any school is to shake things up this season, it’s the boys from West Lafayette. Aidan O’Connell may very well be the third best quarterback in the country and leads a veteran offense through a schedule that will allow them to make noise. Opening on a Thursday night against Penn State is the perfect showcase of their talents. The Purdue defense will be their kryptonite, but you only need so much when you have a high powered offense.


Michigan Wolverines

Losing pretty much all of the stars of this Wolverines defense will provide a huge hit to a team that was built on defense. The offense led by Cade McNamara and Ronnie Bell will need to find the late season magic they found last year to overcome the numerous defensive holes they have. Luckily, the schedule leaves a lot of wiggle room – one of the easiest in the country – which is likely to only feature matchups against 2 or 3 ranked teams at most.

Cincinnati Bearcats

This will be Luke Fickell’s toughest test as a Cincinnati’s head coach – finding a way to not let the momentum stop. Losing nine of their top players, including Sauce Gardner and Desmond Ridder, to the NFL Draft will take huge toll on their offensive and defensive strength, and they get no easy start to figure things out, with an opener against the Razorbacks. While success should be had this year, the Bearcats will be taking a huge step back and will need to retool ahead of their move to the Big 12.

Michigan State Spartans

Another group losing a ton, the Spartans were one of the nation’s slowest performing teams when the ball wasn’t in Kenneth Walker III’s hands. Payton Thorne was a mess when needing to lead the offense and will need to find ways to score against the continuing to strengthend defenses in the Big Ten. After overachieving last year, it looks for Mel Tucker to finally see his squad take a step back.

Iowa State Cyclones

Take away Hall, Purdy, and Kolar and this Cyclones squad just isn’t the same. Matt Campbell has done a great job building and keeping consistency with Iowa State over his last six seasons there, but this will be his ultimate test. Recruiting has been near the bottom of the Big 12 the last few seasons and transfers just aren’t brining in enough talent to match up with the loss. For a group with so much promise the last few years, this looks to be another underperforming year… and with trips to Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU this year, a bowl trip might be a stretch for this group that has made five straight.


ACC: NC State Wolfpack over Pittsburgh Panthers
Big Ten: Purdue Boilermakers over Ohio State Buckeye
Big 12: Baylor Bears over Kansas State Wildcats
Pac-12: Utah Utes over UCLA Bruins
SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide over Kentucky Wildcats
American: Houston Cougars over SMU Mustangs
C-USA: UTSA Roadrunners over Charlotte 49ers
MAC: Central Michigan Chippewas over Miami (OH) Redhawks
Mountain West: Fresno State Bulldogs over Air Force Falcons
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers over Texas State Bobcats


Playoff Predictions

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide

(2) Utah Utes

(3) Baylor Bears

(4) NC State Wolfpack

The College Football Playoff will find itself in familiar territory yet foreign grounds this year. As we’ve see the College Football Landscape change shape the last few years, so has the quest for the top. With a nearly brand new CFP grouping last season, with two suprisers in Michigan and Cincinnati, another surprise could be in store this year.

The Crimson Tide, led by Bryce Young and Will Anderson, will be the most difficult team to play week in and week out (when are they not). This may be one of their toughest schedules in years, with road trips to Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, and Ole Miss, and a mid-season tilt against Texas A&M, but the talent on this team just makes it a force to be reckoned with. Hard to see a home loss on the schedule and even an in-conference loss will be tough. Expect this Alabama group to roll into the playoffs unscathed.

Kyle Whittingham has been one of the top coaches and most underrated coaches in college football since he took over Utah 17 seasons ago. He has taken the Utes to great heights, including a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl Game appearance last season. QB Cameron Rising leads an army of top caliber talent through a challenging but doable schedule that will put them near the top. A championship is in reach if they can run the table in the Pac-12.

Baylor looked very different with Blake Shapen under center last year, and led a strong offense to a win in the Big 12 Championship Game. This group had a strong kick on offense that should lead them to season success. The schedule on hand is managable with most of their tough tests at home. And their defense continues to get better, led by DT Siaki Ika.

NC State will be the shocker here, but will take a bit of luck and a nice ACC schedule to the plate and try to knock down the door to the playoffs. QB Devin Leary was able to build himself into a college QB last year in his first full season of starting, after a redshirt year and an injury lost year. This development was key in helping him evolve into the quarterback that he has been trying to become. NC State will be better with him this year, and Dave Doeren has built a talented and hungry team around him. Carter-Finley will be rocking in a way unlike any other, and if thye can find a way past Clemson in Death Valley on October 1st, this group will be punching their ticket ot the CFP.

Championship Game

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide vs Utah Utes (2)

It will be an East vs West test in SoFi Stadium come January, as the SEC and the Pac-12 face off. These teams have all the makings of champions and will continue to find success throughout the year. But unfortunately for the Utes, the size of Alabama will get to them and the Crimson Tide will take home another National Title.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Weekend Analysis

Once again, all eyes will be on the Twin Spires as twenty three-year-olds take a stand to see who will join the hall of immortals as a Kentucky Derby winner. Legacies are abound in this wide open edition, a race that will cap off a huge fitfteen stakes weekend.

This year, contenders come from all over with different levels of experience. Many, may fall to the favorite, Zandon, after an impressive victory in the Blue Grass at Keeneland just a few weeks ago, or perhaps go to the bayou for Epicenter, the strong Louisiana Derby winner. Perhaps the young Taiba will get revenge for Medina Spirit, flying the same silks as winner of the Santa Anita Derby. Two international contenders join the fray too – with Crown Pride and Summer Is Tomorrow joining after contending in the UAE Derby. Or perhaps the ageless D. Wayne Lukas will grab himself one more garland of roses with Ethereal Road, who hasn’t shown all the ability in the world, but might be peaking at the right time. This wide-open Derby cements a huge weekend of racing at Churchill Downs, where Mint Juleps will be flowing, hats will be showing, and races will be the prime occasion. With that, here is my analysis of the Kentucky Derby contenders and selections for the full slate of races.

Continue reading “Kentucky Derby 2022 Weekend Analysis”

2022 NFL Draft First Round Mock

One of the best times of year is finally among us – the NFL Draft! This year is filled with intrigue and mysteries, as there really isn’t any clear favorite for any spot in the draft, including the first overall pick. Jacksonville has their pick of players, with a major need in defensive end, which likely leads them to either Travon Walker from Georgia or Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan. Hard to say what will happen here, but this class is filled with depth along the offensive line and defensive edge, and has more potential star wide receivers than any time in recent memory. As for the QBs – will it be Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis to pop off the board first.

With all that said, here is how I see the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft playing out, as well as what players I’d pick if I was the GM. Take a look below and download the PDF copy of the Mock Draft, complete with my draft big board and position rankings.

PkPlayerProjected PickMy GM Pick
1Jacksonville JaguarsTravon Walker, DE GeorgiaTravon Walker, DE Georgia
2Detroit LionsAidan Hutchinson, DE MichiganAidan Hutchinson, DE Michigan
3Houston TexansIkem Ekwonu, OT NC StateKayvon Thibodeaux, DE Oregon
4New York JetsAhmad Gardner, CB CincinnatiIkem Ekwonu, OT NC State
5New York GiantsCharles Cross, OT, Mississippi StateTrevor Penning, OT Northern Iowa
6Carolina PanthersEvan Neal, OT AlabamaEvan Neal, OT Alabama
7New York GiantsDerek Stingley, Jr., CB LSUGeorge Karlaftis, DE Purdue
8Atlanta FalconsJermaine Johnson, DE Florida StateKyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame
9Seattle SeahawksKayvon Thibodeaux, DE OregonCharles Cross, OT Mississippi State
10New York JetsGarrett Wilson, WR Ohio StateAhmad Gardner, CB Cincinnati
11Washington CommandersDrake London, WR USCTreylon Burks, WR Arkansas
12Minnesota VikingsTrent McDuffie, CB WashingtonJordan Davis, DT Georgia
13Houston TexansKyle Hamilton, S Notre DameTrent McDuffie, CB Washington
14Baltimore RavensTrevor Penning, OT Northern IowaDylan Parham, G Memphis
15Philadelphia EaglesJordan Davis, DT GeorgiaGarrett Wilson, WR Ohio State
16New Orleans SaintsChris Olave, WR Ohio StateDrake London, WR USC
17Los Angeles ChargersDevonte Wyatt, DT, GeorgiaNeil Farrell, DT LSU
18Philadelphia EaglesJameson Williams, WR AlabamaDerek Stingley, Jr., CB LSU
19New Orleans SaintsTyler Smith, OT TulsaTyler Smith, OT Tulsa
20Pittsburgh SteelersMalik Willis, QB LibertyMalik Willis, QB Liberty
21New England PatriotsDevin Lloyd, LB UtahDevin Lloyd, LB Utah
22Green Bay PackersJahan Dotson, WR Penn StateJahan Dotson, WR Penn State
23Arizona CardinalsGeorge Karlaftis, DE PurdueJermaine Johnson, DE Florida State
24Dallas CowboysZion Johnson, G Boston CollegeArnold Ebiketie, DE Penn State
25Buffalo BillsAndrew Booth, Jr., CB ClemsonChris Olave, WR Ohio State
26Tennessee TitansTreylon Burks, WR ArkansasChristian Watson, WR North Dakota State
27Tampa Bay BuccaneersKenyon Green, G Texas A&MKenyon Green, G Texas A&M
28Green Bay PackersArnold Ebiketie, DE Penn StateDavid Ojabo, DE Michigan
29Kansas City ChiefsChristian Watson, WR North Dakota StateJameson Williams, WR Alabama
30Kansas City ChiefsDaxton Hill, CB MichiganJalen Pitre, S Baylor
31Cincinnati BengalsTyler Linderbaum, C IowaTyler Linderbaum, C Iowa
32Detroit LionsLewis Cine, S GeorgiaLewis Cine, S Georgia

2022 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Preview

Ahead of the Penn State Blue-White Scrimmage, Tagline Sports takes a look at where the Penn State Nittany Lions football program is going in 2022 and previews the upcoming season.

The Penn State Nittany Lions have not had the greatest of seasons these last two years, with a five-game losing streak to start the COVID shortened 2020 season and then a collapse from 4th in the nation to unranked a season ago. James Franklin’s squad had all the possibilities of a dream season with wins at No. 12 Wisconsin, versus No. 22 Auburn, against reigning MAC Champion Ball State, and 2020 Big Ten darling Indiana, but from there it was all downhill, with a tough to watch loss at Iowa in a match-up of 3 versus 4, a 9 OT dredging defeat at the hands of Illinois, and then an Ohio State loss that always felt like one play away from victory. Poor play plagued the Nittany Lions with losses against Michigan, Michigan State, and Arkansas, which made the highs of the season seem so distant. But so, they return, with new hopes under nine-year coach James Franklin, who just inked a new ten-deal to outlast both the outgoing President and the outgoing Athletic Director that brought him in from Vanderbilt, and long-time quarterback Sean Clifford, who hopes his fourth year at the helm will be his best. The first true dark offseason for Franklin in his tenue did lead to a few key transfers, with likely offensive line starter Des Holmes heading to Arizona State and potential defensive line start Joseph Appiah Darkwa on his way to Temple… though perhaps the biggest loss was in running back Noah Cain, who took his talents to LSU in hopes that his injury and running woes will be left behind in Happy Valley. Meanwhile, fan hopes were high with a tremendous recruiting class, 6th in the nation and 2nd in the Big Ten, with potential future start due Drew Allar and Nick Singleton leading the pack. While most of these recruits will take time to get into the system, many hope that the answers to the big National Championship question will be among them. Maybe the best welcome addition will be on the sidelines, as former Miami Head Coach Manny Diaz takes up the defense, with star players in Joey Porter Jr, Kalen King, Ji’Ayir Brown, Nick Tarburton, and PJ Mustipher ready to lead. Still, the Nittany Lions hopes may rest on the shoulders of the offensive line, which has been the bane of the Nittany Lions’ existence the last forever years. With constant liability Rasheed Walker gone, younger guys like Olu Fashanu and Landon Tengwall will look to strengthen the line alongside veterans Juice Scruggs and Caedan Wallace. In a Big Ten that keeps getting bigger, stronger, and faster, will Penn State’s highest players be enough to take James Franklin to the promise land? Or will it be more of the same – close but no cigar – for the Central PA faithful.

Continue reading “2022 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Preview”

Breeders’ Cup 2021 – Saturday Selections

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Day One of the World Championships of Horse Racing proved to be full of excitement and surprises. From dominant performances from Twilight Gleaming, Echo Zulu, and Corniche, to the oddity that was the Juvenile Turf, Future Stars Friday gave us everything and then some of what we had hoped. But now onto the meat and potatoes of what makes this weekend tremendous – Saturday.

A full slate of races are on tap for today, capped off with the Breeders’ Cup Classic – which includes the Pacific Classic winner returning to the site of his greatest victory, the Pennsylvania Derby winner, the Belmont & Travers winner, the Pegasus World Cup & defending Dirt Mile winner, the Woodward winner, the Kentucky Derby & Awesome Again winner, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. One of the most stacked Classic fields we have had in years. Also on the undercard we find champions Gamine looking to win two straight in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, multiple Group One winner and champion Love, sprinting star Jackie’s Warrior, and champion distaffers Shedaresthedevil and Letruska. This day is filled with the best horses in the world,

My Top Three for Each Race of Future Stars Friday

Race 4 | Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1)
$1,000,000 | For Older Fillies & Mares | 7 Furlongs | Dirt

5 – Gamine
Am I really going to bet against Gamine going around one turn? Nope. She is deadly in one turn races. Instant lock. Next race.

Race 5 | Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1)
$1,000,000 | For Older Horses | 5 Furlongs | Turf

6 – Lieutenant Dan
Turf sprints at Del Mar are some of my favorite races to handicap. The 5 furlong course at Del Mar has two specific angles that play out more often than not – dropping down in distance and being a horse for course & distance. Lieutenant Dan is both of them, dropping from the downhill Eddie D Stakes and having already marked two 5f wins at Dmr this year, the Steven Miyadi trainee could be a steal in a wide open turf sprint with no clear choice. Last year’s winner Glass Slippers – who was much the easy choice then – doesn’t have the same form nor is on her favorite going to be a threat, while others just don’t seem to be peaking right.

2 – Emaraaty Ana
Last year international speed showed the way and this year it could again, with this Kevin Ryan trainee. Emaraaty Ana was a longshot type who just kept stunning races across the pond and now takes his form to San Diego to try on firmer turf. That seems to be what this gelded son of Shamardal has excelled the best on and is coming into form well. Lots to like about his back class and might just be the one Euro to take home this usually speedy race.

3 – Golden Pal
At the end of the day, Wesley Ward has one great little colt by Uncle Mo that might steal this one on the front end. Super quick and super dangerous. Think he might be overmatched here, but can’t ever leave a Ward off the ticket in these turf sprints.

Race 6 | Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1)
$1,000,000 | For Older | 1 Mile| Dirt

5 – Life Is Good
If he is on his game, he is an easy winner. The best dirt miler in America right now and looks to add another to the books.

2 – Pingxiang
The Hideyuki Mori pair intrigue me. While Jaspar Prince has no shot (though good to see him back after his poor showing in the Sprint last year), Pingxiang, one of Mori’s best horses currently in training, is coming into this race in good form and showing a lot of speed in his 7 furlong efforts. Now, stepping up in distance, Pingxiang should favor this spot, get the early lead, and maybe hold on for a spot of the money late. Definitely one not to forget about.

3 – Ginobili
This one is interesting – he fits my angle for betting dirt mile races at Del Mar and seems to favor this track. I’m not 100% sure he is genuine, but his back races fit with what should be expected of a top choice. If he can find a clean trip, he might be able to pounce on Life Is Good late and take this one.

Race 7 | Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Older Fillies & Mares | 1 3/8 Miles | Turf

1 – Going To Vegas
This is not the greatest of editions of the Filly & Mare Turf, with most of the probable favorites coming in with just so-so form, so anything can happen. I’m going to lean towards the likely front runner here, the Richard Baltas trainee and daughter of Goldencents. She is in solid form, always runs well, and is coming in with some strong workouts. The form cycle is favoring her to run a big one here. The only question is if it is big enough to beat the best in this field.

12 – Audarya
Last year’s champion is back to contend again, and while not in the same form as she was last year, she gets back to firm turf which she favors and looks to be finding her way back to form. She needs to step up a bit to go back-to-back, but in a weaker field, maybe she has a chance. I favor her over a lot of others in this field.

Race 8 | Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Older Horses | 6 Furlongs | Dirt

9 – Dr. Schivel
There is a ton of speed packed into this Sprint, with plenty of the pack looking to press Jackie’s Warrior. Which leads me to the horse on the outside who has already won once at Del Mar this year in Dr. Schivel, the Bing Crosby & Santa Anita Sprint winner. This is a horse that loves this course and loves this distance, has tactical speed, can rate well, and can do just about anything even with trouble. Every time that the field has gotten tougher, he has stepped up more and more. He is a fighter and should be the one hitting the wire first. I’ll be using him with Jackie’s Warrior, C Z Rocket, & Firenze Fire underneath.

Race 9 | Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Older | 1 Mile| Turf

7 – In Love (BRZ)
One of the new kids on the scene is the aging veteran from South America for Paulo Lobo, In Love. after moving through allowance class, Lobo stepped In Love up to stakes company to rousing success, capturing the TVG Stakes and the Keeneland Turf Mile in his last two. The Brazilian-bred does have a much tougher group, but his turn of foot is near the top of this group and puts him in a good spot to take this at a slight price.

10 – Blowout (GB)
It wasn’t long ago that she was a top choice of mine in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. Since then, she has gotten better. Although slayed by the graveyard of champions at Saratoga, she came away well and captured the First Lady at Keeneland last out. She is familiar with Del Mar and has been improving in form with each start. This will be her most difficult test yet. I’ll side with her and hope for the best.

3 – Space Blues
Love the angle of horses stepping up in distance to a mile on the turf at Del Mar. Space Blues fits the profile for winning this type of race at Del Mar, has great turn of foot, and might be the most talented horse in the field. Plus, who is going to doubt Charlie Appleby this year.

Race 10 | Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Older Fillies & Mares | 1 1/8 Mile| Dirt

8 – Shedaresthedevil
Letruska might have gotten the best of Shedaresthedevil earlier this year, but this daughter of Daredevil has the advantage across two turns. Brad Cox has given her a very easy year, only giving her a few freshen ups on her road to the Distaff. She has a great form progression heading into this race and is poised to run her best.

11 – Dunbar Road
If a speed duel grows on the front end, don’t forget about Dunbar Road. This Chad Brown trainee always shows up and is an excellent stalker. She is the type that just waits and waits until she finds a spot where there is a fast pace and then pounces to take a spot. The outside draw should help keep her going and is one to include on exotics.

Race 11 | Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)
$4,000,000 | For Older | 1 1/2 Mile| Turf

11 – Gufo
All year, Gufo has been a prime contender at these long distance turf races. He has dueled with the best, been just less than a few lengths away from Domestic Spending at times, and has been getting stronger each race. He tends to get in trouble when drawn to the inside, but now gets a clean trip on the outside and doesn’t need to worry about his rival in Domestic Spending. With a clean run, Gufo should be able to beat this field easily.

1 – Rockemperor
A strong winner of the Turf Classic at Belmont Park, Rockemperor is coming on to his own at the right time. He’s been prone to wide trips in the past, something he won’t have to deal with drawing the inside, and seemed to pop well taking the blinkers off. He is a different animal this year and looks to be getting better. Dangerous in this spot.

7 – Walton Street
Everything Charlie Appleby brings over this year is live and this one is no exception. This 7yo gelding by Cape Cross has been a major player throughout the year in international trips, winning the Canadian International at Woodbine last out, finishing just a few length behind eventual Arc Champ Torquator Tasso, and not being too far back from champions Mishriff and Chrono Genesis in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Tough to say that the Breeders’ Cup offers him some class relief from what he say in Germany and Dubai, but that seems to be the case. Godolphin stable jockey James Doyle returns with a very live mount here.

13 – Tarnawa (IRE)
The defending champion returns, with better form than she had when she shocked Magical last year. The runner up by less than a length in the Arc and Irish Champion Stakes, Tarnawa wants to cap off her fall with a win – and maybe this is the right spot. She gets a much lighter crowd than what she beat last year, but she doesn’t get the pace that she had last year – she was aided by a slower pace at Keeneland, but this field tends to be quicker. She is uber talented and a must include on all tickets, but winning might be a bit tougher.

Race 12 | Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1)
$6,000,000 | For Older | 1 1/4 Mile| Dirt

9 – Max Player
Tactical speed is the name of the game here – the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban winner looks to be one of the few that doesn’t need to get the lead early. Likely this race will come down to a duel between Max Player and Essential Quality down the stretch, and I’ll take the older gent here. He is a very different horse from what he was last year. I give him the benefit of the doubt in his first two starts this year – the trip to Saudi Arabia going one turn wasn’t easy for a type that likes the long, classic distance, and trying to rebound for Pimlico in just a few months isn’t something to go well. But since getting acclimated back to the states, he has been dominant on the NY circuit, being two really awesome horses in Mystic Guide and Happy Saver – who both would’ve gotten play from me had they been in this spot. He has taken to Del Mar well and finds himself in a good spot. This is a perfect race for him to step up.

4 – Essential Quality
The other horse with tactical speed, Essential Quality has followed up his Belmont Stakes victory with wins in the Jim Dandy and the Travers. Now, off a long layoff, he looks to notch another championship win for Godolphin. Could he go from Juvenile winner to Classic winner? Perhaps. I would’ve preferred for him to have had a start between the Travers and here, as he doesn’t tend to run his best off a long layoff, but with just one blemish on his resume, how can you not like him. Lot to like in him if he gets to the front at the top of the stretch.

Breeders’ Cup 2021 – Friday Selections

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The World Championships of Horse Racing are Back where the Surf Meets the Turf at Good Ole Del Mar! One of my favorite racecourses in the world plays home to the two best days in racing in North America. Most of the stars of the thoroughbred world are out for these two days, ready to show off their best against all of the best the rest of the world has to offer.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is one of the most interesting – and even – in recent memory. While there are the usual big favorites, most of the races are wide open, which is sure to make a great betting weekend. Let’s see what we got going on with the Future Stars Friday card.

My Top Three for Each Race of Future Stars Friday

Race 6 | Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2)
$1,000,000 | For Two-Year Olds | 5 Furlongs | Turf

6 – Twilight Gleaming (IRE)
Here is one that will improve in the return to the US. The Wesley Ward trainee excelled in her two starts on this side of the pond before heading off to Europe and being a close second in the Queen Mary before capturing a race a Deauville in France, both on her off-preferred surface. The return to firm ground will help her excel and she should be fond of taking the lead early. Based on the training form of Ward’s pack, look like he wants Irad to send her to the lead early. Looking for her to go gate-to-wire here.

1 – Twilight Jet (IRE)
Wouldn’t a twilight-exacta be night? When was the last time we saw a 2yo go out for their 11th start of their career, let alone one in the Breeders’ Cup. But here we are. Now… is he a longshot – yeah… and does he have a great chance… not quite – but a great angle at Del Mar is taking 6f-7f horses cutting down to 5f. He won last out at this distance, contended with similar company, and has been so consistent this year. Looks like he needs a bit firmer ground to run his best compared to what he got in England and Ireland. While the price will be huge, this one has a lot of speed and ready to use.

7 – Armor (GB)
Hard to leave this race without considering Armor. Ryan Moore would love to collect his first Juvenile Turf Sprint and he has one horse that has a lot in the tank. Cutting back from 6f is a great angle and getting back to firmer ground will help. He has been getting closer and closer with every stride – I’ll take him in the trip over from England.

Race 7 | Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Two-Year Old Fillies | 1 1/16 Miles | Dirt

5 – Juju’s Map
The Florent Geroux-Brad Cox combo is my single here. She is far and away the best in this field and keeps getting better with each start. She has been training so well and is just a driving winner of success. Should cruise easily in the tepid upset of Echo Zulu.

Race 8 | Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1)
$1,000,000 | For Two-Year Old Fillies | 1 Mile| Turf

6 – Hello You (IRE)
Give me the Rockfel winner every time in this field – Hello You has been a slowly growing wonder as the races get longer in England. Loved her going into the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and just had too much to deal with in Sandrine. Now she has improved tremendously and continues to get better. She did have a slipup at Goodwood back in August, but Goodwood isn’t for everyone. I’m impressed with what she has done and looking at her being a very strong finisher. A standout here for me.

7 – Consumer Spending
Klaravich & Chad Brown team up for this daughter of More Than Ready. She has been up against weaker company at Laurel last out, but it was an excellent prep for this one. Her training has been going well at Belmont and she fits well in this field. Her adaptable turn of foot puts her in the right spot and could be sitting on a big one with Flavien Prat aboard.

11 – Haughty
Young… very young… but showing lots of promise. Going to play her here as she is at the right spot in her form cycle. Don’t want to miss her at a very big price.

Race 9 | Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)
$2,000,000 | For Two-Year Old C&G | 1 1/6 Miles | Dirt

1 – Jack Christopher
Oh man, is Jack Christopher a standout here! Romping winner first time out and then easy winner of the Champagne, Jack Christopher has been the ideal son of Munnings through two starts. Finds himself against a pretty average field of 2yos otherwise. If you need a lock on Friday, Jack Christopher looks to be the one.

5 – Double Thunder
While more of the money will be on the other Pletcher here, Double Thunder might just be the better of the two. Improving in each start, this son of Super Saver runs one of the best races of the field when he stays out of trouble. His closing kick is dangerous and Flavien Prat is one of the best at getting everything from who is under him. Getting blinks on should keep him out of trouble and into the winners circle.

9 – Pinehurst
Baffert has a few here as he makes the trip down to Del Mar. I’ll stick on the one that is two-for-two at Del Mar, Pinehurst, over the others. Solid winning effort in the Del Mar Futurity over this course and has been training well. Looks to have the most adaptable running style compared to all the other Bafferts.

Race 10 | Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1)
$1,000,000 | For Two-Year Old C&G | 1 Mile | Turf

4 – Tiz The Bomb
It wasn’t too long ago that longshot Hit It A Bomb was lighting up my Breeders’ Cup weekend. Now his son Tiz The Bomb hopes to do the same. The Bourbon and Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile winner has not let anything get in his way enroute to Del Mar. Kenneth McPeek has him in top form and on the best form cycle for this race. His turn of foot is far above the others in this field and the overall pace sets up well for him to stalk and pounce late. Looking to win big here.

2 – Albahr (GB)
Does Frankie get a chance at a patented leap in the winners circle this year? The ageless Italian has a great shot with this Appleby trainee for Godolphin. Winner of the Summer Stakes at Woodbine last out, Albahr has won his last four in great fashion, leading and then pulling away late. The son of Dubawi is regally bred and has a lot to like. Only question is how he will handle the faster pace here in this race, but otherwise he’s going to be one to want throughout.

6 – Mackinnon
Doug O’Neill has a sleeping giant in his barn with this son of American Pharoah. Winner of three straight, including the Del Mar Juvenile Turf over this course and distance and the Zuma Beach last out, Mackinnon has been inching closer and closer to top turf 2yo company. Well bred and showing lots of late burst, this young trainee is one to watch on Friday. While needing a bit of luck to get out of what is sure to be a bunched field, if he can get free, he will be tough to stop down the stretch.

2021 Belmont Stakes & Undercard Selections

The Final Jewel of the Triple Crown, the Test of the Champions, the Belmont Stakes always offers excitement and plenty of storylines. While the Derby winner Medina Spirit won’t be here after the suspension of Bob Baffert and his failed bid in the Preakness, we do get Preakness winner Rombauer, 2yo Champion Essential Quality, and a flight of other top quality 3yos. While we may not have a Triple Crown on the line, the August Belmont Memorial Cup will be going to a very deserving champion – one that will join the names of some of histories best horses.

Race 3 – Woody Stephens Stakes (G1)
12:47pm ET | $400,000 | Three Year Olds | 7 Furlongs Dirt
(3) Jackie’s Warrior | (6) Caddo River | (2) Drain the Clock
Jackie’s Warrior returns to the site of his biggest win, the Champagne Stakes last fall, and gets a race that suits so well for him. While he will need to deal with a bit more pace pressure with Caddo River, his form is too tough to test – should be able to escape this race easily with another victory – shaping up to be an excellent one-turn horse. Backing up are Caddo River, who I am excited to see return to one-turn, and Drain the Clock, who comes in well and improving out of many similar races.

Race 4 – Brooklyn Stakes (G2)
1:22pm ET | $400,000 | 4YO and Up | 1 1/2 Miles Dirt
(2) Ry’s the Guy | (7) Ajaaweed | (9) Lone Rock
A wide open affair in the older horse version of the Belmont. One of the oldest races run at Belmont Park, the Brooklyn offers older marathon runners a chance at big money – and joining many historic champions in graded stakes glory in this spot. I have faith that Ry’s the Guy will return to his winning ways in this one. He was just beaten in his return in the Marathon at Churchill Downs last out by Lone Rock, but that was his first back in months. This races sets up well on his form cycle and like the move to Jose Ortiz. Meanwhile, Ajaaweed looks to continue to step up as the races get longer; his pedigree and style screams distance to me – love him in this spot to improve but may still be a race away from winning. Finally, distance is the name of the game for Lone Rock, who may be the best marathoner in the US right now. Should run well, but is stepping up a bit in this spot.

Race 5 – Acorn Stakes (G1)
2:01pm ET| $500,000 | Three Year Old Fillies | 1 Mile Dirt
(2) Obligatory | (3) Miss Brazil | (6) Search Results
There is a ton of speed stacked up in this elite race for three year old fillies – which brings the Eight Belles winner against the Kentucky Oaks runner-up. Could Obligatory go from last to first once again? I hope so – she reeled in the whole field in the Eight Belles and faces a very similar task here with almost everyone else being full of speed. Meanwhile, Miss Brazil – the newcomer of the group, looks to take them all the way after she did just that over this course last out; she has the speed and the talent, but can she beat the tougher class? And I can’t leave Search Results out – the Kentucky Oaks runner-up should be better suited for the one-turn mile than she was for the testing course she saw at Churchill Downs last out.

Race 6 – Jaipur Stakes (G1)
2:41pm ET | $400,000 | 3YO and Up | 6 Furlongs Turf
(4) Fast Boat | (11) Got Stormy | (6) Bound for Nowhere
I loved Fast Boat in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint and will be riding with him again here; this son of City Zip swallowed the field up late to take the race last out and has the running style to win here in a Jaipur that is often won in a blanket finish. I do like the cut back in distance for Got Stormy, who I appreciate far more when she goes sprinting; Mark Casse preps her sprinting with these one mile affairs and then turn her back in distance for very good runs – hopeful for more of that here. And won’t leave Bound for Nowhere off the ticket – he has been an impressive sprinter throughout his career for Wesley Ward, although most of his success has come at Keeneland, and has a win over this course a few years back. He seems to be in good form off his win in the Shakertown last out and will be one to watch if he enters well.

Race 7 – Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1)
3:18pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
(5) Shedaresthedevil | (6) Water White | (2) Valiance
The unfortunate scratch of Swiss Skydiver means we won’t see the rematch of Swiss Skydiver v Shedaresthedevil v Letruska. This also changes the pace scenario up, which I think favors Shedaresthedevil heavily. She is my top pick here and should run away with the field. I will put Water White underneath as she is one that loves the one turn and has been running well with the best of them; just a few lengths away from competing. And watch out for Valiance – she has been sharp entering this race off the layoff; she upset Shedaresthedevil in the Spinster last fall and proved herself running second to Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – watch out if she turns up well!

Race 8 – Just a Game Stakes (G1)
3:58pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 1 Mile Turf
(11) Blowout | (9) Summer Romance | (3) Daddy Is a Legend
The Belmont turf tends to trend towards front runners in mile races and outside of Blowout, there really isn’t anyone looking for the lead. Blowout took them gate to wire impressively in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile last out and looks to do that again. She is dangerous on the front end and Flavien Prat has got her where she wants to be – this Chad Brown trainee is going to be tough to real back in. Meanwhile Charlie Appleby brings in two, with Summer Romance and Althiqa; when he ships to the US, he does so to win – with nearly a 50% click in wins with his last 7. I would include both on any ticket, but Summer Romance is my top selection coming off the win in the Balanchine; in real good form, the better of the pair, and should enjoy this trip. Finally, Daddy Is a Legend is a longshot for George Weaver that is always well placed; George Weaver had her cranked up well last out in her return to the stable, and she has done her best running at Belmont Park – with a shot at the price.

Race 9 – Metropolitan Handicap (G1)
4:42pm ET | $1,000,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 Mile Dirt
(1) Mischievous Alex | (2) Dr Post | (5) By My Standards
The Carter Handicap winner, Westchester winner, Oaklawn Handicap winner, Churchill Downs runner up, Oaklawn mile winner, and Pegasus World Cup/Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner all line up for a stacked edition of the Met Mile. This competitive field gives us six horses that all have a chance. Personally, I’m playing this as if Knicks Go needs one after his trip to Saudi Arabia, though I will use him in multi-race wagers. Instead, I play with Mischievous Alex – the winner of the Carter last out; he has improved leaps and bounds since switching to Saffie Joseph, Jr. and has some of the best speed in this field. I do play with Dr Post, who has a lot of talent and is entering in good form for Todd Pletcher – this might be a bit tougher in class for him, but he has shown a lot of skill in his past races and will try again here to capture a big one, and with By My Standards, who also shows his best stuff and his pedigree suggests that he will show better when running around one-turn miles.

Race 10 – Manhattan Stakes (G1)
5:38pm ET | $750,000 | 4YO and Up| 1 1/4 Miles Turf
(9) Gufo | (7) Channel Cat | (4) Domestic Spending

Last year’s Hollywood Derby has already given us G1 winners in Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait from the top three… now it is Gufo’s turn. He was so close in the Man O’ War last out, but was just short against Channel Cat. He gets a firmer turf than that time here and looks to upset the Pegasus World Cup Turf Winner in Colonel Liam. He won over this course and distance last year in the Belmont Derby and looks to try again here. I’ll be playing with Channel Cat, the winner of the Man O’ War (although no one has done the Man O’ War – Manhattan double since Gio Ponti in 2009), who battled everyone out last out and should get the lone lead here – going to play catch me if you can and not sure who here can other than Gufo. Finally, Domestic Spending is uber tough and I don’t want to be caught in a spot where I don’t include him – he is a winner of three straight, although never this long, and has been improving with each start.

Race 11 – Belmont Stakes (G1)
6:49pm ET | $1,500,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/2 Miles Dirt

Race Notes:
1- Bourbonic: One of three for Pletcher here as he looks to take another Belmont Stakes. Bourbonic was the huge upset winner of the Wood Memorial, coming from the clouds to just get up. Bourbonic and Carmouche teamed up again in the Kentucky Derby, but finished well behind in 13th, but did improve down the stretch. His pedigree suggests that he should love the added distance, but the Belmont Stakes isn’t one to win coming from the clouds. If the pace is quick, he has a chance to upset, but otherwise not going to consider him a win factor. However, closers love to peak up in the exotics – so keep him in mind there.
2- Essential Quality: Four of the last ten Belmont Stakes winners have been by Tapit, and a fifth winner is real possible with the 2yo champion. The Kentucky Derby didn’t go as planned after a bumped start and trying to make ground on a very speed favoring course. He finished a solid length back of Medina Spirit. Now, all eyes are on him once again and he has all the inclinations of the Belmont Stakes winner. The way he runs, how he trains, and what his pedigree is, suggests he has this. He should run well here and Brad Cox has a dangerous one here to try and get his first Triple Crown race win.
3- Rombauer: The Preakness winner returns on short rest to try and grab the third jewel in the Belmont Stakes. Not sure he will take to such a long distance, or a race that doesn’t set up with for him with little pace, but he has proven himself a tough one when the pace is slow – just look back on Essential Quality’s Blue Grass. Worth a look, especially in the exotics, and will be an exciting horse to watch throughout the year.
4- Hot Rod Charlie: The Louisiana Derby winner has been getting a lot of attention lately in the lead up for the Belmont Stakes. He finished a solid third last out in the Kentucky Derby after facing traffic and looks to try and change the course here and flip the script. Going to depend a lot on if he can get clear early and really what Flavien Prat (who chooses back on him over Preakness winner Rombauer) does with him early. Just don’t think he wants anything to do with this distance and he has peaked back in Louisiana. Not a play for me.
5- France Go de Ina: The Japanese import tries his hand again at a Triple Crown race and looks for that Belmont Stakes bonus that is available. The Preakness served as a prep for him and now he gears up for this. The Japanese horses have been solid in the past in the Belmont Stakes, including fan favorite Lani a few years ago. Can France Go de Ina add his name to this list of Japanese runners hitting the board? Hard to say – but the prep in him and running style tends to mean he will be up there – huge exotics chance.
6- Known Agenda: The Florida Derby winner has turned out well throughout his career – but really excelled on the switch to Gulfstream Park. Perhaps he is a horse for course, and it could be that, but the move from Gulfstream Park to Belmont Park always seems to work well for Todd Pletcher. While we don’t know who the jockey is after the injury to Irad Ortiz, Jr., Known Agenda has the right running style to be up there at the finish – going to be one that should sit close and try to make a run at the end.
7- Rock Your World: The Santa Anita Derby winner lost all chance last time out when he got off slow and started near the back in the Kentucky Derby. Now, he tries to break well and get to the lead. Even with a slow start, the lack of traffic here should lend itself to allowing Rock Your World to get back on top. He is a dangerous threat in the lead and the Belmont Stakes tends to favor speed. My only major concern would be the lack of stamina on the sire-side, but he does have Empire Maker on the dam-side, which may be enough to allow him to sustain his front running talent all the way around.
8- Overtook: The Peter Pan third place finisher and Withers runner up is well overclassed, but Todd Pletcher has him improving with each start and should do well at the longer distance. I love this horse from marathon races later in his career, and I’ll give him a long look at going here to finish in the money. Blinkers on may help.

Race Selections:
My Belmont Stakes horse is going to be the 2yo Champion, (2) Essential Quality. Everything on paper and everyone on film makes sense here. He is going to be forwardly placed, his pedigree suggests he will love this, his back races suggest so much talent, and he just fits the bill. Brad Cox said months back that this was his Belmont horse, and he may be right. Essential Quality might not pay much but will be worth the play. Outside of him, (6) Known Agenda and (7) Rock Your World should be placed well, with Rock Your World the likely early pace. Both are going to be must uses for me underneath. Rounding out my exotics are led by Rombauer and France Go de Ina. The Preakness winner always runs a solid race and this should be no exception. Meanwhile the Japanese import is going to be looking for a top three finish to get a nice check and getting a much more normal (and stress free) road to this race might do him enough to finish near the front.