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Michael Tartaglia

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.

2021 Preakness & Undercard Selections

It has definitely been one of the most eventful Preakness weeks in recent memory, and all for something off the track. Yet, with all of the distractions surrounding this race, the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown stands with a field that, while small, is very competitive. We don’t have too many names from the Derby, just a handful, but we have many top quality horses entering the Triple Crown field, including another Bob Baffert in Concert Tour. Meanwhile, Chad Brown takes two bullets at winning another Preakness with entrants Crowded Trade and Risk Taking. And then there is the Coach, D. Wayne Lukas – who most recently won it nearly ten years ago with Oxbow – tries to win this race again with a son of American Pharoah, Ram. Or perhaps the very quirky Japanese import, France Go de Ina, will be the one to come out on top.

Race 1 – Sir Barton
10:30am ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
(1) The King Cheek | (3) Market Cap | (4) Hozier
As good as Hozier may be class wise, I can’t fathom betting a horse odds on that lost by 19 lengths last out. Instead, going with the speed to the inside, which was key on Friday, with The King Cheek. I scratch out the two bad beats at Aqueduct – it is clear that this sone of Laoban is a bleeder; now staying on Lasix and coming out of a win, this speedy horse should excel with the move up in distance. Market Cap could be a good price on the return to racing and adding of Lasix; maybe not the class of some of the better horses but could be good on the return. Have to include Hozier in any bets, but definitely not one that I’d recommend betting to win.

Race 3 – Chick Lang (G3)
11:41am ET | $200,000 | Three Year Olds | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(2) Mighty Mischief | (4) Jaxon Traveler | (3) Hemp
This is going to be a very quick race – two speedy horses ship in from Oaklawn to try and take this gate to wire. I am going to go with the larger price of the two, Mighty Mischief, who steps into stakes company for the first time; I prefer the jockey here in Ricardo Santana, Jr. who should be much more aggressive to get the lead over Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Jaxon Traveler. As for him, I’ll use him next, as the Bachelor Stakes winner has a lot of sprinting promise. This pair of Steven Asmussen runners both look primed for big things. If for some reason the pace ends up being too much, Hemp would be the one to get the play as a nice stalker who might be fresh enough to pass our tired leaders late and take home this race.

Race 6 – Gallorette (G3)
1:28pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Mean Mary | (3) Flight Lady | (2) Great Island
Another race with a heavy favorite, the Gallorette has a horse in Mean Mary that is almost impossible to get past. I won’t be betting against her in her seasonal debut. Probable lock to win. To make some money, I will be putting the European import Flighty Lady underneath – a Group One placed horse in France who was a solid winner in debut last out at Aqueduct for Chad Brown; and another Chad Brown in Great Island, who looks to be in good form coming into this race and may improve now being taken off Lasix.

Race 8 – James W. Murphy
2:45pm ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 mi Turf
(1) Indian Lake | (5) Extrasexybigdaddee | (7) Charles Chrome
Going to take a big stab at a price on the inside with Indian Lake, the son of Daredevil out of a Stormy Atlantic mare. Love how this pedigree responds to the turf and think this horse, who has been doing well in last two, will take a step up on the surface switch. Perhaps it’s a stab that won’t work, but I’m not sold on this field being competitive with many horses coming out of bad performance of trying turf to see what they got. I’m going to then play with one of the two Michael Trombetta runners with Extrasexybigdaddee, who faced much tougher and was somewhat competitive early last out; gets a much easier field and has a chance to upset this field with Jose Ortiz aboard. Then will continue to play against this heavy favorite here, taking the son of California Chrome on seasonal debut with Charles Chrome – showed a lot of promise as a 2yo and now gets to return off a layoff and finding a spot that should work well for his come from behind running style.

Race 9 – Skipat
3:25pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(6) Dontletsweetfoolya | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
Lacey Gaudet looks to steal one with this Maryland-based sprinter; the daughter of Stay Thirsty reeled off five straight sprint victories before faltering in the Barbara Fritchie last out. That was much tougher of a spot than what she will see today, and with a fair bit less pace pressure on the front end. Getting Lasix back and dropping to six furlongs puts her in a real good spot – very live. Then the new addition to the Brad Cox family, French Empire, finds her way in against mostly younger as she moves into stakes company. She found her best stuff sprinting at Oaklawn in live races and looks to improve on the trainers switch. Finally the undefeated Chub Wagon is very tough to get by here – only thing against him is that this is a step up, but he has been dominant each out and will be really tough to beat if he gets a clear easy lead; don’t love the price, but this is one you cannot leave off any ticket.

Race 10 – Jim McKay Turf Sprint
4:05pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up | 5 Furlongs Turf
(1) Boldor | (2) The Connector | (5) Hollis
One of my favorite races year in and year out, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint is a brilliant sprint race that pits some of the speediest turf sprints against one another. This race comes my best bet in the day with Boldor for Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr. While not with a lot of turf experience, this son of Munnings has been very impressive this spring, with a strong victory at the distance at Delta Downs in the Sam’s Town, and then followed up with a win in the King Cotton and a much better than expected 5th in the Hot Springs behind C Z Rocket, Whitmore, and Flagstaff. He then got sent to Keeneland for a very tough allowance, finishing a strong second – I think he follows up these performances with a dominant win here. Underneath, watch out for the Keeneland winner The Connector for Mark Hoffman – strong winner last out and has a lot of good runs at this level and distance; huge perk seeing Jose Ortiz aboard. And don’t doubt Hollis, who might be the speed of the speed here; if he can get the lead, very strong chance he takes them all the way.

Race 11 – Maryland Sprint (G3)
4:41pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(3) Mucho | (8) Special Reserve | (11) Seven Nation Army
This rendition of the Maryland Sprint is loaded with speed – so much so that it is really tough to warrant a play on a front runner. Instead, I land on the former Bill Mott trainee, Mucho, who has shown glimmers of prowess closing in on a fast pace at this level. Should get a better ride this time out with Jose Ortiz and might be one of the few fresh horses running late. Meanwhile his brother Irad has a very live mount in the Mike Maker trained Special Reserve, coming out of the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland against a very tough Flagstaff. The cutback in distance and class break should help. And don’t leave Ron Moquett off your ticket as Seven Nation Army ships in from Oaklawn in good form and last time he shipped out of Moquett’s Kentucky-Arkansas circle, he was a winner of the David M. Vance Sprint at Remington Park. Major threat.

Race 12 – Dinner Party (G2)
5:38pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Sacred Life | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
I hate to go with the heavy favorite here in the Dinner Party Stakes, but this race sets up well for the Chad Brown trainee who finished third last out in the Maker’s Mark Mile. Sacred Life should be able to sit behind the early pace and round down the leaders on a turf course that has tended to favor well with late runners in these longer races. He outclasses all here and will be a tough competitor to beat. As prices to bolster underneath, I’ll be using the improving Midnight Tea Time, who looked good in victory last out at Keeneland, and the young Kuramata, who makes his fourth career start here.

Race 13 – Preakness (G1)
6:47pm ET | $1,000,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 3/16 mi Dirt

Race Notes:
1- Ram (Ricardo Santana, Jr./D. Wayne Lukas): The six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas is looking to win a Triple Crown race in five straight decades with a new shooter and son of American Pharoah. The Coach wouldn’t be sending this horse here without at least chance at victory. Although it took eight chances for him to break his maiden, Ram followed up his victory with a second, coasting home at Churchill Downs at the beginning of the month to win easily. The allowance race victory looked professional and showed a lot of promise for this one. He may need a few more starts at this class before becoming competitive, but nothing would surprise me here. His pedigree suggests he will relish this distance, and is one of the few horses in the field to score high points on the pedigree (only Medina Spirit comes close). Worth a long look at a big price to at least hit the exotics.
2- Keepmeinmind (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro): The Kentucky Derby did not bode well for this son of Laoban. Besides being a deep closer, his slow break and wide position proved too much to overcome; however, he did move up well from 19th to 7th by the end of the race, passing a mix of tired runners and those trying to move forward. Still, that effort combined with his previous performances do not lend much to a chance here.
3- Medina Spirit (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert): It has been an eventful week for the Kentucky Derby winner. Say what you want about what happened this week, but nothing should be taken away from his wire-to-wire victory. Medina Spirit enters trying to win back-to-back and put himself in a spot for a Triple Crown in the Belmont. But to do that, he needs to get past nine rivals that will all be gunning for him. The big problem last out was that no one really went to challenge him early on a very speed favoring course, giving John Velazquez an easy lead and ability to take them all the way. This time, I don’t expect that to be the case, and will be playing against the Derby winner here.
4- Crowded Trade (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown): Skipping the Derby might have been good for the third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial. He had an awful trip last out that made him put in far more effort than he really should have. I expect him to get much better this time around. However, I don’t see much in his pedigree to put him in the mix to win here and likely will be running up the track down the stretch. Chance to catch the exotics, but that is about that.
5- Midnight Bourbon (Irad Ortiz, Jr./Steven Asmussen): Last out is not how you win a horse race. Midnight Bourbon did not have a great start and was pushed well off his preferred spot. Rather than being able to be close to the lead, he chased all the way around, ultimately ending up too far back to make a difference. I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz, Jr. gives him a much more aggressive ride out of the gate and gets him towards the front, where he does his best running. His pedigree suggests that he will do better at much longer, which that combined with his performances may make the case that this is too short of a race for him. Still, very live here if he can get near the front early.
6- Rombauer (Flavien Prat/Michael McCarthy): One of the new shooters here, Rombauer has been getting a lot of talk entering this race. He ran about even last out against Essential Quality and Highly Motivated, before being given a rest up to this race. His best race came two back in the El Camino Real Derby, a winner over the all-weather at Golden Gate Fields. His past running lines suggest he may be better on turf and that this doesn’t fit well for him. A lot of money will go his way, but I just don’t see it.
7- France Go de Ina (Joel Rosario/Hideyuki Mori): Not quite sure what to make of the Japanese import. He was excellent in Japan, taking two strong wins out at Hanshin Racecourse to end last year. However, his debut this year in the UAE Derby left so much to be desired. He never looked right and just had no chance throughout. This week, he has had a few eventful cases of dumping the rider and just doesn’t seem like he wants to be here. But, he has a lot of talent and if he can find a way to keep calm and push forward, will be a horse worth a look for the exotics.
8- Unbridled Honor (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher): One of the horses to watch here! A very strong runner who charged home and nearly got to King Fury in the slop last out. Getting back to dry dirt should help improve his closing kick and put him on the path to an exotics spot. He has ideal pedigree that has a lot of upside at this distance and race style, and his back form shows he fits right here. With an anticipated fast pace, this race gives him a huge shot at an upset. Must use.
9- Risk Taking (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown): Scratch last out and you have a solid horse that would’ve been one of the favorites. He bobbled at the start in the Wood Memorial and had no chance after that. He is very dependent on a strong break and that may be his downfall, but Risk Taking has all the things you like to see. His Withers win was impressive, especially winning the way he did with very little going his way. Not sure how he will respond with a tougher class, but Chad Brown has a huge chance to take another Preakness with the same silks that won him his first.
10- Concert Tour (Mike Smith/Bob Baffert): In most years, Concert Tour would be the favorite here. The Rebel winner faltered last out in a duel late, missing out on winning the Arkansas Derby. Some time off seems to do him well as he has been sharp in his recent workouts as he comes back ready to run in the Preakness. Each start he seems to get more impressive and there is little to not like about him. Does Mike Smith capture another Triple Crown race? Very likely with this one. Hard to say no – all depends on if he comes back in form.

Race Selections:
My play ends up on a horse I loved in the Kentucky Derby, (5) Midnight Bourbon. The break cost him all chance last out, but he showed prowess and, with a more aggressive ride, could’ve tested Medina Spirit. I was impressed with how he finished up the race and looked good in the company. He didn’t end up exerting much, unlike the winner, and looks to be mostly fresh. I look for Irad to give a much more aggressive ride, take the race near the front, and try to make every poll a winning one. Both (8) Unbridled Honor and (10) Concert Tour are ones to watch – new shooters here – and either could’ve had favoritism most years. Underneath there is a slew of horses with chance with my favorites of Ram for Lukas and France Go de Ina, who should improve here. Lots to like about this field – and should be a race to make some money too!

2021 Black-Eyed Susan & Undercard Selections

Race 8 | Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3)
3:07pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 1 1/8 Mi Dirt
(8) Lucky Stride | (2) Dreamalildreamofu | (6) Mrs. Danvers
Lot of speed in this race with more than half the field going to the front. I’ll take the third place finisher in the Top Flight last out with Lucky Stride. Would’ve placed better had it not been for an awkward break that put her well behind. If she breaks sharp, she should be well placed behind the early speed and her late kick is one to watch. Should enjoy Pimlico. Behind, I’ll use a price in Dreamalildreamofu with Florent Geroux aboard – last out winner of the Latonia at Turfway Park returns in good form and on fire with two easy victories. Good price for a horse that should be one of the better ones in the F&M division this year. Then add in Mrs. Danvers who really needed these last two runs on her return to the races – eligible to improve this out.

Race 9 | The Very One
3:38pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 5 Furlongs Turf
(3) Caravel | (2) Gogo Shoes | (10) Dendrobia
Elizabeth Merryman is not a trainer that I’m very familiar with, but she has one horse that has peaked my interest a lot, and enough that Florent Geroux hops aboard. I love Caravel on the cutback in distance – she was spectacular early in her career at 5f and, while stepping up, showed a lot of early pace at longer. The cut back should help her sustain and go gate to wire. Gogo Shoes also is improving and returned to the races well – this is a big step up for her but should enjoy the continued move to sprinting. Finally, taking a price near the outside to hit the board with Dendrobia, who was stealing ground left and right in this race last October; the last two starts have been against tougher and should enjoy the cut back down to her class – not a win contender in the slightest, but chance to hit the board with this hot pace.

Race 10 | Miss Preakness (G3)
4:09pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO Fillies | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(7) Inject | (5) Street Lute | (2) Red Ghost
This is a major step up for this Brad Cox trainee – but Inject looks the part here as she takes on tougher after her strong victory last out at Keeneland. She has come a long way since her 8th place finish in the Pocahontas last fall, improving in each start. The local horse Street Lute is a must use – she has been a top sprinter in her class in the region and looks to show it off against out of town foes. Finally, nothing worse than losing to a Wesley Ward sprinting filly – and Red Ghost looks to play the part – going to be a tough one to beat if she is on her game with John Velazquez aboard.

Race 11 | Hilltop
4:40pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 Mi Turf
(5) Bubbles On Ice | (9) Journeytothemoon | (13) Phantom Vision
Christophe Clement has the clear favorite here in Bubbles On Ice, and after her brilliant US debut, it is hard to doubt her. She won the Memories of Silver after a very troubled trip and going wide throughout, needing to make a huge sweeping move to win. Her inside draw should help and now should improve in her second start here. Journeytothemoon makes her first start on turf and honestly that couldn’t be a better move; her pedigree on both sides suggest she will love the turf, and a mile is exactly in what her real chances fall at. If she responds well to the turf, she could be one to hit the board or even win at a price. Last out didn’t go so well for Phantom Vision, but this speedy daughter of Declaration of War should improve upon the step up in distance – her form suggests she is right where she needs to be to possible steal this one.

Race 12 | Pimlico Special (G3)
5:12pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 3/16 Mi Dirt
(11) Last Judgement | (10) Alwaysmining | (1) Modernist
An up and coming handicap division horse, Last Judgment, looks to be one to contend with the top – he was impressive in victory in the Challenger and then couldn’t hold on last out in the Ghostzapper on what was a tiring course. Now he gets a favoring course and lone speed – a huge matchup for success. Training really well coming into this races is the Maryland-bred Alwaysmining. Although not in the same form as he was a few years ago, this five year old son of Stay Thirsty has put in some very good bullet workouts as we enter into this race – should be sharp and could stalk and pounce. Finally going to put in the Excelsior winner Modernist – loved him last out and should improve off that start.

Race 13 | Black-Eyed Susan (G2)
5:44pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/8 Mi Dirt
(9) Adventuring | (4) Forever Boss | (1) Army Wife
Could the other top Godolphin 3yo be poised for success on a Triple Crown weekend? Adventuring looks solid entering here off a romping 6.5 length maiden breaking score and then a dominant win in the Bourbonette Oaks. Even though they kept trying to put her on the turf, the dirt has been her home and she has relished it in each start. She fits very well here and should do really well moving forward. I’m very intrigued by Forever Boss as this daughter of Tapiture moves onto conventional dirt for the second time off a huge maiden breaking score at Keeneland. Finally throw in Army Wife and Joel Rosario who should improve on the switch to a more favorable course – has lot of previous races that put her up in the charts.

2021 Kentucky Derby & Undercard Selections

With the Kentucky Derby returning to its normal spot at the First Saturday in May, so do fans underneath the twin spires. Louisville will be the center of the sports world once again as 19 three-year old colts line up with the chance of a lifetime on the line. The favorite, the juvenile champion Essential Quality for Godolphin and quickly rising young trainer Brad Cox. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, Essential Quality has extended his undefeated streak to five with wins in the Southwest and the Blue Grass. His top foe could come right to his outside in Rock Your World, who rocked Santa Anita with his win last out in his first career start on dirt. Elsewhere, perhaps it is Irad Ortiz Jr getting his first Derby win with Pletcher & Known Agenda, or maybe Medina Spirit giving Baffert win number 7, or the Asmussen family connection with Super Stock.


Race 6 – Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2)
1:14pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 1 mi Turf
Although Chad Brown has been the big name in turf stakes races the last many years, it has been Brad Cox that has dominated this race as of late – winning last two with Beau Recall. But there is no Cox here and two Brown runners – She’s Got You and Blowout. I prefer the latter, (6) Blowout, who has been an unlucky cookie in her last two, getting nailed at the wire by Viadera in the Noble Damsel and Matriarch; but now she gets away from her rival, gets time off, and looks to find her way wire to wire in this mile affair. Her figures are the best in this field and her style should let her get away early and not look back. Additionally, look for the longshot (7) Abscond to improve in her second start off the layoff. The form cycle she is currently in puts her well in the top company and gets Joel Rosario who has been hot as of late. (4) Zofelle is hard to leave off any tickets even after last out, where she lost to Got Stormy after being wide throughout – this may be a better trip for her to put her into contention.

Race 7 – Derby City Distaff (G2)
1:56pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 7 Furlongs Dirt
The last thing I want to bet against is (4) Gamine as lone speed going around one turn. The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion makes her seasonal debut in a race that she should win by five lengths or more. I’ll take (3) Bell’s the One right behind, as she has been one of the closest to Gamine in the past and loves Churchill Downs, and (5) Hibiscus Punch who looks to be in form right now.

Race 8 – Pat Day Mile (G2)
2:48pm ET | $500,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 mi Dirt
This is a wide open edition of the old Derby Trial – with no true standout, this is the race to find an excellent price. I start with (5) Prevalence, who ran well to start the Wood Memorial but ultimately couldn’t go that long. He now heads back to one-turn and this well bred Godolphin looks to jumpstart big things with a win here. His early speed and draw should help and his recent workouts have been lights out. I then pull in the outside pair to complete my top three. (12) Joe Frazier had a great tune up last out and is peaking at the right now for Brad Cox and Florent Geroux; he keeps finding more as the races get tougher. (11) Noble Reflection should improve on the cut back down in distance and fits well in this spot.

Race 9 – American Turf (G2)
3:40pm ET | $500,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/16 mi Turf
The son of Sky Mesa, (13) Scarlett Sky, is a must use in one of the toughest races to handicap this weekend. While nothing here is a sure thing – this race is wide open – Scarlett Sky’s win in the Transylvania last out was one of the most visually impressive turf wins of the year thus far, showing a huge turn of foot to just get up late after being wide and showing nothing for the most part elsewhere. In a race where there is a ton of speed signed up, it looks to set up for him as long as he is on his game. I’ll also be taking (1) Excellent Timing, who will be making a big step up after two straight wins by six or more lengths against NY-bred company; perhaps its too easy to pick a Chad Brown on turf who is crushing foes, but he seems to fit. Lastly, Brad Cox has an interesting runner in (6) Royal Prince who is exiting the Bayou City at Sam Houston. His last two races have shown he is on the improve and may finally fit in this class. His tactical speed and turn of foot makes him a solid choice and at a price.

Race 10 – Churchill Downs (G1)
4:31pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up | 7 Furlongs Dirt
Some very familiar foes line up in the Churchill Downs Stakes, being held for only the second time as a G1 as it was skipped during 2020. The ageless Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Whitmore returns, although Churchill Downs has not been kind to him in his five career starts here under the Twin Spires, having only won once and finished dead last in his try at the Kentucky Derby. With both an unfavorable course and distance, Whitmore regretfully has to be a toss for me, as much as I’ll be rooting for the old man. Instead, I go to a youngster in (5) Tap It to Win, who had seen some success last year when trying to make it to top quality three-year old races, like the shortened Belmont Stakes and the H. Allen Jerkens. He got time off after the Pat Day Mile last September and came back with a tune up in the NYRABets Sprint at Tampa Bay Downs in state-bred company. While not a tough field, he drove home and pulled away down the stretch after having a very troubled trip. With Mark Casse runners, that is the type of return you want to see. He is coming in sharp and should love the one-turn seven furlong distance. Underneath, I’ll use (4) Flagstaff, who just finished behind Whitmore two back before winning last out impressively in the Commonwealth at Keeneland. His figures aren’t where I’d like them to be, but his form is sharp and should continue to improve – especially at his preferred distance. Finally, I’ll take the other seven furlong specialist in (11) Hog Creek Hustle who, although slightly outclassed here, is eligible to improve with the return to Churchill Downs.

Race 11 – Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1)
5:27pm ET | $1,000,000 | 4YO and Up | 1 1/8 mi Turf
The Pegasus World Cup Turf winner (3) Colonel Liam has been one of the top turf horses in the world thus far, showing impressive turn of foot in that race and then easily coasting home in the Muniz Memorial Classic to get to this spot. He is a stand out here. He is my top pick as he towers over this field, but watch out for (1) Masteroffoxhounds, who is really coming into top form. Last out in the San Luis Rey was just too long for him – he gets a cut back in distance to a much more favorable nine furlongs. And I’ll be throwing in the South American import (4) Ivar who makes his return to racing after having last been seen finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The slightly longer distance should do him well; will be in the mix if he returns off the layoff well.


Race 12 – Kentucky Derby (G1)
6:57pm ET | $3,000,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/4 mi Dirt

Race Notes:
1- Known Agenda (Irad Ortiz, Jr./Todd Pletcher): beat a huge field last out in the Florida Derby; didn’t show much last out early – got break of not getting caught in traffic; moved up on the backside; small compared to the field; fought valiantly but was a big green in victory last out; needs to grow up a bit; did not take to the TB surface; prefers a more tepid pace; didn’t take to wet ground; may be a horse for course at Gulfstream; blinks on was something he needed
2- Like the King (Drayden Van Dyke/Wesley Ward): slow breaker; short stride; been a horse for course at Turfway; got lucky late with a bunched up field last out; came on strong in last few strides; still pretty green; gets going after a bunch of pushes; needs a lot of help and urging; once gotten going though, he has dangerous speed; could be a live longshot; improving on figures.
3- Brooklyn Strong (Umberto Rispoli/Daniel Velazquez): sharp breaker; little thin; makes solid moves down backstretch against slow pace; performs much better on off track; may do better at longer; ran his race in Wood but not pace of lead pack; no late run last out; working well; may improve second off layoff; right now – no chance
4- Keepmeinmind (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro): does not break well; tends to lag behind the field; real late mover; passes tired horses; never pace of the winners; no chance
5- Sainthood (Corey Lanerie/Todd Pletcher): breaks well; great pedigree; really game closing kick; probably should’ve own last out; been working well; live longshot
6- O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza/Gregory Foley): strong pedigree; not pace of winner last out but still tried; snuck along live pace in Louisiana Derby to make up ground; definitely a cut below
7- Mandaloun (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox): championship pedigree; quick early speed; sharpened up first after getting blinkers in Risen Star; just empty last out – odd; perhaps not comfortable with fast pace; doesn’t fit on dosage index; toss
8- Medina Spirit (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert): unique pedigree for this – lots of sprinting speed; just seems to get faster and faster each furlong; visibly impressive in each race; misses the turn often; need the lead; doesn’t have a late closing kick if challenge
9- Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat/Doug O’Neill): bred out of dam of Mitole and shows lots of speed in pedigree; starts well but needs more practice breaking – comes out a bit bobbled each time; runs a lot better from front end; starting to grow each time and turning into form; very strong runner; blossoming; hot right now and tough; very live
10- Midnight Bourbon (Mike Smith/Steven Asmussen): Godolphin Arabian descendant hasn’t won this race since War Admiral; very professional and mature; strong breaker; always puts in good effort; should improve late under Mike Smith; may be peaking at the right time; one to watch
11- Dynamic One (Jose Ortiz/Todd Pletcher): was all out last time; ran valiantly in Wood; been working sharp and wouldn’t be a shocker; lightly raced at the class; needs to move forward a bit to contend
12- Helium (Julien Leparoux/Mark Casse): snuck by in the Tampa Bay Derby; just had a blessed trip last out; eligible to improve second time off layoff; likely a cut below
13- Hidden Stash (Rafael Bejarano/Victoria Oliver): strong pedigree; shoots out of the gate like a rocket; settles nicely; very calm; fights each time; too much to do last out to catch leaders; needs to improve, but has exotics chance
14- Essential Quality (Luis Saez/Brad Cox): regally bred; 2yo champion; calm breaker; cruises easily through race; running style fits the bill; tactical speed; runs on any surface; may do better as a presser; can set pace well; prefers outside; has a bit of an issue changing leads; may not love the distance; sharp worker; the one to beat
15- Rock Your World (Joel Rosario/John Sadler): lots of stamina in the pedigree; gets Joel Rosario; second start on dirt; unraced as a 2yo; very muscular; sets a very strong early pace; does not let go once he finds the lead; has a bit of trouble paying attention late if not challenged; speed figures put him along the best of them
16- King Fury (SCRATCH)
17- Highly Motivated (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown): regally bred with dam of Practical Joke; not the greatest at breaking from the gate; does not like being in traffic; seems to lack the late kick you want to see; figures are deceiving
18- Super Stock (Ricardo Santana, Jr./Steven Asmussen): mature and racing a long time; improved when being ridden as a midpack/stalker; long strider; prefers to escape traffic; although passing tired horses last out, did so while driving and was very impressive; if he can stay out of traffic, should have a huge shot to upset
19- Soup and Sandwich (Tyler Gaffalione/Mark Casse): Into Mischief crossed with Tapit; lightly raced; impressive on debut and in win at Tampa against lesser; just races so easily as stalker; probably would’ve been passed earlier in the stretch last out if had not blocked; needs a target; no strong chance
20- Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche/Todd Pletcher): well bred; good breaker from gate; does not need fast pace; caught great run last out; longer stretch at CD should help; huge stride; major shot to hit the board or maybe even upset if pace is fast enough

Race Selections:
For me, (14) Essential Quality has been the best horse in every start, and while he hasn’t peaked yet this year, he has done everything he needed and some to win his last two as a three-year old. Really hard to get past what looks to be one of the best favorites in some  time. After him, (10) Midnight Bourbon is a hard trier whose best is yet to come – I love his majority each start and should be getting better with the added distance; plus getting Mike Smith aboard is an instant boost. Finally, the other Asmussen may be the biggest shocker as (18) Super Stock is peaking at the right time and his Arkansas Derby win sets him up well; the most experienced horse in the field (in what is the least experienced field for a Derby on record) may be the one to wear the garland of roses.
The way the pace is setting up makes Super Stock seem like the top contender, and should be a must use on all tickets behind Essential Quality and Midnight Bourbon. Hot Rod Charlie is hot right now, though I have doubts that he can get the distance at this pace. Going to be using Known Agenda, Hot Rod Charlie, Dynamic One, Hidden Stash, Rock Your World, Bourbonic, Like the King, and Sainthood in a variety of trifectas and superfectas in the 3rd and 4th spot.
Personally, a part of me really hopes that Midnight Bourbon wins – a win in the Kentucky Derby would make history as the first Godolphin Arabian descendant to win the race since War Admiral; the dying sire line’s last hopes rest in the progeny of Tiznow and this may be his best if he can win. A Derby win would put him as a potential top sire going forward.

2021 Kentucky Oaks & Undercard Selections

Kentucky Derby Weekend officially begins with the fillies in the Kentucky Oaks. The run for the lillies caps of a six stakes day that gives us some amazing fillies & mares as well as some nice older horses and turf racing. All of it is an excellent prelude to the Kentucky Derby stakes slate – and some great opportunities to pad the bankroll.

Race 6 – Alysheba Stakes (G2)
1:26pm ET | $400,000 | 4YO and Up | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
(5) Roadster is the speed of the speed here – have blitzed out to an early lead last out in the New Orleans Classic. His drifting out cost him the win there, but I factor that to the time off. He should return to normal form now in his second start off the layoff. (3) Attachment Rate tried sprinting last out but gets back to a route and shows a lot of prowess competing with this class – running style fits well here. (4) Chess Chief offers some value after beating Roadster last out and being not too far from Maxfield two back; Luis Saez chooses him over Attachment Rate.

Race 7 – Edgewood Stakes (G2)
2:09pm ET | $300,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/16 mi Turf
Going to play against the returning Breeders’ Cup winner Aunt Pearl with a horse making her second career North American start in (2) Gift List. Her second in the very tough Appalachian at Keeneland was the ideal prep for me – she should toughness, fought throughout, and just came up short while not letting anyone really pass her. She is eligible to improve in this start. Then comes (6) Aunt Pearl who is the clear class of the field. (5) Line Dancing stands as my longshot – the Sanibel Island looked to be a tough race for its class and one that could prove fruitful for her.

Race 8 – La Troienne Stakes (G1)
3:03pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up Fillies & Mares | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
HAMMER TIME – through the whole world onto (2) Shedaresthedevil. Perfect prep in the Azeri and the second place finisher Letruska came back to upset Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver in the Apple Blossom Handicap. Shedaresthedevil has a chance to be an elite mare this year and winning here will put here right in that spot. (3) Dunbar Road is always a hard trier that seems to always get a piece of the money while (5) Paris Lights is hot right now and should improve returning to a route.

Race 9 – Eight Belles Stakes (G2)
4:04pm ET | $300,000 | 3YO Fillies | 7 Furlongs Dirt
There is a ton of speed here – which makes me think its time to go to someone who can rate, like (6) Slumber Party. Stepped up well last out in the Beaumont and chased a strong leader. Now gets a chance to rate a fast pace and should be one of the few fresh horses left late. (11) Abrogate will benefit from the quick pace and hot leaders while I’m very interested to see what Bill Mott has in (12) Caramel Swirl after that ten length romp last out.

Race 10 – Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G2)
4:55pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 5.5 Furlongs Turf
Last year’s winner (9) Diamond Oops returns and gets a very similar spot with what looks to be an honest pace and what should be a ground saving trip; definitely the class of the field, although current form is the question. Love betting speed here and (11) Carotari is the speed of the pack – going gate to wire will be tough but without a lot of other front end speed, should be in the mix for a lone lead. (8) Fast Boat offers an interesting challenge if he can get back to older graded stakes form.

Race 11 – Kentucky Oaks (G1)
5:51pm ET | $1,250,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/8 mi Dirt
The scratch of Ava’s Grace opens up this race for (6) Travel Column. Sitting as the only speed, the Fair Grounds Oaks winner should easily take them wire-to-wire here. This daughter of Tapit was ultra tough to beat last out and continues to be a high performing filly. As long as she gets the lead and can save ground on the turns, she should have no issue finishing up this start. As for (10) Malathaat, she enters 4 for 4 with a near miss in the Ashland, where she just got up. If she can stay a bit closer to the pace than she was there, she is a dangerous stalker that could pose issues for Travel Column. John Velazquez does get his mount back – having won on her last December in the Demoiselle at Aqueduct. Finally, looking for a price comes in the form of (4) Crazy Beautiful. A closing winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks, she has been working out real well at Churchill Downs entering this race and has been one of the ones to watch in most of her starts. Her figures are trending in the right direction and if she shows her late burst that she did have last out, she is going to be very tough to beat.

Breeders’ Cup 2020 Friday Analysis

It is the Super Bowl of horse racing this weekend. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships kick off Friday at beautiful Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky with so many championship races and many of the best horses in the world. The action begins with Future Stars Friday, where the next best horses will square off in five championship races. Check out my full Friday analysis below and enjoy the races!

College Football – Week Seven Top Bets

Alabama. Georgia. 2 v 3. A rivalry renewed. A trip to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2007. A possible changing of the tides in the SEC. What will be the outcome of the season’s first huge game? This battle of goliaths will go far in deciding who will go into the playoffs, or at the very least who will make it to the SEC Championship Game. Other than this monster matchup, there will be plenty to watch this weekend, including games involving all 15 ACC teams. Meanwhile, the defenseless Big 12 will only get one game – West Virginia v Kansas. What will happen in this last game before the Big Ten takes the field? We shall find out.

Season Stats: 11-14 (6 Outright)

Auburn at South Carolina (+3.0)
This hasn’t been the greatest year for the Will Muschamp led Gamecocks, but they get a rattled and shaky Auburn team at home to begin their fourth game. Auburn, after a first game win over Kentucky, got exposed against Georgia, and then “won” in a game that Arkansas got cheated by the refs to conclude. Their offensive line has been exposed badly throughout this season and Bo Nix has not developed since last year. Meanwhile, South Carolina played toe-to-toe with Tennessee and Florida before coming on top in dominating fashion over Vanderbilt. I look for Muschamp to right the ship and put South Carolina in a good spot on Saturday.

Kansas at West Virginia (-21.5)
It is time to ride or die with betting against Kansas. They have been awful this season (and really the past decade). Without Les Miles making the trip, this looks even worse for the Jayhawks. All West Virginia.

Louisville (+16.5) at Notre Dame
We opened the season last year with this matchup (in which Ian Book hit a cheerleader with a football), which was Scott Satterfield’s first time at the helm of the Cardinals. While it is unlikely that Louisville wins this, this line seems pretty big, especially after Notre Dame let Florida State score up plenty a week ago. Louisville needs to show more on defense to keep this close, but they have an offense that should push them within 16.

Georgia (+5.0) at Alabama
First… I’m picking Alabama to win outright here. As good as Georgia has been, they’ve been beating up on very weak offensive lines. Now they get one of the strongest teams upfront and a QB in Mac Jones that will be very difficult to stop. But, history is on Georgia’s side; per ESPN’s Chris Fallica, “Under Nick Saban, Alabama has been less than a seven-point favorite at home five times. The Tide have lost four of the games outright (’19 LSU, ’11 LSU, ’10 AUB, ’07 UGA) and pushed the other (’08 ARK)”. Give me those five points.

Boston College (+13.0) at Virginia Tech
Perhaps one of the most underrated squads in the FBS this season, Boston College nearly got UNC, had it not been for a botched 2-pt conversion which would’ve tied the game at the end. They then took down what was a strong Pittsburgh team. Now they take on Virginia Tech one week removed from their loss against North Carolina. Boston College has shown a lot of strengths on defense this season – I look for them to win.

College Football – Week Six Top Bets

Week Six may be one of the most exciting weeks on the season, with tough matchups such as Florida @ Texas A&M, Virginia Tech @ North Carolina, Oklahoma-Texas, Tennessee @ Georgia, and Miami @ Clemson, among many other quality games. Lots of teams will have their season decided on Saturday – and many will have their fate sealed with a loss. Let’s see what bets to make this week.

Season Stats: 10-10 (6 Outright)

Virginia Tech (+3) at North Carolina
The Tar Heels may be one of the favorites to upset Clemson in the ACC, but getting past the Hokies is their first test. This matchup the last two years has been decided by a total of 5 points, with Virginia Tech currently on a four game win streak. From how these schools have played, UNC looks very overrated for their quality of play while VT is still improving and looks to be near the top of the ACC. These squads should have a very tight content throughout.

NC State @ Virginia (-7)
The Wolfpack shocked many in a close victory over the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Panthers. But now they need to finish up this road trip against UVA – a squad playing angry after their trouncing last week by Clemson. Virginia is one of the best schools in the ACC and can really cause some chaos for other schools. This is a revenge game for last week’s embarrassment – Virginia up big.

UTSA (+34.5) at BYU
The BYU Cougars currently sit atop the standings of both total offense and total defense, but they now get a very tough UTSA squad that has been improving. Sure last game was a loss against UAB, but outside of what was a defensive matchup, they’ve been putting up the points. While I still believe BYU is the victor, I wouldn’t be surprised if this stays close.

Texas Tech (+11.5) at Iowa State
This Big 12 matchup has been a relatively close scoring series of late, even with Iowa State winning the last four. Texas Tech has been playing well since their scare against Houston Baptist while Iowa State is currently sitting on a high. But how will Iowa State backup their play after an upset victory against OU last week, and with Oklahoma State on the horizon? 11.5 points just seems like too much to pass up.

Mississippi State (+3) at Kentucky
Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense was sputtered last weekend, but a trip to Kentucky may be just what they need. The Wildcats don’t have the best defense against the pass and their offense has only been subpar. Even though we have no idea which Bulldogs team will show up, if they can move the ball through the air, this should be an easy game.

Odds provided by Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.