Andrew’s Play of the Day: 2/10/20

RECORD: 23-10

As some of you know, I got in a pretty bad car accident last week where I was t-boned by a pick-up truck. Before I dive into my analysis, here are some things I learned from that experience (or, in some cases, things that were reinforced).

1) Don’t get t-boned by a pick-up truck.

2) If you must get t-boned by a pick-up truck, do it in a Nissan Altima. The car’s almost certainly totaled, but I walked away from the accident with no major injuries.

3) Life’s short. I was t-boned on the passenger’s side of the car, and I was thankfully alone. If I get hit on the driver’s side, the best-case scenario is that I’m seriously hurt. The worst-case scenario, well…

4) Sports are diversions.

5) There are lots of good people in the world, as evidenced by the outpouring of well-wishes I received last week. If you sent me something, know that I appreciate it greatly.

This leads to how I’m going to approach this section for the next week or so. Because I’ve been juggling other stuff (not to mention a busy time at the real job), I haven’t offered anything since the Super Bowl. However, I decided to concentrate on a “play of the day,” rather than several plays each day, largely because I believe concentrated, focused gambling strategies are what pay off in the long run, so I can’t, in good conscience, give out seven plays and be back on track.

With that in mind, I’ll middle this a bit. I’ll be offering two plays a day until I’m caught up, barring a situation where I simply only like one game. I’ll hopefully be back on track sooner rather than later, and with a little luck, it’ll be with continued success.

MONDAY’S PLAYS: My primary action comes in the Lone Star State. #1 Baylor heads to Texas and is giving just 6.5 points. I understand that it’s a road game, but the Longhorns aren’t exactly setting the world on fire and the Bears may be the best team in the country. I’ll take the visitors to cover the spread.

In addition, there’s a fun Patriot League matchup in New England, as Colgate travels to Boston University. The visiting Raiders have quietly put up a 19-6 record to this point in the season, including a 10-2 mark in conference play, and beat the Terriers by nine earlier this year. With all that said, why are the Raiders 1.5-point underdogs? I’ll take Colgate here and hope they complete the season sweep.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/30/20

RECORD: 20-9

Larry Collmus is out as the head announcer at the New York Racing Association. The change was made after Collmus served five years in that post after replacing Tom Durkin and, for my money, did as good a job as anyone on the planet could have in that capacity.

I’m not here to speculate on what happened. However, a lot of people on social media were quick to do just that, and many of those posts did something that I take plenty of exception to. If you made a post along the lines of, “I think Larry should wind up at (insert track that already has an announcer here),” pay close attention: You were wrong.

If Larry Collmus (or any other announcer, for that matter) gets a job somewhere where someone else is currently employed, it means the second person lost it and has to find an opening on a carousel that seems to have fewer and fewer spots each time it turns. Rooting for that to happen, at a time when a lot of people in racing have lost their jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with talent, stinks to high heaven. It’s one thing to wish for Larry (an excellent announcer and a really good guy) to land on his feet, but this behavior was several steps too far.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: We split yesterday’s action after a too-busy Tuesday kept me off the grid. Seton Hall and DePaul went under, but Navy covered an 11-point spread against Holy Cross to salvage the day.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m headed to the Big 10 for a clash in Champaign. The Illinois Fighting Illini host the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, and the spread here puzzles me. Illinois is red-hot, has home-court advantage, and yet is only a five-point favorite over a team that’s shot better than 38.3% from the floor just once over its last four games. Give me the Illini in this spot, as I think they cover pretty easily.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/3/20

RECORD: 2-0

I played horses at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day and had about the worst handicapping day of my life. It prompted someone on Twitter (a follower, no less) to message me and demand that I give up handicapping publicly, past accomplishments be damned. I responded in kind, saying that I’m going to be the same person until either horse racing goes away or I do.

The response that I got to that was mind-blowing. If you took the time to say something, know that I appreciate you. Part of being in my position is knowing there are going to be days where the only things I pick correctly are clothes that match. On the other hand, another part is having the confidence to trust the process and keep firing, which is what I plan to do.

To the person who tried to tell me to stand down: You’re not the first, you won’t be the last, and I’m not going to be intimidated by anyone like you. If anyone out there agrees with him…well, then go make your own website, with your own picks, and see how easy it is.

THURSDAY’S RESULT: Boston College simply did not show up to the Birmingham Bowl, and Cincinnati rolled to an easy cover en route to the team’s 11th win of the season.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: We’ll shift gears over to college hoops and head to the Colonial Athletic Association. 11-4 Delaware (a team you may want to get familiar with come tournament time) heads to Drexel, where the visiting Blue Hens will be just a one-point favorite. At that spread, give me Delaware, a team that is very capable of scoring lots of points very quickly.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/2/20

RECORD: 1-0

For the first time since I joined it in 2013, I won my fantasy football league. With the trophy came a pretty nice chunk of change, and I wound up buying a new piece of furniture for my living room. Christened as “the couch Saquon Barkley built,” it should be arriving at my Northern California residence next weekend.

That I’m truly excited about all of this scares the bejesus out of me. Nobody ever warns you about the true perils of getting old. It’s not the physical infirmities or the mind tending to wander just a bit more. It’s feeling giddy over buying things in such a way that the 21-year-old version of yourself would scream bloody murder if he/she suddenly materialized.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULT: As a Michigan fan, it sickened me to bet against the Wolverines in the Citrus Bowl. However, Alabama proved to be too much and the Crimson Tide easily covered as 8.5-point favorites, which means I got off to a good start.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll stick with college football and focus on the Birmingham Bowl. Cincinnati’s only problem this year was an inability to beat Memphis, a good team that put up a fight against Penn State earlier this bowl season. Meanwhile, Boston College fired its coach after a 6-6 season, one where the Eagles went 3-5 in the team’s last eight games. I think Cincinnati wins comfortably, and I’ll take the Bearcats giving 7.5 points.

2019 BREEDERS’ CUP: Saturday Analysis and Selections

It’s Breeders’ Cup time, which means it may as well be Christmas morning for handicappers. Two days of full fields comprised of some of the fastest horses on the planet, many of which will win or run well at big prices, is pretty much all we can ask for as horseplayers, and I’m really excited to dive in.

I’ve done a lot of handicapping elsewhere for Friday’s card. I’m proud to dissect a lot of 2-year-old races for Oddschecker US, and I wrote up quick summaries of all five Breeders’ Cup races over there. Additionally, I did a few videos for The Daily Racing Form, where I offered Pick Five analysis and a look at my top pick in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

However, my analysis for each of the Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday is all below. In addition, there’s another race on the undercard I’m very interested in, and I’ll look at that race as well. As I said on Twitter, this is as much work as I’ll do all year long outside of Saratoga season, but I absolutely love it, and I’m grateful to have an audience that enjoys reading my stuff.

Enough talk; let’s get to it!

RACE #3: Grade 2 Twilight Derby

I’ll never understand why Santa Anita opted to run the Twilight Derby at 11:17 am local time, but alas, here we are. This race came up salty for the level given the restricted condition (it’s only for 3-year-olds), but I think the pace scenario sets up perfectly for one of these runners.

#9 KINGLY has a lot of early speed, and that’s not a trait shared by many other runners in this field. He was last seen in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile, where he was beaten just a neck by older foes after setting a fast pace. He should not have to go nearly as quickly early on in here, and if he gets brave on the front end, I think he’ll be very tough to catch.

Kingly’s 5-1 on the morning line, and I think that’s an overlay. My hope is that he’ll dictate terms early and have plenty left late, and if he gets home, my day will get off to a flying start.

RACE #4: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

The first Breeders’ Cup race of the day is one that carries plenty of Eclipse Award ramifications. #1 COVFEFE could very well lock up Champion 3-Year-Old Filly honors with a win in this race, and she’s logical. Her efforts going seven furlongs have been incredibly sharp, and given her two victories ahead of this event, it can be argued she’s never been better.

However, the rail draw is certainly a concern. She has speed, but the rivals directly to her outside aren’t slow. If she doesn’t break perfectly, she could be in big trouble, and for that reason, she isn’t my top pick.

That distinction goes to #4 COME DANCING, the race’s likely second choice. She’s won four of her last six starts, and the two losses came to top-quality foes Marley’s Freedom and Midnight Bisou (neither of which shows up here). Unlike several of her foes, she does not need the lead in order to win. She could sit a picture-perfect trip beneath Javier Castellano, and I think she’ll have first run on the tiring pacesetters turning for home.

Underneath those two, #6 BELLAFINA and #9 SPICED PERFECTION both make sense. I’ll also throw in #5 LADY NINJA, who has won five of her last seven starts and would also benefit from a pace meltdown. She’ll be a price, and if you’re looking for a longshot to throw in, I think she’s the one to use.

RACE #5: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Much like the race before it, there’s a lot of early speed signed on here. It certainly seems like they’re going to go very, very quickly out of the gate, which should benefit those who do their best running late.

#10 EDDIE HASKELL fits the bill, and he’s my top pick. He loves this route of ground, and while he has a powerful late kick, he’s also got enough tactical speed to not be too far back. Joel Rosario should have plenty left late, and if he can save some ground from a difficult (but not impossible) post, he should be pretty formidable.

The other intriguing closer is #5 STUBBINS, who comes in off a win in the Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland. He hits me as a 3-year-old hitting his best stride late in the year, and the presence of Flavien Prat is a plus. The faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be, and at his likely price, I absolutely have to use him.

On wider tickets, I’ll also use #6 STORMY LIBERAL, who won this race a season ago but hasn’t found the winner’s circle since. However, the rider switch to John Velazquez is noteworthy, and he’s another who does not need the lead in order to run well. In a race with tons of early zip, that’s valuable, and while he may be past his peak, it’s not like improvement isn’t out of the question.

RACE #6: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

I’d love to tell you that I can find a reason to go against #5 OMAHA BEACH, but I can’t do it. He had every excuse to run a clunker in his comeback race, and he instead outdueled Shancelot to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. We know he can handle two turns, and judging by his recent bullet workout over this surface, he may be coming into this race better than he’s ever been.

I respect #2 IMPROBABLE and #4 MR. MONEY. However, Omaha Beach beat the former earlier this year, and the latter would definitely need to take a step up from a figure standpoint. With all of this in mind, I’ll happily single Omaha Beach in multi-race exotics and spread elsewhere.

RACE #7: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Unfortunately, this race took a hit when Magical didn’t ship in with the rest of the European contingent. After that defection, #2 SISTERCHARLIE towers over the field and seems to be in great position to record her seventh consecutive victory.

The question is, how do we make money when the favorite appears legitimate? I’m going to key her in exactas with several bigger prices. #1 IRIDESSA won a Group 1 at this distance earlier this year, #8 CASTLE LADY may have needed her run in the Grade 1 QE2 at Keeneland, and #12 FANNY LOGAN has won four in a row, gets Lasix for the first time, and is 5-for-5 at this distance.

If Sistercharlie wins, I’ll likely still make a few bucks. However, if she runs second to one of the horses I’ve used, I stand to connect on a nice score.

RACE #8: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint

If #4 MITOLE wins, he may very well have a case for Horse of the Year honors. A win would give him six victories in seven starts on the season, with four Grade 1 triumphs ranging in distances from six furlongs to a mile. He’s had a great year, and he merits respect, but while I’m using him, he’s not my top pick.

The only time Mitole locked up with #9 IMPERIAL HINT was in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt. That day, Imperial Hint won by four lengths and set a new track record at Saratoga. Mitole bounced back with a win in the Grade 1 Forego, but Imperial Hint also added a Grade 1 win of his own in the Vosburgh.

I think these two are pretty equal, but Imperial Hint will likely be twice the price. With that in mind, give me that one and the potential for a bigger payoff.

If you’re looking for a longshot to use in the exotics, I’d recommend #7 WHITMORE, who ran very well in his comeback race at Keeneland. He stumbled at the start and was forced to race very wide, but he rallied to be beaten just a half-length. There’s plenty of early speed in here, and if he steps forward off of that performance, he could absolutely hit the board at a big price.

RACE #9: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile

Every year, the Mile seems like a true grass grab bag. This renewal is no exception, and despite the presence of #6 GOT STORMY and #11 UNI, a European runner may very well go favored.

That’s #9 CIRCUS MAXIMUS, a two-time Group 1 winner from the barn of Aidan O’Brien. His form is already top-notch, and he’s getting Lasix for the first time, which can’t be ignored. It’s not an easy race to handicap, and it’ll be worth seeing how he’s warming up prior to the race, but I think his best effort would make him tough to beat.

Got Stormy and Uni could both win, but there are red flags with both runners. The former hung badly in the Woodbine Mile without any apparent excuse, and the latter drew a poor post that could cause her to lose ground. Both could win, I suppose, but I think there’s more money to be made betting against them than betting on them.

In addition to Circus Maximus, I’ll also use #1 SUEDOIS, #2 LUCULLAN, and #13 HEY GAMAN. Suedois didn’t have a great trip when third in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and has shown plenty of talent, while Lucullan is in career-best form and Hey Gaman gets the firm ground he prefers while also adding Lasix for the first time.

RACE #10: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Remember the Dirt Mile, where I said I wish I could find a reason to go against Omaha Beach? Substitute #4 MIDNIGHT BISOU, and you have my preview of the Distaff. Simply put, she looks head and shoulders above the rest in here, and she’s my best bet of the entire card.

I’m going to channel former TVG colleague Dave Weaver with my wagering strategy here, which involves an “ice cold” exacta. I’ll use Midnight Bisou on top of #6 WOW CAT, who may be rounding back into form in her fourth start of the season. Wow Cat was the best of the rest behind Midnight Bisou in the Grade 2 Beldame, and she was a fast-closing second in this race a season ago. If they go quickly early on, that will bode well for her chances to hit the board at a big price here.

RACE #11: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf

Here’s the big question, perhaps the biggest of Breeders’ Cup weekend: Can #9 BRICKS AND MORTAR get a mile and a half? If he can, he’ll likely win and sew up Horse of the Year honors with his fifth Grade 1 win of the year. If he can’t, my inclination is that one of two European runners will capitalize.

#5 ANTHONY VAN DYCK has been pointed to this race for a while, and for good reason. This year’s Epsom Derby winner was most recently third behind Magical in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, and if you draw a line through his two-back effort at Ascot over softer going, he hasn’t run a bad race all year. I think he’s matured, and that he’s the horse to beat given his proven ability to get this distance.

Meanwhile, #10 OLD PERSIAN came to North America and rolled to an easy win in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine. Most notably, he won the $6 million Sheema Classic in Dubai earlier this year, and his best race could absolutely be good enough to beat this group. Can he fire that shot if Bricks and Mortar gets the distance? That’s a good question.

RACE #12: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic

I haven’t been shy about voicing my opinion of this race on Twitter, and I’ll do it again here. Simply put, this race just doesn’t excite me as much as it has in past years. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make money; quite the opposite, actually, as I’m not sold on a few horses that may get action at the windows.

#10 VINO ROSSO was the victim of what I felt was a horrible DQ in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. I don’t think #11 CODE OF HONOR was ever getting by, and because of that, the DQ ensured the best horse didn’t win. Vino Rosso gets another crack at that one here, and he gets it going a route of ground he won at earlier this year. He’s worked well coming into this race, and he’s my reluctant top pick.

#8 MCKINZIE may go favored, and #6 ELATE and Code of Honor will take money as well. I could see any of these horses winning, but I’ll be leaning heavier on #5 YOSHIDA. I think there’s enough pace in here to set up for his late kick, and the presence of Hall of Famer Mike Smith is a big, big plus.