NFL Week 9 & Breeders Cup

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

LAS VEGAS – Baseball season is behind us, but we continue with the Fantastic Fall betting season with wall-to-wall football action this weekend, plus the NBA added to the mix. It’s so busy that you hardly hear anyone complaining about the lack of hockey (though I know the vocal minority is out there).

But as a gambler, don’t forget the Breeders’ Cup this Friday and Saturday. I know a lot of the betting public (which skews younger and younger on the demographic scale with each passing year while horse racing’s core audience gets older and older) aren’t fans of the sport, but while I can certainly understand that on a day-to-day basis, I think they’re missing the boat when it comes to events like the Breeders’ Cup.

There are so many betting opportunities on the Breeders’ Cup Weekend and the pools routinely produce huge payoffs that it’s worth a look for anyone with a little gamble in them. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that we have top-level horses competing from all over the planet. This is the best of the best, yet the bettors are going to naturally bet some more than others and bet down the top choices. This ends up allowing many quality horses that go off at higher odds than they normally see and produces overlays for those that can find them.

As many of you have learned by now, if my reputation hadn’t preceded me before you found this PredictionMachine.com column, I love underdogs. And if you think I’m that way in football, it’s even moreso in horse races where I look for a live longshot. The Breeders’ Cup is the best time to apply that handicapping style for the reason stated above.

Believe me, it’s not easy to find a live 20-1 shot and then have them win – and it takes patience to endure the inevitable losing streaks, but it can be quite profitable.  Since 1999, there have been 132 Breeders’ Cup races, I’ve hit 15 of them (only about 9%) but I’ve shown a 150% return on investment over that large sample because of horses like Cash Run (32-1) in 1999, Domedriver (26-1) and Volponi (43-1) in 2002, Wilko (28-1) in 2004, Miesque’s  Approval (24-1) in 2006, and More Than Real (13-1) in 2010 among others. And these are just my top choices (not scattered 1-2-3 selections where one happens to hit) and doesn’t include exacta, trifectas, etc. Now this isn’t being said to brag (OK, maybe just a little), but the fact is that you don’t need to hit a very high percentage to have success. Many times, it takes just one winner in a given year to show a profit, provided you’re playing the right way instead of taking all the favorites. In fact, longshots are so common in Breeders’ Cup races that a lot of public handicappers that pick all chalk can’t claim as many winners as I’ve had. It’s just a matter of finding the right long shots.

Let’s look at Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic as an example: Game On Dude is the 9-5 morning-line favorite and certainly worthy of that honor. He’s incredibly consistent (except when running in Dubai). He was the runner-up in last year’s Classic and has won four of five races this year on American soil (real or synthetic). Also, note that he almost won last year’s race at odds of 14-1, while the winner was Drosselmeyer, also a longshot as I detailed in a story on the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge handicapping contest in the Daily Racing Form (http://www.drf.com/news/breeders-cup-betting-challenge-champ-eyes-another-payday).

But as great as Game On Dude has been, is he a good bet at 9-5 against this high-quality field? I certainly don’t think so. And that’s exactly what I was talking about back in the third paragraph: we see overlays on a lot of quality horses that have a chance to pop at big prices.

It’s still early in the week as I write this so I haven’t made my final selections yet, but I’m considering #11 Mucho Macho Man and #12 To Honor and Serve. Mucho Macho Man has won three of his five starts this year, all against quality competition, and hasn’t finished out of the money in any of those races. To Honor and Serve won the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga two starts back (beating Mucho Macho man by a neck) before losing his last race as a favorite. Both are listed on the morning line at 8-1 and I believe can both outrun their odds.

In fact, in the 12-horse field, there are 5 horses in the 5-1 to 8-1 range and I’m pretty certain one of them is going to see their odds drift up for no other reason than the betting (as a whole) is ignoring them. Or it could be another horse like #6 Brilliant Speed, who is making the switch from turf to dirt, that could come up with a winning performance at 20-1.

So do yourself a favor and take a look at the Breeders’ Cup this weekend. There’s gold in them thar pools!

Ugly Dog Society (UPS) update: NFL home underdogs haven’t been as successful as they were at the start of the season. I believe one reason is that it appears oddsmakers have shaded some of those numbers lower since they were doing so well earlier, plus the public has shown more reluctance to pound road favorites after suffering so many losses. Still, home dogs are 22-17 ATS this year. This week the options are the Bengals +3.5 vs. the Broncos, Colts +2.5 vs. the Dolphins, Browns +3.5 vs. the Ravens, Titans +3.5 vs. the Bears and the Jaguars +3.5 vs. the Lions. Meanwhile, double-digit underdogs are back to profitability at 5-4 ATS after the lowly Jaguars covered the 16-point spread in a 24-15 loss to the Packers last Sunday. There are two big dogs in the NFL this weekend with the Cardinals +10 vs. those same Packers and the Bills +10 vs. the Texans.

Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.

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