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THE PREAKNESS STAKES AT PIMLICO

On May 16, 2019, in Gambling Headlines, Sporting News, by Bobby Goodspeed

The 2019 Kentucky Derby was a mess.  Messy track, messy horses, messy jocks and messy finish. Controversial to say the least.  Articles are still being written about the Derby finish over a week after the event.  The Maximum Security camp is still sure that they won the race and were robbed of the victory. The Country House camp is counting their blessings and holding pat.

But the Triple Crown must go on and the second leg is set to run this weekend at Pimlico Race Course outside of Baltimore.  Funny thing is, neither Maximum Security nor Country House will be running in the 2019 Preakness Stakes.  In fact only four horses that participated in the Kentucky Derby this year will be running at Pimlico.

The Preakness is a mile and three sixteenths long race that falls between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in both time and the length of the race. The purse this year will be around $1,500,000, which is a lot of money.

Such is the importance of the Triple Crown races that NBCSports will air a total of 7 hours of coverage from Pimlico featuring stakes-rich race cards and culminating in the running of the 144th Preakness Stakes. Post time for the big race is set at 6:50 EST, preceded by all the pomp and circumstance relegated to such a dignified event.

Those in attendance at the race will be ‘dressed to the nines’, as they say. The lucky ones will have ‘paddock passes’ which will allow them to walk through the paddocks where the horses and kept and prepped for the races.  Walking among these magnificent creatures at rest and feeling the pent up energy all around them is one of the more unforgettable race day experiences for many, and to some, more fun than the race itself.

Of course, the favorites for the Preakness are the top horses remaining from the derby entrants.  Improbable ran strong in Louisville but was blocked for most of the way around the back stretch.  He is picked as the favorite at 5-2 to win at Pimlico as legendary trainer, and 2 time Triple Crown winner, Bob Baffert, will coach both horse and jockey to maximum effort to win the second leg of the 2019 Triple Crown.

Close behind comes another veteran from the Derby, War of Will, who was embroiled in the bumping controversy with Maximum Security.  The longer track should tell the tale for trainer Mark Casse and War of Will who is currently listed at 4-1.

This year at Pimlico they have a local favorite running in the Preakness by the name of Alwaysmining coming off of six straight wins at Laurel Park and going off at 8-1 with strong local support.

So, grab a Daily Racing Form, study up and place your wagers for the Preakness Stakes for 2019.

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UNEXPECTED RESULTS FROM THE NBA DRAFT LOTTERY

On May 15, 2019, in Sporting News, by Bobby Goodspeed

The Pelicans head coach went into the sequestered Hilton conference room just off Lake Michigan knowing that his New Orleans basketball team was about to win the number one spot in the 2019 NBA lottery and thereby receive the number one pick in the actual draft.

No one else did, but 64 year old Alvin Gentry was confident.

He wore a special Zegna silk tie with a history in NBA draft rooms going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers minority owner Jeff Cohen, who wore the tie both times the Cavs won the number one draft pick two years in a row back in 2013 & 2014.  Those picks yielded Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins.

But even with his magical tie, Gentry’s Pelicans only stood about a 6% chance of walking away with the number one pick.  Still, the coach was not worried.  As he took his seat in the Hilton conference room, Alvin Gentry pulled a piece of NBA logo paper to him and wrote in caps, “THIS IS OUR MOMENT”.

Brand new Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans David Griffin now has a pocketful of options to work with that he probably didn’t even dare dream about before the draft lottery.  The Pelicans could actually draft and hire Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson, who is considered to be one of the top draft picks coming available in recent years.

Now it has been widely reported that Williamson had visions of himself on the big stage in the ‘Big Apple’ playing for the New York Nets, whose chances at the number one pick were much higher than those of New Orleans. The glitter and glam of New York City and all the legendary teams to have come out of there is certainly attractive, but young Zion might just find out the he will end up much better off down in the ‘Big Easy’ rather than the ‘Big Apple’.

Three words to keep in mind Zion, Jambalaya, Etouffee and Gumbo!

As soon as the lottery results were announced, long suffering, die hard Pelican fans began to speculate on the wonders of having the new guy, Zion Williamson, teaming up with their All Star power forward Anthony Davis. However, Davis has already announced that he wants to be traded out of New Orleans and has made no secret that he would prefer to end up in Los Angeles with the Lakers.  Hope remains that he will reconsider staying in New Orleans if Williamson is coming to be his teammate for next season.

There is an expression down in New Orleans that goes, ‘Ya know, but ya neva know”.  New Orleans is a city full of all sorts of magic, so good things might be coming to the Pelicans at last.

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THE NBA FEARSOME FINAL FOUR

On May 14, 2019, in Gambling Headlines, Sporting News, by Bobby Goodspeed

James Harden and the Houston Rockets knew that they had a chance to beat the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA semi-finals this year, and they played like it, right up until the fourth quarter of game 6 on their own home court when super star Seth Curry took over in a whirlwind of flash and speed and accuracy the likes of which we have seldom seen before.

Curry curiously went scoreless for the entire first half leaving fans wondering if he was injured or ill.  He wasn’t, not at all.  After halftime Curry went on to score 10 points in the third quarter and then, with the conference championship on the line and a chance to eliminate, for the fourth time in 5 years, his arch rival Houston Rockets, Curry went into one of the most impressive runs ever witnessed on a basketball court by most of us mortals and scored 25 points in the fourth quarter to shut down Houston’s chances for yet another year.

So, the Golden State Warriors move on to meet the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA’s version of the Final Four for a seven game series to determine who will meet the winners of the matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors for the 2019 NBA Championship.

It took the Milwaukee Bucks just 5 games to eliminate the mighty Boston Celtics after being blown out on their own home court by the Celtics by a score of 112-90 in the first game of the series. Milwaukee is considered among the favorites in the tourney, even getting the nod from TV commentator, and former NBA great, Charles Barkley to win it all.

But first the Bucks will have to finish off the scary Toronto Raptors who took the Philadelphia 76ers to the full 7 games before defeating them on their home court.  The Bucks will be a bit more rested; the Raptors will have the edge still honed fine.  Look for this series to go down to the wire.

Out west, two of the best backcourt tandems in professional basketball, Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson for Golden State, and Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum of Portland, will take to the court at the Oracle as this best of seven series gets underway on Tuesday.

The Warriors will be without star forward Kevin Durant for at least the first games of the series with a calf injury. Look for Seth Curry to fill that void in style as he did against the Rockets of Houston. Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to believe that the Warriors will prevail in both the semi-finals, where they are at      -570 to Portland’s +435, and for the overall 2019 NBA Championship, where Golden State sits at -250 with Milwaukee at Even money.  The Toronto Raptors are at +500 and the dogs of the series are the Portland Trailblazers at +800.

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The sign outside the entrance to the Bethpage Black golf course sets the tone for the upcoming PGA Championship.  It says, “WARNING-The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers”. 

Fortunately, there will be an abundance of highly skilled golfers in attendance when competition tees off for the 2019 PGA Championship out on Long Island, New York on Thursday.  Bethpage Black was opened in 1936 and to this day still strikes a chord of fear in golfers of any skill level.  The legendary links hosted the US Open back in 2002, which was won by a young Tiger Woods, and then again in 2009 when Lucas Glover took home to coveted cup. This will be the first time that the PGA Championship will be held there.

As one of only four ‘major’ PGA tournaments, certain ‘credentials’ are required of the players just to qualify to participate.  First of all, all former PGA Champs are invited to play.  Then the past five Masters Champs, which include Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Danny Willet plus the past five U.S. Open Champs which brings in Dustin Johnson as well.

The list goes on a bit, but, suffice it to say that all the major contenders will be there with their best name brand outfits and ready to rumble.  Rumble because they all know that taking on this level of competition on the Bethpage Black course means taking their game to the highest possible level and staying consistent over the entire four day tournament, and being very lucky.

After his staggering victory at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods emerges as the odds on favorite to win the 2019 PGA Championship as well and bettors are already lining up to put down their wagers on the ‘Big Cat’ once again.  Woods has placed in the top 10 in each of the last three majors and has won previously on Bethpage Black.

So OK, Tiger Woods is a legitimate favorite to be the PGA Champ for the third time at 9-1.  However, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson as close behind at 10-1 and charging Rory McIlroy is at 12-1 with Rickie Fowler at 16-1. Justin Thomas was at 18-1 along with Jon Rahm, but Thomas has dropped out of the competition due to a wrist injury.

Such is the renewed faith in Tiger Woods that the same bettor who put down 85 dimes on Tiger at 14-1 to win at Augusta, and brought home a cool $1.19 million has wagered $100,000 of those winnings on Woods completing the 2019 Grand Slam with William Hill in Las Vegas. Will he hit it again?

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While college football and basketball are national passions, college baseball is just now coming into its own, and becoming an attractive wagering option for many bettors as well.  The level of sophistication and competition has risen in recent years to bring university level baseball into the national limelight at last.

The season for college baseball is out of line with regular season MLB. It is set up to accommodate life on campus and still allow time for the necessary academic class work. The season starts right after the Christmas holidays and runs through mid June when the annual College World Series is played in Omaha at Ameritrade Park.

As it works out, just about the same time that a team gets to the final weeks, and the most critical games of the year, it’s also time again for final exams. That’s quite a load to carry and something that the pros don’t have to worry about.  These kids are doing double duty for the glory of the university and yet Mark Emmert and the NCAA continue to hold on to their long outdated notion that paying student athletes with ruin the sport.

The student athletes who participate in baseball while still at university do so for love of the sport.  In addition to playing 3-4 games a week during the entire spring semester, they must also keep up with class work, home work, term papers and final exams.  It’s a pretty hectic 5 months.  Those who excel stand a chance at being drafted into the MLB, probably into the minor leagues at first, but their futures will still be looking pretty bright.

Baseball facilities at many universities have been revamped and rebuilt to modern standards and as many as 12,000 boisterous fans fill the stands for each home game.  Just as in college basketball, there is an excitement and spirit that exists at the university level that somehow does not always translate to the professional.

Today’s modern bookie might want to let his players know that there is another exciting sport happening right now and available for wagering, especially as we approach the conference tourneys and the World Series in June.

This applies especially to those of you who have a contending college baseball team in your area. If your local fans are passionate about football and basketball, chances are they will soon be feeling the same about college baseball as well.

The SEC Conference Tournament commences on Tuesday, May 21st and runs through the 26th, as always, in Hoover, Alabama.  The other conference tourneys take place around the country at this time as well.

Directly thereafter, on Friday, May 31 the NCAA Regional Tournaments begin around the country. The NCAA Super Regionals will take place between June 7 and 10. The sites of these games will be determined by the winners of round one of the Regionals.

The NCAA College World Series will take place starting on June 15th at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska with the finals on June 26th.

College baseball is fun, exciting and could possibly turn into a good money maker for the savvy bookie.

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