Belle’s Best Bets: Coast-to-Coast Turf Picks, NFL Playoff Shootout

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

America’s Best Racing, Belle Premium American Vodka, and handicapper (and avid gambler) Monique Vág team up to provide horseplayers with their best bets of the weekend.

Vág will identify her top picks as well as at least one longshot play of the weekend, a nice opportunity to swing for the fences on a win bet or to take a shot with a show bet. She also will occasionally look for strong exacta plays for the weekend or try to spot a nice opportunity for other wagers.

Belle Premium American Vodka is the official vodka of America’s Best Racing. The American-made, American-owned vodka is distilled in Virginia, the birthplace of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in North America. The company’s mascot, Belle ‘n Tonic, broke her maiden at Laurel Park in Maryland last April. 

This Weekend’s Bets

Saturday, Jan. 12

Best Bet

Fair Grounds, Race 2, 1:58 p.m. ET

#6 Shakopee Town: She seems to be seconds faster than most of her opponents in this race, and the drop in class today is far too big to ignore. It looks like her connections are just trying to get her back into the win column today and luckily she meets a very weak field that she should be able to take advantage of. The price is short, but she looks like easy single in your exotic wagers.

Longshot Play

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 3:15 p.m. ET

#1 Beautiful Lover:  She will be making her racing debut along with many others, and luckily for this runner she draws the inside post in a 12-horse field. She’s been steadily posting workouts since July, and as a $475,000 yearling purchase, the pedigree is definitely there. Trainer Chad Brown has good numbers with first-time starters and runners making their turf debut. Hopefully she's a fair price at post time.

Best Bet

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:23 p.m. ET

#6 Lounge Act: She won nicely the last time she raced at this distance, and unfortunately just didn't seem ready to take the enormous jump up to try the graded stakes ranks in her following start last spring at Keeneland. Although she hasn’t raced in nine months, she has shown some really quick workout times in early December. She should be on the front end today and could definitely wire the field at a nice price.

Best Bet

Santa Anita Park, Race 4, 5:00 p.m. ET

#7 Hollywood Girl: For downhill turf sprints at the Great Race Place, I find horses that have experience over this course invaluable, but unfortunately no runners here have tried it yet. Drawing outside in these sprints is often favorable as the first turn comes up very quickly and horses can easily get boxed out early on. Pedigree-wise, she should take well to the sprinting distance, as well as to the turf.

Favorite Sports Pick of the Weekend

Saturday, Jan. 12

National Football League: Indianapolis Colts versus Kansas City Chiefs

PICK: Kansas City Chiefs first-half total Over 15.5 (-120): The Chiefs have been the highest scoring first-half team in the league, averaging 18.6 points, with that number even higher at home at 20.9. They come into this game with an extra week to prepare and were able to see what worked for Indianapolis versus the Houston Texans that got the Colts to this round. Despite how well the Colts defense has been versus the run this year, they have shown vulnerability in the passing game.

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