Belle’s Best Bets: Fair Grounds Stakes, Big Ten Battle

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, Feb. 16

Longshot Play

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, Allowance Optional Claiming, 4:10 p.m. ET

#7 Finess Bere: She definitely needed a start last time after being out for nearly six months, and put forth a good effort despite a slow break. This looks like an ideal distance for her, and workout-wise she seems to be progressing nicely. Expect better numbers today for her second start off a lengthy layoff.

Best Bet

Fair Grounds, Race 9, Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap, 5:25 p.m. ET

#5 Lone Sailor: When considering a race that has some horses who have not raced for more than six months, it is important to back a runner that is sharp and in good current form. This horse takes a necessary drop out of the Breeders’ Cup Classic to face off against much easier. He draws a great post inside of his main rivals, and returns to a shorter distance where he has been more successful. When on his game, he is very tough to beat.

Best Bet

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, Dixie Belle Stakes, 5:38 p.m. ET

#5 Lady T N T: Her best effort came three starts back, and unfortunately her jump to try graded stakes in her subsequent start was too big. In her most recent start after the stakes attempt, she battled for the front end, got into a speed duel upfront, and was forced wide in deep stretch. Hopefully she has a much cleaner trip today and is able to secure the front end with her early speed.

Longshot Play

Fair Grounds, Race 10, Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap, 5:57 p.m. ET

#5 Big Changes: He takes a jump up in class today, but he has performed really well throughout the stakes ranks and fits in well with this group. He has won 8 of 16 tries over the turf and races his best over firm footing (which looks to be the forecast for Saturday). Reuniting with jockey Florent Geroux, who was on board for three straight victories, is definitely a positive and could help produce the upset at a nice price.

Favorite Sports Pick of the Weekend

Saturday, Feb. 16

NCAA Basketball: Maryland Terrapins @ Michigan Wolverines

PICK: Michigan spread (line TBD): With not much separating first and fifth place in the Big Ten, it is imperative Michigan takes care of business versus teams they should win against with a tough schedule coming up. Look for Michigan to rebound in a big way off a disappointing loss to a Penn State team that only has one win in Big Ten play. Back the Wolverines to push their home record to 16-0.

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