Belle's Best Bets: Key Longshots at Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn Park

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, March 9

Best Bet

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $100,000 Challenger Stakes, 3:45 p.m. ET

#1 Flameaway: It has been a while since he has found the win column but that is largely due to racing against some very solid graded stakes competition. Last time out was his first effort in nearly six months where he weakened late after breaking to the front end. Hopefully he is sharper second start after a lengthy layoff, and the drop in class gets him back to his winning ways.

Best Bet

Aqueduct, Race 9, $150,000 Stymie Stakes, 4:37 p.m. ET

#8 Vino Rosso: It has been almost seven months since his last race, but he takes an enormous drop in class today and that should make things a little bit easier after taking so much time off. He draws the outside post, but that also shouldn’t hinder his chances as he likes to race a little bit off the pace. He looms as the one to beat.

Longshot Play

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 11, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, 5:25 p.m. ET

#1 Admire: This is a very wide-open field with a lot of horses lacking racing starts or experience going long. Last time out this runner raced a little wide, but didn’t have anything left for a stretch bid. In his maiden-breaking win he had a quick start out of the gate and won it on the front end. Hopefully he takes advantage of the inside post and can work out a ground-saving rail trip at a very generous price.

Longshot Play

Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $200,000 Honeybee Stakes, 6:04 p.m. ET

#7 Raintree Starlet: She has put forth three very solid efforts in a row, and timing-wise she stands out through her sprinting efforts. She takes a noticeable jump in class and faces off against much tougher competition, however pending a good break she should be on or near the front. The price is generous for a filly who has found the winner’s circle three times out of four efforts and has flaunted some great speed.

Sports Pick of the Weekend

Sunday, March 10

NBA: Toronto Raptors @ Miami Heat

PICK: First half game total UNDER (line TBD): The Raptors and Heat have gotten out to very slow starts ranking 29th and 26th over their most recent three games in first half points. Both teams have top 10 defenses in opponent points per game as well, so points overall should be tough to come by especially early on.

In their most recent meeting on Dec. 28, it was Toronto who came out victorious 106-104 on the road, despite the Raptors being held to 44 first half points. Look for points to be difficult to come by, especially early on.

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