Belle’s Best Bets: Turf Plays at Three Tracks

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, June 15

Longshot Play

Belmont Park, Race 7, 4:45 p.m. ET

#1 Opry: He was no match against Grade 1 competition in his last start, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, after a troubled trip on the yielding turf course. He will be making his 2019 debut today and meets a pretty tough field. He does have a win already in the graded stakes ranks and his times match up well. Trainer Todd Pletcher is hitting a 31% rate off 90 or more days away from the track, and at very generous odds this runner is worthy of a closer look.

Longshot Play

Monmouth Park, Race 10, $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes, 5:00 p.m. ET

#6 Queen of Bermuda: She has struggled over her two recent starts, but I think a lot of that is due to the difficult competition she has been up against. Her ideal trip is coming from off the pace, and she draws a good post in a field with quite a bit of speed, enough that she could work out a perfect trip. Her turf breeding gives her a big edge in this field, and so does all the experience racing over the surface.

Best Bet

Churchill Downs, Race 1, 6:00 p.m. ET

#5 Declined: Love to see him coming back so quickly off of a runner-up finish where he tried his luck over the turf for the first time. His early speed and good post should help solidify an upfront position which bodes well in a large field. This also is his second start off a lengthy six-month layoff, so the time away and another effort over the turf look to be a formula for success.

Best Bet

Churchill Downs, Race 9, $150,000 Regret Stakes, 10:19 p.m. ET

#1 Winter Sunset: The last time she drew the rail post she used that to her advantage and won in gate-to-wire fashion. Saturday she tries her luck within the graded stakes races for the third straight time, and hopefully this time she is able to race over firm turf. Look for her to be close to the front end, likely working out a stalking trip. I like her chances to be positioned very well to win.

Favorite Sports Pick of the Weekend

Sunday, June 16

National Basketball Association: Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors (if necessary)

PICK: Raptors first half money line (odds TBD): Either the Raptors pull off the series victory and win the NBA championship in Game 6 Thursday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, or the Warriors force a Game 7 back at Scotiabank Arena. The latter seems like the more likely scenario.

Defensively, at home the Raptors have been exceptional early on in games holding opponents to only 52.8 first-half points. The Warriors defensively have allowed 57.4 first half points. The Raptors have taken advantage of their defense scoring 55 or more in seven of the most recent 10. Look for Toronto to get out to a lead at halftime.

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