Best Bets: Pegasus World Cup Pick, Prime-Time NBA Tilt

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

America’s Best Racing 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.

This Weekend’s Bets

Saturday, Jan. 25

Longshot Play

Gulfstream Park, Race 7, $150,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes, 2:31 p.m. ET

#2 Zenden: He’s made two starts for the Todd Pletcher barn. In the first, he unleashed a really big effort, posting a career best Equibase Speed Figure of 107 after a pace duel upfront. In his most recent, his chances were compromised after a bump at the start. I expect this colt to be put into play early and perhaps try and control things on the front end. Speed-wise, he’s quick enough to go with any in here, and being lightly raced and moving to the Pletcher barn could prove to be a recipe for success.

Best Bet

Aqueduct, Race 8, $100,000 Jazil Stakes, 3:55 p.m. ET

#1 Mr. Buff: He will likely be sent to the front end and control the fractions based on him drawing the rail post and on his preferred racing style. Historically, he’s been very difficult to pass when put into play early and left alone to rate well on the lead. This longer mile and an eighth distance has been his preferred trip, and I expect a huge effort from this gelding who looms as the one to beat as long as he can fend off the rival directly to his outside – 2019 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston – in deep stretch.

Best Bet

Gulfstream Park, Race 12, $3,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes presented by Runhappy, 5:34 p.m. ET

#10 Mucho Gusto: He’s shown some very steady improvement from each race and draws a great post position to leave the gate with some urgency and work out a perfect stalking trip. He’s been at his best racing distances a little bit longer than a mile and gets the luxury of having 2019 Eclipse Award winner and America's Best Racing Fan Choice Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr. on board for the first time. Expect a short price at post, but I think based on what we’ve seen lately, he might be the one to beat.

Longshot Play

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes, 6:30 p.m. EST

#3 Flagstaff: He was no match for Omaha Beach two starts back, but rebounded after losing that race in a big way by working out a perfect stalking trip to take a listed stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard last fall. His most recent workout shows us how much speed this gelding could really flaunt if necessary. It’s a small field for this graded stakes event, but a competitive one. I’m hoping for a stalking effort similar to his most recent.

Favorite Sports Pick of the Weekend

Saturday, Jan. 25

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers @ Philadelphia 76ers

PICK: Los Angeles Lakers (spread: odds TBD):  The 76ers host the Lakers Saturday night. The 76ers have struggled to put up points without Joel Embiid in the lineup, averaging only 100.7, but have played well defensively, holding opponents to only 101.7 over their last three.

With Embiid still sidelined and yet to participate in full-contact practice, he’s questionable for Saturday. Given how efficient the Lakers are in scoring right now, Los Angeles is definitely the play.

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