Welcome to ABR’s Pigskins and Ponies column, where winners play!
Horse racing is my means to an end, and I love the sport like no other, but I admit it, like most of you on a Sunday afternoon in the fall, it’s hard to pull me away from my couch ... and NFL RedZone.
I have a wanted sign in Vegas and am feared by fantasy football mavens nationwide, but when it comes to the college game, I choose to punt.
That’s where Bob Nastanovich comes in. He craves action and loves a good underdog as well as a cheap claiming horse with a big heart.
Let’s kick off the football, spring the horses from the gate and pad our bankrolls!
**Wednesday night lines from scoresandodds.com**
College Pigskins – by Bob Nastanovich
Last week, Washington ran the ball effectively and controlled Colorado. I still wonder why they mixed in so much mediocre pass plays, but Colorado does have a rushing defense problem. Louisiana-Lafayette, the pick, was engaged and cruised over Louisiana-Monroe. Against stable Wisconsin, Penn State seized the momentum after getting behind by 21. The Nittany Lions never gave it back and the 3-for-3 week was completed.
Last Week: 3-0 (1.000)
Bob’s Season Total: 19-23 (.452)
College Football – Week 15
Army +6 1/2 vs Navy (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
Army is better than usual this year and the Cadets have separated themselves from some weak opponents and have good wins over Temple and Wake Forest. They are susceptible to the blowout loss (see Notre Dame) but this should be a nail-biting classic. Navy, who lost at home last week to a much improved Temple team, can roll up points but the suspicion is that their form is tailing off. If you can get Army and a TD, that becomes an enticing move.
Pro Pigskins – by Joe Kristufek
It was another frustrating week. Of our five plays, only Green Bay covered against Houston. Miami came in hot against Baltimore, but the Ravens smothered that flame. Atlanta and Washington could have easily won/covered their games, but mistakes, bad breaks and key failures prohibited that potential success. In Chicago, it took the Bears too long to realize they could pass in the snow and I’m not sure Colin Kaepernick ever got off the bus, thus the total stayed under.
It’s been a tough season for many reasons, but at least one of my strongest opinions was also my best. Let’s harken back to our first column. 60/1 sounds pretty good right about now…
Oakland Raiders OVER 8 ½
On paper, the Raiders should be one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl (currently 60/1 – Sept. 1) but since they haven’t even made the playoffs in 13 years, that’s hard for short-sided NFL fans to fathom. They seriously have one of the best 52-man rosters in football, with young playmakers with upside on both sides of the ball, and a no-nonsense head coach who can teach them how to win.
Last Week: 1-4 (.20)
Joe’s Season Total: 16-29-3 (.356)
Pro Pigskins Week 14
Houston Texans + 5.5 at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
The Texans have lost three straight, but they really haven’t played that poorly, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Colts swing back off Monday night’s romp against a Jets team that has appeared to have mailed it in weeks early. As we like to say in horse racing, that race wasn’t as good as it looks. Houston will try to control the time of possession with a ground game that should prove productive. They can win outright, or at least keep it close.
Arizona Cardinals +1 at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
It’s been a tough year for Arizona, but they played with some desperation last Sunday and pulled out a must win against a solid Washington team. They need to get it done this week, and their veteran leadership should get help them get the job done against a Dolphins team whose win streak ended with a thud last week in Baltimore.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5 vs New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The way they’ve been playing, I’m surprised the Bucs aren’t favored by more. They’ve won four straight, including a home win over Seattle and a road victory at Kansas City. During that time span the defense has really stepped up, allowing an average of only 13.25 points per game. New Orleans has lost three of four, with their last two wins coming against the lowly Rams and 49ers.
Atlanta Falcons -6 at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Falcons had everything go against them last week and they were still in position to beat a tough Kansas City squad. They need this game desperately and will be double-focused against a Rams team that appears to be spiraling out of control. Even with the QB change to Jared Goff, the Rams can’t run or pass with any consistency, and the defense just doesn’t seem to be playing with the same fire.
Dallas Cowboys -3 at New York Giants (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
The Cowboys’ only loss of the year came at home against the Giants. They would obviously love to avenge that defeat while clinching the division title at the same time. The loss of Jason Pierre-Paul will damage the New York pass rush this week and moving forward.
Ponies – Races of the Week
Oh, what could have been. Both of Joe’s fast closing Claiming Crown longshots ran huge last Saturday, only to fall just short. At 17-1, Divine Warrior was beaten 1 ¼ lengths in the Canterbury and at 23-1 Flashy Chelsey missed by just a neck in the Emerald. Even though they didn’t win, the place and show prices were extremely profitable.
Meanwhile in California, Bob’s pick Beach Patrol ran a very good race when runner-up in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar. However, Annals of Time, Beach Patrol's stablemate, proved best of the Chad Brown-trained battalion and impressively pulled away.
Joe Last Week: 2-0-1-1 - $12 wagered; $40.20 returned
Joe’s Season Total: 38-4-11-7 - $222 wagered; $199.90 returned
Bob Last Week: 1-0-1-0 = $6 wagered, $9.20 returned
Bob's Season Total: 13-2-2-3 - $78 wagered; $55.10 returned
Saturday, December 10
Gulfstream Park – Hallandale Beach, Florida
Race 2 – House Party Stakes, 6 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-old fillies
Joe’s Pick: #1 Yes I’ll Go
This speedy daughter of Yes It’s True ran off the screen in her career debut, earning an impressive speed figure in the process. Trainer Jorge Navarro is known for his work with sprinters; now let’s see if he can develop a young horse.
Race 3 –Hut Hut Stakes, 1 mile, dirt, 2-year-old fillies
Joe’s Pick: #2 Phone Chick
Trainer Ignacio Correas thought enough of this gal to unveil her at Saratoga. That didn’t go so well on paper, but the race did serve as a lesson-learning experience. She stormed home six weeks later to break her maiden at Keeneland and has trained forwardly since arriving in Florida.
Race 8 – Buffalo Man Stakes, 6 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-olds
Joe’s Pick: #9 Recruiting Ready
This colt is the real deal. In just four starts, he’s more than proven his talent and class. He gave eventual Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Classic Empire all he could handle in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs in July, and he has maintained that good form since. He’s well drawn outside off a string of sharp works and should prove tough to deny here.
Race 9 –Smooth Air Stakes, 1 mile, dirt, 2-year-olds
Joe’s Pick: #8 Capitaine
With rain in the forecast, his sharp maiden breaker in the mud could be a key past performance. Hammered down to heavy favoritism in the G2 Nashua at Aqueduct, he was compromised by a poor start and a speed-favoring track. He’s trained sharply since and is well drawn outside here.
Aqueduct – South Ozone Park, New York
Race 8 – Garland of Roses Stakes, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and older fillies and mares
Bob's Pick: #6 Paulassilverlining
Get back that winning feeling with the short priced favorite, Paulassilverlining, running over her favorite surface, the Big A's main track. There is plenty of speed to on the inside to tee up her closing bid and Jose Ortiz shouldn't have to do much more than give her a cue to roll. She takes her racing well and the $75,000 winner’s share is too much for breeder-owner Vince Scuderi to pass up.