Your Hoops and Horses Selections for Feb. 19-20

Pop Culture

Welcome to America’s Best Racing’s Hoops and Horses column, where winners play!

Horse racing is Joe Kristufek’s means to an end, and he loves the sport like no other, but as a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder for eight years and a feared participant in fantasy hoops, Kristufek also has his finger on the pulse of the NBA.

From growing up with the Flintstones of Michigan State, running March Madness pools out of his hidden manila envelope in high school, to attending conference tournaments, Sweet 16s and Final Fours, college basketball runs in Derek Cooley’s blood.

Let’s sprint out on the fast break, spring the horses from the gate and pad our bankrolls!

**Thursday morning lines from**

College Hoops – by Derek Cooley

Unfortunately, we got off to a bit of a slow start last week.

Oklahoma and Texas ended up losing their respective games, but on a positive note, Michigan State easily covered the number against Indiana.

We have control of the rebound and it’s time to run the court!

Last week: 1-2

Season Total: 1-2 (.333)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

#11 Miami @ #5 North Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

North Carolina is coming off of a tough loss to the Duke Blue Devils on Wednesday. Without any real quality road wins for Miami, I just don't think this is the time for the ’Canes to go into the Dean Dome and scare the Tar Heels. Carolina Blue will take this one with ease.

#5 North Carolina - 82

#11 Miami – 68


By HangingCurve - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

#3 Oklahoma @ #11 West Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

A really tough week for Oklahoma so far, with losses at home to Kansas and at Texas Tech. It does not get ANY easier for the Sooners as they travel to Morgantown, W.V. to face Press Virginia. That’s what the Mountaineers like to be called, as their vicious full-court press has wreaked havoc on opponents this year. Good guard play is West Virginia’s weakness, and I think Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins have that nailed down to get the Sooners out of the slump.

#3 Oklahoma - 71  

#11 West Virginia - 67

#17 Purdue @ #22 Indiana (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

There are so many reasons to watch this game: it’s big for the B1G standings, it’s an in-state rivalry, the contrasting styles, the Assembly Hall atmosphere. This one should be really exciting. I feel as though Yogi Ferrell and IU play so well at home, I mean they are truly a different team at Assembly Hall. Purdue is so tough down low, though. Watching Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons do their “big-man thing” is great for college basketball. But, I think the athleticism of this IU team, at home especially, will win it out.

#22 Indiana - 79

#17 Purdue – 71

Ponies – by Joe Kristufek

Last Saturday was basically a wash.

Penwith got the job done in the Royal Delta Stakes and, in a short field, 3-1 was a generous price. Rafting ran a respectable second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and he has some room for growth on the Triple Crown trail. Smart Shopping (Suncoast Stakes) and Carve (Essex Handicap) earned the show dough in their respective races, but surprisingly War Correspondent failed to threaten in the Tampa Bay Stakes.

This week we focus on Louisiana Derby Preview Day from the Fair Grounds.

Last week: 5-1-1-2 ($2 WPS * $30 wagered * $28.20 returned)

Season Total: 5-1-1-2 ($2 WPS * $30 wagered * $28.20 returned = $5.64)

Saturday, Feb. 20

Fair Grounds – New Orleans, La.

Race 7 – Duncan F. Kenner Stakes

#6 Clearly Now (morning-line odds, 7-5)

Trainer Ron Faucheux has a knack with sprinters and, off of a recent local romp, he appears to have this veteran on the very top of his game. With a cozy post and speed to his inside, the trip should work to his advantage.

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Race 8 – Daisy Devine Stakes

#5 Faufiler (morning-line odds, 9-2)

This European import ran better than it looks at Belmont Park in her U.S. debut, and the race at Churchill Downs, run on a boggy course, is a complete toss out. She returns fresh for a top trainer off a series of solid workouts and should fire fresh.

Race 9 – Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2)

#1 Shaken (morning-line odds, 12-1)

A professional and visually impressive winner at first asking, this daughter of the red-hot sire Uncle Mo is surely bred to handle more ground. She posted a solid workout between starts and faces some vulnerable favorites. Half of her morning-line odds would be a fair offering.

Race 10 – Fair Grounds Handicap (G3)

#4 Pumpkin Rumble (morning-line odds, 12-1)

A sharp local turf winner two back at one mile, this veteran grass horse would return to finish a deceivingly good fourth going 1 ½ miles last out at Sam Houston in a race where the winner, Da Big Hoss, crushed the track record. The 1 1/8-mile race seemingly is the perfect distance for him, and the price should be right.

Race 11 – Veterans Ford Risen Star (G2)

#6 Gun Runner (morning line odds 6-1)

Four of my current Kentucky Derby Top 20, including probable Risen Star favorite Airoforce, are entered here and they all ran in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill in November. Gun Runner was fourth that day, but I think he’s primed for better. He’s trained up a storm locally and should offer a square price in this super salty prep.

Pro Hoops – by Joe Kristufek

The All-Star game props didn’t go our way (we will count that as one loss against the record), but Anthony Davis was knocking hard on the MVP door at 35-to-1. As predicted, the West has very little trouble covering the number.

Vacation is over. It’s time to get back to work and motivation, or lack thereof, will be a big factor.

Last week: 1-1

Season Total: 1-1 (.500)

Friday, Feb. 19

Toronto Raptors - 115

at Chicago Bulls - 95

Yes, I’m a Bulls fan, but they are an absolute mess. Their two best defenders (Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah) are out as is top bench scorer Nikola Mirotic. Taj Gibson is banged up. Their replacements can’t play defense and Derrick Rose is playing for, well, Derrick Rose. Toronto is on a roll, and the fact that Chicago has handled them so far this year adds extra motivation. The Bulls play Thursday night at Cleveland, while the Raptors lie in wait. This one could get ugly.

Orlando Magic - 102

vs. Dallas Mavericks - 97

Orlando is young and hungry and they have an outside chance to make the playoffs. They recently traded power forward Tobias Harris to Detroit for the veteran combination of power forward Ersan Ilyasova and point guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings is the key. He helps solidify the point guard position and brings more consistency than the talented, but youthful Elfrid Payton. The Mavericks are a bit of a mess. Chemistry is lacking and age is an issue. 

Washington Wizards - 105

vs. Detroit Pistons - 101

The Wizards were one of the league’s most disappointing teams in the first half. Injuries and underachieving players are to blame. They get a fresh start, and led by point guard John Wall, they do have some character on this squad. Following this week’s trade, Detroit will need to adjust their rotation slightly and there will be an adjustment period. They are good enough to make the playoffs and if health is on their side, they will.


By Keith Allison - Flickr: John Wall, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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