Pigskins and Ponies: Super Bowl Picks and Gulfstream Stakes

Pop Culture

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.

Bob Nastanovich 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**

Pro Pigskins – by Joe Kristufek & Bob Nastanovich

It was a mixed bag for our handicappers in the conference championship games. They were both right about Atlanta covering the number against Green Bay, but Joe was 0-3 with his other three selections while Bob managed to split his other two.

Bob NFL Conference Championships: 2-1 (67%)

Bob Overall NFL Playoffs: 5-3 (62.5%)

Joe NFL Conference Championships: 1-3 (25%)

Joe Overall NFL Playoffs: 11-9 (55%)

Super Bowl LI

Sunday, Feb. 5

New England Patriots -3 vs Atlanta Falcons – 58, in Houston (6:30 p.m. ET)

Bob’s Pick: Falcons +3, + $134 and OVER 58

Obviously, both teams have excellent passing attacks. Statistically, the Patriots have a better defense and were third in the NFL against the run. However, the vigorous combo of Coleman and Freeman, the Falcons running backs, hold the game's key. With positive effect, the pair can force the Patriots to seal holes as opposed to minding the downfield skills of Jones and Sanu. If you're feeling brave, take the enhanced odds that a Falcons straight up win pays.

In addition to both offenses humming along nicely in recent conference championship games, this is the Super Bowl. Regardless of the competitive nature of the game, scoring points is making history. It does not matter if you're tied or down 31, everyone wants to score. In the case of these two excellent teams, scoring may happen both early and often and late and often. I can't see either defense overwhelming the opponent like the 2014 Seahawks did.

The Falcons' Matt Ryan (Wikimedia Commons)

Joe’s Pick: Falcons +3, +$134 and UNDER 58

I truly think the Atlanta Falcons are the better team and that New England is only favored because of their reputation, experience and the perceived “added motivation” of star QB Tom Brady.

Added motivation?

Come on. This is the Super Bowl. Every player on both sides of the ball will be inspired to play their absolute best, and on the top of that list is Falcons QB Matt Ryan. He will be super focused.

The Atlanta offense is loaded with weapons. The defense is peaking at the right time, and most importantly, they’re fast and capable of getting pressure on Brady.

Most experts are predicting a super high scoring game, and the public will fall in line. I actually favor the under. The Patriots will be intent on keeping the Falcons offense off the field by running the ball and succeeding in the short passing game, thus controlling the clock. Atlanta can pound the rock with the best of them, and their shots down field will be well-timed. Like a championship boxing match, I expect the two teams to feel each other out a bit in the first quarter. The offenses will then assert themselves.

Bob’s Prop Bets

Combined OVER 14.5 points in the 4th quarter

Difficult to envision a scenario where both offenses won't be firing away at beleaguered defenses in the final stanza.

Tom Brady will not be MVP

The future Hall of Famer is the deserved favorite. But, with brilliant skill performers scattered all over the field, it's hard to fathom why any one of them can't outshine the legend at 5/6 odds. Even if the Pats win, he might not get the prize.

Patriots WR Chris Hogan OVER 4.5 receptions

The preferred target of Brady these days will catch at least five balls. However, he may not exceed 60 receiving yards.

The Patriots' Julian Edelman (Wikimedia Commons)

Falcons RB Tevin Coleman OVER 39.5 yards rushing yards

I think that he's a live wire as his energy and quickness are impressive. Will also take a flyer on "The Tevinator" to win the MVP at long odds (currently 30-1)

Joe’s Prop Bets

Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu OVER 4.5 receptions

The Patriots best cover corner is Malcom Butler, and chances are he’ll be shadowing Falcons star WR Julio Jones, with double teams also likely. That opens up the field for Sanu, who has proven to be a clutch catcher in his own right.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman OVER 7.5 receptions

Edelman is Tom Brady’s security blanket and the Patriots short passing game will be on full display on Sunday.

Ponies – Races of the Week

Our horseplayers were dialed in two weekends ago.

Joe owned the Lecomte Stakes, nailing the winner Guest Suite and the $47.20 exacta with runner-up Untrapped.

Bob doped out Dixie Belle Stakes victress Chanel’s Legacy, and with Joe’s longshot pick My Sweet Stella finishing second, the duo gifted our readers a $99.40 exacta.

Joe Last Week: 6-2-2-0 - $36 wagered; $49.90 returned

Joe’s Season Total: 66-9-19-11 - $390 wagered; $355.20 returned.

Bob Last Week: 1-1-0-0 = $6 wagered, $21.80 returned

Bob's Season Total: 19-5-3-4 - $112 wagered; $101.90 returned.

Saturday, Feb. 4

Gulfstream Park – Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Race 4 – Kitten’s Joy Stakes (1 mile on turf, 3-year-olds)

Joe’s Pick: #7 Kitten’s Cat

It only seems right that a son of Kitten’s Joy would win this race. Turning the tables on Made You Look won’t be easy, but this guy is surely capable of doing just that. His win on Breeders’ Cup weekend was visually impressive, and I’m banking on a return to that form.

Race 5 – Swale Stakes (Grade 2, 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds)

Joe’s Pick: #6 Impressive Edge

Naturally talented, this sprint-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday is still learning his trade. He’s well drawn on the outside of a short field, seven furlongs should be right up his alley, and against more accomplished foes, the price should be right.

Classic Empire (Eclipse Sportswire)

Race 11 – Sweetest Chant Stakes (Grade 3, 1 mile on turf, 3-year-old fillies)

Joe’s Pick: #9 Fifty Five

This daughter of Get Stormy has improved with every start, and she’s even better than she looks on paper. She fired a bullet workout in preparation for this and is likely to fly slightly under the radar in what appears to be a very contentious race.

Race 12 – Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (Grade 2, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds)

Joe’s Pick: #3 Classic Empire

The consensus number one Kentucky Derby contender as the calendar turns to February, this talented and seasoned performer makes his much anticipated sophomore debut. In order for him to lose this race he’ll have to take a solid step backward, endure a very troubled trip, and/or one of his foes will have to run the best race of their young career.

Oaklawn Park – Hot Springs, Ark.

Race 9 – King Cotton Stakes (6 furlongs, 4-year-olds and older)

Bob's Pick: #8 Rockport Kat

Ivan Fallunovalot, an Oaklawn specialist who has sparkled in this particular race, will be sent off at prohibitive odds. The lightly-raced Rockport Kat can be very good on his best days which come when he's fresh. Morning work speaks volumes as does the current form of trainer Robertino Diodoro and jockey Ramon Vazquez. Rockport Kat's sire, Rockport Harbor, loved this surface and he might too.

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