Saturday, May 6, 2023 | 2 a.m.
You can rest assured that every bet that appears in the Weekend Wagers column contains a numerical edge, or at least a perceived one, against the price posted at the chosen sports book. Just not necessarily this week.
After what feels like several consecutive losing years on the event, I’m ready to admit that the Kentucky Derby is pure gambling for me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t put several hours of work into handicapping horse racing’s biggest event for yet another year; just that I don’t know how much it matters.
Horse racing is not my forte — pun intended with Forte this year’s morning line favorite at 3-to-1 — but that’s not going to stop me from betting on it at least once a year. Betting on the Run for the Roses might be better in Las Vegas than anywhere with all the fixed-odds offerings, instead of the traditional parimutuel wagering, at several sports books.
Circa Sports particularly has been updating its future pool on horses to win the Kentucky Derby for months and has augmented it with several matchups ahead of today’s race. To kick off today’s Weekend Wagers, I’ll dip into those matchups for a couple bets.
Give me Tapit Trice at +130 (risking $100 to win $130) to finish better than Forte, and Two Phil’s at +130 (risking $100 to win $130) to beat Verifying. Forte is barely holding off the fellow Todd Pletcher-trained Tapit Trice as the favorite with the latter drawing more action as the race draws closer for a reason.
Tapit Trice has the biggest upside of any horse in the field, partly because he has the highest pedigree and sold for a staggering $1.3 million. Two Phil’s, on the other hand, has been the fastest horse racing today by some advanced metrics.
The grammatically-confused colt shouldn’t be this large of an underdog to anyone except perhaps Forte and Tapit Trice, especially not an early speed horse like Verifying who should tail off by the end of the 1 1/4th-mile race.
I’ll take Two Phil’s to win outright too at 14-to-1 (risking $75 to win $1,050) at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. And, finally, let’s mix in one longshot with Disarm at 30-to-1 ($35 to win $1,050) at Caesars/William Hill.
Disarm isn’t as decorated as the top-line contenders but he has a proven trainer (Steve Asmussen) and jockey (Joel Rosario) to go with strong practice reports. Maybe he surprises.
It’s an obligation to include the Kentucky Derby in a betting column running this weekend; I’m just not setting my expectations too high.
Read on for eight more bets in eight different sports for this week’s Weekend Wagers. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas at publication time with the sports book noted. Plays outside of the column will be linked and tracked in the record at the bottom of the page.
MLB (2-3, -$120): Washington Nationals +130 at Arizona Diamondbacks (Wynn)
$200 to win $260
I find myself betting on the Nationals on a near-daily basis, which, believe or not, has actually been a profitable venture. This team is not quite as bad as it was forecasted to be coming into the season and its surprise competitiveness should continue today at Chase Field. The Nationals’ MacKenzie Gore is a better starting pitcher than the Diamondbacks’ Tommy Henry to make this line too high. The Diamondbacks have an offensive advantage but it’s not all that large. The Nationals should threaten to steal another game, and maintain their status as one of the most profitable bets in the National League so far.
UFC (8-6, $828): Henry Cejudo -115 vs. Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288 (Circa Sports)
$230 to win $200
Two months ago, an all-time great champion returned from a three-year layoff to show he was still in the best in the world. Henry Cejudo is about to follow in the footsteps of confidant Jon Jones. The only reason the line sits this short is the time off, and there’s a lot of precedence that special fighters can navigate it and still find success. That’s not guaranteed, but time away is not enough to deter me from a line that would have been -200 or more in Cejudo’s heyday, before his short-lived retirement. Sterling is underrated overall and cashed for me twice in his pair of controversial wins over Petr Yan, but unless Cejudo has truly lost the Olympic wrestling chops that made him unstoppable in his first run, this is a step up in class.
NHL (4-5, -$230): Toronto Maple Leafs adjusted series price +250 vs. Florida Panthers (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
$100 to win $250
A mid-series bet on the Maple Leafs worked for the column two weeks ago. Now it’s time to really push our luck. Yes, Toronto is down 2-0 headed on the road to take on red-hot Florida but I’m still not convinced the Maple Leafs are out of the series. They’ve largely dominated the first two games but ran into spectacular goalkeeping performances by Sergei Bobrovsky. I’m expecting Bobrovsky to regress. He’s been mediocre for the last couple of years, not the type of goaltender a team would expect to ride in two straight series against the elite teams in the NHL. Toronto is not dead yet.
IndyCar (0-0, $0): Álex Palou to win the Indianapolis 500 at 11-to-1 (Caesars/William Hill)
$100 to win $1,100
Let’s celebrate the arrival of May by making a wager on perhaps the month’s landmark sporting event. The Indianapolis 500 isn’t until May 28, but this line won’t be around that long. The 26-year-old Spaniard might be the best driver on the circuit right now and he’s already shown he’s capable of performing his best on the biggest stage. Two years ago, in his sophomore IndyCar season, Palou had a heartbreaking second-place finish to Helio Castroneves. It’s been his mission ever since to get back into a winning position and finish the job in Indianapolis. With his Chip Ganassi Racing car looking extremely fast recently, this could be the year.
NBA (6-8, -$745): Jayson Tatum to win NBA Finals MVP at +240 (Caesars/William Hill)
$200 to win $480
Last week, I made a bet detailing why I thought the Celtics were far and away the best team left in the Eastern Conference. Well, the same pretty much applies to the whole NBA. The Celtics should be closing in on their first NBA title in 15 years a month from now, and the best way to bet on it right now is by backing Tatum to win MVP honors. The Celtics are 2-to-1 just to win the championship right now, but taking the extra 40 cents with Tatum is the smarter approach. If they do indeed prevail, it’s going to require Tatum being at his best. Stock seems down on the Celtics overall, but not for me. They’re the team to beat, and by extension, Tatum is the player to beat in the NBA Finals MVP market.
Golf (1-3, -$10): Rory McIlroy to win the PGA Championship at 12-to-1 (SuperBook)
$200 to win $2,400
This may seem like a strange time to place this wager coming a day after McIlroy imploded to kick himself off the top of the leaderboard at the Wells Fargo Championship. But the 34-year-old should get it together this weekend at arguably his best course, Quail Hollow in Charlotte, and erase this price from the betting board. Oak Hill, where the PGA is being held in two weeks, is also a great fit and familiar course to McIlroy. There’s been way too much talk about him never winning another major after he missed the cut at the Majors. Such chatter conveniently leaves out the fact that he was a historic Cameron Smith fourth-round away from prevailing in the major before that, last year’s Open Championship. McIlroy may still be the best golfer in the world when he’s at his best, making 12-to-1 too attractive of a price to pass up. I’ll feel comfortable going into the next major with positions on Patrick Cantlay and McIlroy in the Weekend Wagers.
NFL (0-1, -$100: Nolan Smith to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at 20-to-1 (Caesars/William Hill)
$100 to win $2,000
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner won this award a year ago, but that marked the first time since 2018 that an edge rusher didn’t prevail. The honor is heavily slanted towards players who can consistently pressure quarterbacks in the modern day NFL, and no one is stepping into a better situation this year than the former Georgia star. He’s surrounded by talent on the Eagles’ defense, so opposing offensive lines won’t be able to focus mostly on him. That may not be the case with 5-to-1 Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite Will Anderson, who figures to be a focal point from Day 1 on the Houston Texans’ defense. A couple other first-round edge rushers could loom large, including the Raiders’ Tyree Wilson and the Packers’ Luke Van Ness, but they’re both listed at 10-to-1. Smith shouldn’t be double the price.
College basketball (4-4, $475): Kansas to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament at 14-to-1 (BetFred at Virgin Hotels)
$200 to win $2,800
Full disclosure: I’m biased as a Kansas graduate, but the Jayhawks are now poised to be the preseason No. 1 team in the nation next year after securing a commitment from former Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson. Most sports books responded by dropping Kansas’ odds to 10- or 12-to-1, but BetFred is for some reason holding out at the higher price. That’s a mistake, especially with the Jayhawks still benefitting from a couple more open scholarships for another impact transfer or blue-chip recruit. Yes, it’s a long time to wait before the games start late this year, but when they do, Kansas might be something like 8-to-1. Picking off a 14-to-1 to start Weekend Wagers’ college basketball portfolio ahead of time feels like a wise choice.
Weekend betting column year to date: 33-41-1, $343
Weekend betting column all-time: 512-538-6, $18,469.95
Previous pending future wagers: Vegas Golden Knights at 15-to-1 to win the 2023 Stanley Cup ($200 to win $3,000); Giannis Antetokounmpo to win NBA MVP at 7-to-1 ($300 to win $2,100); Minnesota Timberwolves to win Western Conference at 15-to-1 ($100 to win $1,500); Minnesota Timberwolves to win NBA Finals at 33-to-1 ($75 to win $2,475); Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals at 7-to-1 ($300 to win $2,100); Texas to win the College Football Playoff at 30-to-1 ($100 to win $3,000); Tanner Mordecai to win the Heisman Trophy at 200-to-1 ($30 to win $6,000); Atlanta Braves at 5-to-1 to win the National League ($300 to win $1,500; Atlanta Braves at 10-to-1 to win the World Series ($300 to win $3,000); Buffalo Bills at 9-to-1 to win Super Bowl 58 ($300 to win $2,700); Manchester City to win English Premier League at +125 ($200 to win $250); New Orleans Breakers to win USFL title at 7-to-1 ($200 to win $1,400); Patrick Cantlay to win PGA Championship at 24-to-1 ($100 to win $2,400); Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference at -160 ($480 to win $300); LSU to win the College Football Playoff at 20-to-1 ($150 to win $3,000); Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl 58 at 9-to-1 ($300 to win $2,700)
Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or