Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 2 a.m.
The Kentucky Derby was an excruciating betting experience two weeks ago, just as predicted in the Weekend Wagers column.
My pick to win, Two Phil’s, was in prime position for most of the race but ended up getting edged by Mage. As if having to deal with a second-place wasn’t painful enough, my longshot horse to win, Disarm, also finished fourth.
The column still ended up profiting $20 on the race thanks to head-to-head matchup victory — another one was scratched — but that wasn’t enough to shake the disappointing feeling. Disappointment is an overall theme going into today’s second race of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
For the first time in 77 years, only one horse from the Derby is in the field — Mage. He’s an odds-on favorite in what’s now whittled down to a seven-horse field.
And I’m going to try to beat him again. To get the bets moving in this week’s column, let’s start with Blazing Sevens at +625 (risking $80 to win $500) at Circa Sports to win.
Trainer Chad Brown held the horse out of the Derby for a reason. He likes the fit better for Blazing Sevens in the Preakness, a strategy he’s used to success twice previously.
There was no great matchup to take advantage of with Blazing Sevens — Circa has him paired against Bob Baffert’s early-speed No. 1 horse National Treasure — but I’ll take Perform to beat Red Route One at +140 (risking $100 to win $140).
The two horses look pretty even on paper, certainly more than this line suggests. Red Route One has the more decorated trainer/jockey duo in Steve Asmussen and Joel Rosario, respectively, but that’s not enough to merit this price.
The Preakness won’t be a letdown at all from a personal perspective if Blazing Sevens, well, blazes, and Perform, um, performs.
Read on for six more bets in 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.
Golf (2-3, $440): Justin Thomas -110 head-to-head vs. Tyrell Hatton in third round of PGA Championship (William Hill/Caesars)
$220 to win $200
Thomas beat Hatton by five strokes at Oak Hill on the first day of the second major of the year. Hatton returned the favor and beat Thomas by five strokes on the second day. Neither big name is playing well — sitting 10 strokes behind co-leaders Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners and Viktor Hovland — but I rated Thomas a good bit ahead of Hatton on this course going into the tournament. This is a fallback on priors to make sure to include one of the biggest sporting events of the weekend in the column. Maybe Rory McIlroy or Patrick Cantlay can heat up and really give us a sweat after locking in futures on the two to win here the last few weeks. They’re five and six strokes back, respectively. Thomas came back from a big deficit — seven strokes after three rounds — to win the Wanamaker Trophy last year. Let’s see if he can heat up again, and if another world-class player can stage another come-from-behind win.
MLB (3-4, -$120): Baltimore Orioles +140 at Toronto Blue Jays (Wynn)
$150 to win $210
Baltimore starter Grayson Rodriguez came into the season as a virtual co-favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year award, but he’s fallen far from that perch recently with three straight rough outings. Toronto starter Alek Manoah has also been getting hit hard, though. There doesn’t seem to be as much concern with the third-year veteran, and sure, he has a longer track record of success at the major league level. But this still seems like way too high of a price with two struggling pitchers on the mound. Rodriguez might have better stuff than Manoah, and the Orioles have shown time and again that they shouldn’t be underestimated this season.
USFL (0-1, -$220): Birmingham Stallions -5 at Michigan Panthers (Circa)
$220 to win $200
The defending/lone USFL champions have fallen on hard times as Birmingham has lost three straight and been inundated with injuries. But dig a little deeper, and the only game where the Stallions were actually outplayed was three weeks ago in a 45-31 loss to the New Orleans Breakers. They’ve played progressively better since then but have been on the wrong end of some turnover and close-game luck. The Panthers have also lost three straight but they haven’t even been competitive during their slide. They’re not getting efficient play from either of their two former Mountain West quarterbacks, Carson Strong and Josh Love, whereas Birmingham has at least gotten consistent production from former Florida International signal caller Alex McGough. Birmingham may not look like last year’s team, but it’s not dead yet.
UFC (8-8, $310): Mackenzie Dern by submission +180 vs. Angela Hill at UFC Fight Night (Boyd Sports)
$200 to win $360
Once considered a near can’t-miss prospect, Dern is no longer regarded as highly after two losses in her last three fights. She’s now more commonly written off as a fighter with one transcendental skill — Brazilian jiu-jitsu — that she too often can’t implement. There’s some truth to that, but she’s going to have a lot of time in this five-round, main-event fight to force her opponent into a grappling match. If Hill can fend off such advances for 25 minutes, she’ll likely win a decision. But that seems rather unlikely. Hill is tough and solid but surviving an extended time with a submission artist of Dern’s caliber is harder than this line implies.
NBA (7-9, -$745): Denver Nuggets +5.5 at Los Angeles Lakers (BetMGM)
$220 to win $200
Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t get behind an 11-point swing on an NBA point spread from one in a series to the next, barring major injury. There’s no major injury here. The Nuggets closed a 5.5-point favorite in Game against the Lakers on Thursday night, and would have covered if not for a late missed free throw by Jamal Murray in a 108-103 victory. Denver has been the better team for the majority of the Western Conference playoffs, but a fascination with Los Angeles persists. The Lakers should be favored here, and the Nuggets do have the biggest home-court advantage in the league thanks to the elevation, but this move is too large. The Lakers shouldn’t be laying more than 3.5 points maximum.
NFL (0-0, $0): Baltimore Ravens -9 vs. Houston Texans (Caesars/William Hill)
$330 to win $300
Betting single games four months ahead of time might not be the best allocation of bankroll, but NFL Week 1 lines seem to continue to be one of the talks of the sports betting world. Last week, I took the biggest underdog on the board as part of a pair of plays. This week, I’m complementing it with the biggest favorite. Everything is in place for the Ravens to challenge for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, a spot they’ve earned before, especially if Todd Monken slots in seamlessly as offensive coordinator. The Texans will be nowhere their level, needing at least another year to build up their youthful core under new coach DeMeco Ryans. This line will in all likelihood close at higher than 10, so it’s worth jumping in before that happens.
Weekend betting column year to date: 38-49-1, $465
Weekend betting column all-time: 517-545-6, $18
Previous pending future wagers: Vegas Golden Knights at 15-to-1 to win the 2023 Stanley Cup ($200 to win $3,000); 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); Toronto Maple Leafs adjusted series price vs. Florida Panthers +250 ($100 to win $250); Alex Palou to win Indianapolis 500 at 11-to-1 ($100 to win $1,100); Jayson Tatum to win NBA Finals MVP at +240 ($200 to win $480); Rory McIlroy to win PGA Championship at 12-to-1 ($200 to win $2,400); Nolan Smith to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year at 20-to-1 ($100 to win $2,000); Kansas to win 2024 NCAA Tournament at 14-to-1 ($200 to win $2,800); Los Angeles Chargers -2.5 vs. Miami Dolphins in Week 1 ($330 to win $300); Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7 at Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 ($220 to win $200)
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