GILGAMBOA is clearly a very good horse for this category, and to be fair he ticks more boxes than our selection BURNING AMBITION. With that said, the latter has just turned seven, and he’s won his last five races in impressive style. The new kid on the block will need to be at his best again today, but the thing is he can only improve with experience.
RIVABODIVA is a strong stayer who’s a CD winner on soft ground. Lucinda Russell is wisely using a claimer to reduce the mares top weight, so the main concern has to be recent form. With regards to the trip LETEMGO ticks the right box, but he doesn’t have a 7 pound claimer today and on top of that he’s up another 4 pounds. If GREEN TIKKANA wins this on his h’capping debut i will feel like the trainer pulled the wool over our eyes. In any case, he’s got something to prove. We want to take a chance with bottom weight SORY, because he shapes like an out and out stayer and he’s receiving lots of pounds from the others.
KESSELRING was rated a decent 80 on the flat for Richard Hannon, so in theory he should be able to do better than on his hurdling debut. However, whether he’s a natural for this game remains to be seen, and he might lack a bit of scope. HIGH SPARROW ran really well to finish a close second in a point to point, and he followed up with a win on his bumper debut. The thing that stood out about both those races is he’s a strong stayer, so it’s a good thing seeing Joseph O’Brien go straight in at 2M4F. We fancy the son of Shantou to win on his hurdling debut!
Both of these clubs are performing under par, and neither have been in particularly good form. Gladbach lost back to back in the league against Leipzig (0-1) and Frankfurt (2-0), plus they lost their last four away games. As a consequence the team coached by Dieter Hecking have dropped to a mid table ninth, and even more worrying is the player situation. From what we understand Die Fohlen are expected to be without GK Yann Sommer, Oscar Wendt, Ibrahim Traore, Fabian Johnson, Julio Villaiba, Tobias Strobl and Lazlo Benes ! Stuttgart have ten points less on the board than their opponent. Nevertheless, that’s because their away form is terrible (2 points), but has host they managed 19 from 10 games. For the record, that’s 8 more than the visitors took on the road, and thinking back to the reverse match (lost 2-0) their really wasn’t much between these teams. VFB have a couple of absentees, although to be fair neither are key players. All in all, coach Tayfun Korkut can’t complain about absentees, and in that department they have the advantage on the visitors.
The Hawks were humbled on Friday night as they were drubbed by the revitalized Cavs 123-107 for their 2nd straight defeat. The Pistons lost for the first time since acquiring Blake Griffin on Friday, perhaps no so coincidentally against their trading partner the LA Clippers, 108-95. The Pistons won the first meeting between these teams quite easily and Griffin has provided a serious boost but the Hawks have improved their depth inside since then and John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon should provide some resistance against Griffin and Andre Drummond. The Hawks are respectable at home and the Pistons have lost some depth that could haunt them in this matchup.
The Kings had a tough time guarding Damian Lillard against the Blazers on Friday night as they allowed the Portland guard to drop 50 en route to a 118-100 blowout loss. The Timberwolves are coming off back to back losses to the Cavs and Bulls where it was clear they had given a little extra into both games, not to mention the game against Cleveland going into overtime and having 278 points scored between the 2 teams. As overworked as the players are under Thibodeau and with Houston on deck, we have to wonder if they have much left against a lottery team in the Kings. The Kings were blown out last game but it had more to do with Lillard than the Kings effort. The Wolves defense has really slipped recently and as they don't quite have the efficient outside shooters, the Kings could conceivably win this outright though we're more than happy to take the sizable head start.
The new look Cavs play for the first time against the Celtics tonight in a very interesting game to see if the trades will pay dividends to Cleveland. George Hill is expected to make his first start as a Cavalier alongside James, JR Smith, Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson as Kevin Love remains out with a broken hand. The Cavs' primary issue was their defense but with the main culprit in Isaiah Thomas gone, we believe the Cavs go back to a more defensive approach, after all, they are no longer loaded with shooters at every position. The Celtics are also a defensive minded team and have held opponents to 42.5% shooting or less in 4 of their last 6 games. It will of course take some time for the Cavs to fit their new pieces but effort on defense is something that can be implemented on day 1. The Cavs would also be wise to slow the game down as their offense hasn't had any time to gel with all the new players. Perhaps the Celtics will look to push the pace at times for this reason but all things considered, this number seems a bit high to us.
This Penn St squad was supposed to be their best team in quite some time but after a disappointing start, the Nittany Lions have started to find some traction winning 4 of their last 5 with an outright win over Ohio St being the catalyst. Illinois has been a disappointment but it appears the Illini have woken up in recent weeks perhaps buoyed by playing 3 of their last 4 games at home. Wins over Indiana and Rutgers were encouraging and close loss at Ohio St as well. Penn St is dangerous from the outside, shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc but this is an area the Illini defend well. The BetOnline early opener seemed about right but Pinnacle has opted to make the visitors a bit more of a hefty favorite. We see this as more or less 50/50 so the hosts with the head start looks like the bet for us!
This Wisconsin team is a far cry from the perennial Final Four squads under Bo Ryan as the Badgers enter this game at just 4-9 in Big Ten play and 11-15 overall. Still, they've endured a road-heavy schedule thus far and have shown to be decent at home. Michigan enters as the #20 seed and 8-5 in Big Ten play but the Wolverines are just 3-5 away from home. Both teams play extremely slow and the Badgers are still a top 100 team all things considered. We like the hosts to keep this in range.
Idaho St did well against Northern Colorado in a tough situation on Thursday in an 85-82 loss after back to back games at elevation. The Bengals have covered in 4 of their last 6 games and held opponents to 45.6% shooting over that span. North Dakota won the first meeting in convincing fashion 81-58 but this is a different Bengals team from a month ago and the Fighting Hawks have regressed since then. A Saturday night home game should bring more of an edge for the hosts and we believe their 3 pt shooting will be the difference!
I don't get the market on this one. Cleveland St is one of the worst teams in all of Division I and Illinois-Chicago is fighting for the Horizon League title. Flames have won 7 straight and 10 of their last 11 and just destroyed Youngstown St 100-75. They are relentless and love to push the pace, something the Vikings have struggled against. Flames are a perfect 6-0 ATS in conference play as a favorite and I'll gladly go against the market.
The ultra competitive Big 12 is up for grabs with all ten teams with legitimate chances to win the conference, except perhaps Iowa St. Texas Tech currently leads with an 8-3 record in conference play but 5 teams currently have 6 wins or more and are within striking distance. Kansas St sits at 6-5 and enjoy one of the better home court advantages in the nation but Texas Tech has proven to be capable travelers and have been on a roll winning their last 5. In what's expected to be a grind it out, physical, defensive game, rebounding will be key and this is an area the Red Raiders excel at while the Wildcats struggle.