Week 1 lines … Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

DISCLAIMER: These odds are for informational and entertainment purposes only.

These odds are not a reflection of the oddsmaker’s prediction for the game or his belief of what the final margin of victory will be. They are merely designed to create two-way confidence.

Thursday, August 30
La Mirada at La Habra -6
Schurr at Buena Park -21
Covina at La Puente -6
Alhambra at La Canada -14
San Marino at Eagle Rock -6

Friday, August 31
Arroyo -17 at Temple City
Azusa at San Dimas -21
Bishop Amat -7 at Chino Hills
South Pasadena at San Gabriel -11
Claremont at Glendora -10
Diamond Ranch -14 at El Rancho
Garey -4 at Ganesha, 7:00pm
Keppel at Workman -8
Loyola -10 at West Covina
Lutheran -3 at Damien, 7:00pm
Monrovia -6 1/2 at Ayala, 7:00pm
Mountain View -3 at Bassett
Northview -13 1/2 at Gladstone
Pomona at Chino -3
Rowland at Wilson -1
South El Monte -4 at Nogales
South Hills at Bonita -3
Arcadia at St. Francis -28
Blair vs. Marshall -1
Bosco Tech at Gabrielino -7
Glendale -7 at La Salle
Maranatha -3 at Don Lugo
Muir at Alemany -24
California at Montebello -2
Mater Dei -21 at St. Paul
Whittier Christian -7 vs. Cantwell-Sacred Heart


Draw your own conclusions: BISHOP AMAT, the horse, pops and stops at Del Mar …

Aram’s take: Bishop Amat, the horse, is owned by McClanahan, Helton and Lee. We all know who McClanahan is. But do the other two have Amat connections? Anyway, I can’t stop laughing about all this. Not because the horse did so poorly, but because of what’s coming next on the blogs.


Four ideas for NFL season totals …

With just over a month to go before the start of another NFL season, some bettors are scrambling to get their future bets locked in.

At this point, the lines are very stale. They’ve been bet up or down for the entire summer, and depending on what you’re thinking, a lot of the value has been lost. But hope is not lost. There are still positions worth having and below you’ll find four ideas that I (still) like.

Before we get into the actual ideas, let’s first quickly review that in ANY over/under situation we always shade toward the UNDER. If you’re betting UNDER, you need SOMETHING to happen to lose your money. Think of it as putting the burden of truth on the over. OK, let’s get to it.

Miami Dolphins UNDER 7.5 wins
— The Dolphins finished the season with a rush last year, but not enough of one to cost us our under 8 wins bet. They won six of their last nine games after starting 0-7. We’re going right back to the well against Miami this season. Simply put, the Dolphins did absolutely NOTHING to get better in the offseason. In fact, the organization invited all the makings of a scenario in which the team will actually get worse. The offense lost its best player in receiver Brandon Marshall. The team drafted QB Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M, and not only do we not like him at the NFL level, we’re actually hoping he’s pressed into action sooner than later for our bet’s sake. But forget the fact that the Dolphins didn’t get better in the offseason for a second and concentrate on the fact that the rest of the AFC East did. The Bills are improved. The Pats upgraded their defense via the draft, and the offense doesn’t need any help. The Jets added Tim Tebow and remain formidable. When you don’t get better and your competition does, it’s not a pretty scenario.

Pittsburgh Steelers UNDER 10 wins — Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I don’t like the news at all on Ben Roethlisberger at all. A slight rotator cuff tear and a still balky ankle is just the first warning sign for Big Ben. The Steelers are already thin with RB Rashard Mendenhall likely to miss the first six games of the season due to a knee injury and defensive starters James Harrison and Casey Hampton also sporting injuries and currently on the PUP list. The problem with the Steelers is that their schedule simply does not allow for any margin of error. With the season wins total set at 10, the Steelers need to win 11 games to beat you. Is that going to happen with key players either hurt or hurting and the schedule asking them to face the NFC East and AFC West? Every team in the NFC East outside of the Giants got better this offseason, and the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs. The AFC West is no easy task with literally every team in that division capable of beating the Steelers. When a team limps into the season, it’s inviting trouble. Especially when the schedule is this difficult. The defense is aging, the offensive line is shaky at best and several key players are limited by injury. We’ll take our chances saying this team won’t get to 10 for a push or 11 to beat us. By the way, has Mike Wallace signed yet?

New York Giants UNDER 9.5 wins
— We all know that the Giants were simply a team that got hot at the right time last season. They were not dominant by any means. They didn’t tower over the competition on any level. They were pointspread underdogs in three of four postseason games. And now their final reward for winning the Super Bowl is playing a Super Bowl champion schedule. Last season, the Giants won nine games. This season, they’re being asked to win one more game against a schedule that’s even more difficult. When you consider that five of New York’s regular-season wins last year were by four points or less, you can quickly see that this is a team with little margin for error. That’s bad news when the schedule includes playoff rematches against the Falcons, Packers and Niners. We can easily see ALL THREE of those teams getting revenge. Then you thrown in our belief that the rest of the NFC East is markedly improved and you see that winning 10 games is going to be an awfully tall task. The Giants still do key things well, i.e. rush the passer and throw the ball well themselves. But the run game is no great shakes and Victor Cruz won’t be sneaking up on anyone.

Baltimore Ravens UNDER 10 wins
— Talk about an aging team. Specifically, we’re referring to the Ravens defense, which saw veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed age another year and will already be without Terrell Suggs until November or December. And when Suggs returns, it will be as a situational pass rusher. Not good. We’ve never been a fan of the Ravens’ style. Too much has to go right for things to actually go right for this team. The offense simply doesn’t have the explosiveness needed to make any game easy. That puts immense pressure on a defense that we feel won’t be able to answer the bell for the first time in a while. The Ravens play a very difficult schedule, drawing the NFC East and the AFC West this season. Thrown in the rugged AFC North and nothing will come easy. Asking this team to win 11 games (to beat us) under the current set of circumstances is simply too much.


Week 0 lines … Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

These pointspreads are for entertainment purposes only.

Some games featuring local teams vs. non-local teams will not have spreads. In rare instances in which enough is known about the non-local team, there will be a spread for that game.

Week 0
Thursday, Aug. 23
Bonita (-4) vs. San Dimas (at Citrus Coll.)
Friday, Aug. 24
Servite (-24) at Bishop Amat
St. Paul (-8 1/2) at La Mirada
Wilson at Bosco Tech (-10)
Alemany (-35) at Pasadena
Muir at Upland (-38)
Rio Hondo Prep at Arcadia (-7)
Temple City at La Salle (-13 1/2)
Alhambra (-17) at Mountain View
West Covina (-30) vs. Covina (at Covina District Stadium)
Arroyo at Los Altos (-3)
Rowland at Nogales (-6)
Ayala (-10) at Diamond Bar
Baldwin Park at El Monte (-21)
Bassett (-14) at Keppel
Diamond Ranch (-1) vs. Chino (at Ganesha)
Duarte (-28) at Marshall

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT


Ranking the Top 5 Derby preps of 2012 ..

I dunno. Here are my thoughts on the major Derby preps and what to make of them.

1. Florida Derby: Winner Take Charge Indy just saw his chances take a hit with Bodemeister’s win. You can toss this horse with no regrets. He isn’t gonna get a dream front-running trip in Kentucky like he did in Hallendale. And even if he does, Hansen and Bodemeister will have something to say about it at the quarter pole. That brings us to Union Rags. Love hearing pundits say it’s foolish to look at Union Rags’ trip and finish in the Florida Derby and think he’s a good play in the Derby. Idiots. Union Rags got a nice lesson in the kind of uncomfortable trip a horse can get and still was closing ground in the stretch while nobody else in the race was doing the same. With a better trip, a big if in the Derby, this horse should be picking up the pieces very nicely while others will be looking for the proverbial place to lay down. My top choice.

2. Wood Memorial: I couldn’t tell whether Alpha hung or if he and Gemologist were simply booking to the finish line. I like both horses, regardless, going to Kentucky. Love their styles. Have no doubts about their ability to get 1 1/4 miles. Overall, I thought the Wood field was suspect, but these two put in such a nice stretch run that I think they’re poised for big shots in Kentucky.

3. Santa Anita Derby — I like that I’ll Have Another won on what should’ve been his bounce race. So does that mean he bounces in Kentucky instead of Arcadia? I don’t think so. I still can’t find an excuse for Creative Cause’s second-place performance other than that some sheet interpreters expected him to regress in the race and he may have done just that. But everything was set up for him and he couldn’t out-finish I’ll Have Another late. Blinkers go back on for the Derby, which makes me wonder why the hell trainer Mike Harrington would ever experiment with taking them off in the first place. Oh yeah, that’s right, a jockey told him to do so. Here’s the best tip at the track: Don’t listen to jockeys. In fact, don’t listen to anyone. The SA Derby was not the most impressive field, after I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause. The field simply stunk. SA Derby winners are working on a terrible streak of stiffing in Kentucky. Some of that has to do with the fact that nobody quite knew what kind of surface Santa Anita had up until the recent switch back to dirt. Both I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause fit, and I still think Creative Cause is a very legit horse. Remember, he was flattered by Bodemeister’s romp in the Arkansas Derby.

4. Blue Grass Stakes: Obviously, you wonder about the track surface at Keeneland and the one at Churchill being vastly different. So many pundits are chucking Dullahan simply because of that. I thought the Blue Grass had a deceptively good field, so I like the win and the way Dullahan did it. Hansen, well, I guess the distance and the running style are going to be a problem. Hansen is yet another reason Bodemeister is up against it in Kentucky. In theory, these two hook up going into the turn and are looking for a place to lay down in the final sixteenth. In theory.

5. Arkansas Derby: Impressive win by Bodemeister over what was a horrible field. This is a very talented horse whose style is not going to win in Kentucky. Just not gonna happen. What anyone with half a brain should be hoping for is people see the 105 Beyer and a presumably good sheet number and make this horse the favorite. But, the public seems to be sharper than doing such things these days.

Daddy’s Derby Top 5

1. Union Rags — Loss in Fla. Derby takes some luster off (and improves price).
2. Creative Cause — Could be the best value in the Derby field (hoping for 10-1).
3. I’ll Have Another — Gotta ask is this horse peaking or has he peaked?
4. Alpha — Come with that same run in Kentucky and he’ll be in the picture.
5. Gemologist — Does he bounce off big NY effort?


Santa Anita Derby post position draw announced … a special guest will be leading second choice I’ll Have Another to the gate …

In order for Creative Cause to further stamp himself as the West Coast’s best chance in next month’s Kentucky Derby, the 3-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway will have to overcome the rail in Saturday’s 75th Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

Drawing post position No. 1 for the 1 1/8 miles trip on Wednesday morning didn’t stop Santa Anita morning-line oddsmaker Jon White from installing Creative Cause as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10 Triple Crown hopefuls. I’ll Have Another was made the second choice at 5-2 and will start post position No. 4.

“I thought we drew exceptionally,” I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We were hoping for somewhere in the middle, so that’s ideal. We’re just pumped. The horse is doing great and everything is going great.”

In terms of performances to date, this year’s Santa Anita Derby looks like a two-horse race between Creative Cause and I’ll Have Another. The other eight runners all have upside in their own right, but would need to show far better than what’s been seen so far.

Longview Drive is the perfect example of that. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained son of Pulpit is listed at 12-1 and has shown flashes in recent performances that he may be good enough to pull off the upset. It also helps that jockey Russell Baze flew in from the Bay Area on Wednesday morning to work Longview Drive 4 furlongs at Hollywood Park. The final time of the work was 49.1 seconds, but Longview Drive powered home the final two furlongs in 23.3.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert usually has one of the favorites in the Santa Anita Derby, but not this year. Instead, Baffert will try and take a spread approach by starting three longshots. Baffert will start Liaison (8-1), Paynter (12-1) and Blueskiesnrainbows (20-1) in hopes of his seventh Santa Anita Derby win.

If Creative Cause can overcome his rail draw, the rest of the field may be running for second. Creative Cause enters off a close win in the San Felipe Stakes on Mar. 10, which saw him race greenly in the stretch before pulling away late from the talented Baffert runner Bodemeister. Earlier in his career, he ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Hansen and Union Rags, who are arguably the current top-two choices for the Kentucky Derby.

But as racing fans saw last weekend in Florida when heavily favored Union Rags got a poor trip in the Florida Derby and wound up second as the big favorite, anything is possible when you’re boxed in. And that just might be what kind of trip is awaiting Creative Cause on Saturday if he can’t flee the rail before it’s too late.

“It looked like with Union Rags that they were kind of herding him a little bit and trying to keep him in there and that definitely could happen to my horse also,” Creative Cause’s trainer Mike Harrington said. “Going into the Kentucky Derby, the horse is going to have to handle adversity. Maybe this is a good time for him to get started.”

A big factor in Creative Cause’s favor that may help him avoid a bad trip is the presence of jockey Joel Rosario in the irons. Rosario, Santa Anita’s leading rider, has been nearly flawless no matter the style of horse he’s been on at the meet and that could help Creative Cause avoid a bad trip altogether.

The same can’t quite be said for I’ll Have Another’s jockey Mario Gutierrez, who at 23 is showing signs of becoming one of the top riders on the circuit, but doesn’t have the same big-race experience of other riders in the race. That doesn’t really matter much to O’Neill, though.

“For a young kid, he’s an iced-veins kind of kid,” O’Neill said. “He’s a real humble, talented rider. The nice thing, too, is that we know we don’t have four or five other connections fighting for him.”

Another factor in I’ll Have Another’s favor is that lead the pony taking him to the gate on Saturday will be none other than former O’Neill California champion horse Lava Man.

“He can give him some last-minute pointers to chill, relax, breathe and just save your energy until the last quarter mile,” O’Neill said of Lava Man’s role on Saturday.

The Santa Anita Derby will go as the sixth of 11 races on Saturday. First post is noon.

Aram’s take:
I like Creative Cause quite a bit, but I hate the price. Nonetheless, perhaps a Creative Cause-Longview Drive exacta box is in order.


The Guy has Santa Anita on the Verge of something big or disaster …

The first in a long line of ambitious changes being bandied about by new Santa Anita Park CEO Mark Verge will take place Friday when the Arcadia track re-institutes its “Free Fridays” promotion.

Starting this Friday and on every Friday for the rest of meet, all fans will be given free grandstand admission and the price for hot dogs, sodas and beers will be cut to $2. And that won’t be the end of it if Verge, who was just named CEO on March 16, has his way.

“We’ve lost our way and we have to treat our customers better,” said Verge, who prefers to be referred to as “the guy” as opposed to CEO. “It’s going to change. We’ve been telling the customers from start to finish that it’s going to change and that’s what we’re going to work on.”

Fans will get in for free on Friday, but they still will have to pay $5 to park. That’s something Verge said he hopes to have eliminated within the next couple of weeks, if not every day of the racing week, then at least for some of them. Santa Anita’s meet will close on April 22.

“Yeah, they’re still paying five bucks to park, but they’re getting into the grandstand for free,” Verge said. “Like I said, we have to build on it.”

If Verge’s track record of business success is any indicator, Santa Anita is in good hands with the 44-year-old Pacific Palisades resident at the controls.

Verge is best known as being the owner of Westside Rentals, a popular online real estate and rental listings service. The company now is run by his wife Lani. In addition to Westside Rentals, Verge estimated he has an ownership stake in more than a dozen businesses, ranging from hotels to several popular downtown L.A. bars.

But Santa Anita has become Verge’s focus, and it also has gone from being a hangout for Verge during his teen-age years to the biggest challenge of his professional life due to the track’s declining attendance and betting numbers, which are part of an ongoing industry-wide slowdown.

Verge started coming to the Arcadia track in high school with childhood friend Doug O’Neill, now one of the top trainers on the local circuit. Verge’s love of the sport has led him to own several racehorses O’Neill trains. Verge and O’Neill attended St. Monica High School in their hometown of Santa Monica.

Santa Anita’s previous CEO, Greg Avioli, lasted just 11 months on the job before resigning earlier this month, according to a statement issued by Stronach Group, which is the parent company of Santa Anita. Avioli, the former president and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., will have his resignation go into effect April 1.

Stronach Group was formed after shareholders of MI Developments voted to approve a deal transferring the racetrack and gambling properties of the company to Stronach in exchange for Stronach giving up control of MI Developments.

MI Developments came about after the bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment, which then owned Santa Anita among several racetrack properties nationwide.

Verge declined to comment on what his salary package will be or just how much of a share he was given in Stronach Group, but he did admit it was more than he expected.

His job now is to solve all of Santa Anita’s ailments, which are a microcosm of the industry’s broader struggles as it falls further behind the mainstream sports world and fights to regain its status as one of the top gambling outlets.

“We’re down,” Verge said. “We’re below women’s soccer or men’s soccer and a lot of other sports. We need to get on that front page again.”

Verge, who comes off more like actor Vince Vaughn than a stuffy CEO, just might be “The Guy” to bridge the gap between racing’s aging fan base and a younger generation that has shunned the sport because of the abundance of other sports, entertainment and gambling options at their disposal.

Just how, exactly, he plans to do that is hard to nail down as Verge’s theories tend to be as frenzied as his thoughts. When asked for specific plans, Verge’s ideas ranged from nonspecific ways to improved hospitality to a day at the track in which comedian actor Tim Conway is given a lifetime pass while his son Tim Conway Jr. gets only a one-time, $2 betting voucher.

“I just thought of that today,” Verge said of the Conway promotion.

Beside bringing back free Fridays, another immediate implementation of the Verge era is putting a sign on the parking spot of track announcer Trevor Denman.

“He’s our voice, he’s our star, he’s our guy,” Verge said of Denman. “We don’t have many stars who can talk here. He’s the one.”


Santa Anita brings back FREE Fridays for remainder of the meet …

That’s right, from now until the current meeting is over, Santa Anita will be offering free grandstand admission on Fridays, AKA something the track should be doing EVERY DAY of the racing week in the first place.

Enjoy …


HBO cancels ‘Luck’ after third horse dies during production … or the show just sucked …

HBO announced today that it has canceled it’s horse racing-based drama series ‘Luck’ after a third horse died during production.

Let me be the first to say I’m not buying it. My bet is that this was the excuse HBO execs needed to get rid of this piece of garbage.

First off, let me say that I’m never happy to see anybody lose their job. Unfortunately, the show being canceled will put some people out of work. I could care less about Dustin Hoffman being out of work, but the production crew and those types have to be taking this hard.

I’m also sad to see writer and producer David Milch lose this gig because that means pools on the Southern California circuit will probably get smaller. Eh, maybe not.

Anyway, the bottom line is that ‘Luck’ simply sucked. The show was getting downright laughable and unwatchable. The only thing more painful than watching the guys on HRTV ask Gary Stevens the same retarded questions about being a jockey in 300 different ways is watching Gary Stevens play himself in Luck.

But the problems didn’t end there. From the word go, Luck was obviously not what track execs and the powers that be in the sport of horse racing had hoped for. This was no feel-good series. It was all about the many seedy sides of the racetrack lifestyle. ‘

This was definitely not a show that would bring more fans to the track. If anything, it would turn them away.

Not only that, the plot NEVER got off the ground. If anybody can still explain Ace Bernstein to me, I’m all ears. Was he a gangster? A business man? A horse owner? A horse bettor?

His character was poorly developed.

Then there’s the simultaneous plots. In this past week’s episode, one of the degenerates links up with a poker dealer at a local casino and they end up going at it in the parking lot of the casino in his car.

First off, the actress playing the dealer was so good looking that the character wasn’t believable. And if there ever was a dealer so good looking, she certainly wouldn’t end up getting busy in a yellow 1984 Camaro with some degenerate.

The only redeeming part of the show was Turo Escalante, played by John Ortiz. That character was interesting and always worth paying attention. But even that took a turn this week when he befriended some kid whose uncle had ditched him.

Someday, people in the television and film industry will realize that the world that is horse racing rarely translates to the big screen. That’s why ‘Let it Ride’ still remains the undisputed No. 1!

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT


A tourney lesson learned in Vegas proves very valuable at home …

Two years ago, I decided to do what all American sports fans with an affinity for having some action on a game should do.

I went to Las Vegas for March Madness.

Consider it a pilgrimage. There’s no better place to be, not even the actual games, than Vegas for this made-for-gambling event. Of course, if you actually want to be able to sit down while watching any of the games, then maybe Vegas in March isn’t for you.

It was during this trip that I actually learned an important sports betting technique and it came from simple observation.

My journey started on a Wednesday, the day before the 2010 tourney began. I left the SGV for Nevada and arrived at the Bellagio by early afternoon. After checking in and dropping my luggage in my room, I headed straight to the sports book.

There’s simply nothing like a sports book. I’m sure most of you have been in one, but it never gets old and only continues to get better due to technology. There are now high-definition big screens in some books, but those aren’t the big draw; the odds board is.

Team names and numbers and odds and totals and point spreads all in lights spread across huge wall space. You can literally blow hours just staring up at the odds boards … so I did.

I came to Vegas for that trip armed with ample cash and a hankering to bet a postseason tournament featuring teams that I had seen next to nothing of. In exchange for having the best postseason of any sport, college basketball has sacrificed its regular season, which is by far the most worthless and meaningless of any sport.

So there I was, doing what countless thousands will do this very week, staring up at an odds board that featured teams I knew very little about. How the heck would I find anything to bet? The usual suspects, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, et al, were heavy first-round favorites. The rest of it was gibberish.

After sitting in a recliner for a good two hours and alternating between watching the board and watching the people line up and make their bets, I decided it was time to do the other main thing I had come to Vegas for — eat.

What happened in the next 45 minutes determined the positive financial outcome of the trip and equipped me with a mental approach that I will forever apply to the tourney. This year especially. Oh yeah, the beef chow mein at “Noodles” inside Bellagio was pretty damn epic, too.

It’s in that restaurant where I put together everything I’d just seen a little while earlier in the sports book. All these guys lining up to get down were pretty much suckers. I kinda doubted there was one legit bettor in the group. Instead, they were just like me — just another guy in town with a head of currency cabbage in his pocket ready to plunk it down on the spectacle that is the tournament.

Most of these guys knew nothing about the other 61 or so teams in the tourney not named Kentucky, Duke or UNC, either. They were there more for action than to win. My strategy now became real clear. I made my way back to the book, waited in line and upon arriving at the window bet EVERY underdog in all 16 of Thursday’s first-round games.

The following morning I awoke, turned on the TV in my room and ordered corned-beef hash and eggs from Bellagio’s room service. When the guy taking the order told me “We make our corned-beef hash right here on the premises, Mr. Toleegrand,” I knew it was going to be a good day. And it was. The underdogs went 12-4 against the Vegas number.

Betting all the underdogs blindly thist today, or any Thursday for that matter, does not ensure you’ll reap the kind of profits I did. Heck, you might even lose money. By no means am I trying to tell you that in 2010 I solved the riddle that is Vegas and sports betting. What I am trying to tell you is that if you adopt the thinking behind what led me to blindly bet the ‘dogs and apply it to most any sporting event in which the public is heavily involved from a gambling perspective, then over the long haul you are likely to cash more winners than losers.

As for this year’s tournament. Using the methodology I just described and taking it a step further, I will be looking to bet against the teams that are fresh in everyone’s minds because of the strong performances they had last week. This will mean betting on teams that I’ve never actually watched before. In the first round, I like Davidson +7.5 points over Louisville, LIU-Brooklyn +20 over Michigan St., Norfolk St. +22 over Missouri and St. Bonaventure +7 over Florida St.

For those of you filling out brackets, might I suggest to take a more wise-guy approach this year. The elite teams are not as talented as years past. The gap between them and the mid-majors is closer than any time I can recall in recent history, and that’s saying something considering both Butler and Virginia Commonwealth reached the Final Four last season.

Just remember, the masses come out of hibernation to bet the tournament. The masses aren’t interested in betting on the Murray States or Wichita States of the world. They like the name teams no matter how down they might be this season. If I’m right, and who knows whether that’s a good or bad bet at this point, this tournament should be one for ages … for the wise guys especially.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT