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Baroness Mone’s Grand National Favorite in £202M PPE Medpro Fraud Storm

A racehorse owned by the UK’s most controversial couple may be pulled from England’s famous Grand National steeplechase, despite being one of the favorites for the race.

Michelle Mone, Doug Barrowman, Monbeg Genius, PPE Medpro, Grand National, fraud
Baroness Michelle Mone, left, with her husband, Doug Barrowman, may be the UK’s most hated couple. But what does that mean for their racehorse, Monbeg Genius, one of the favorites for the Grand National? (Image: BBC News)

Monbeg Genius is owned by Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband, Doug Barrowman, and is priced by bookmakers at 20/1 to win, making it the third favorite.

But the couple is at the center of a media storm. Mone and Barrowman are currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency, the UK’s version of the FBI, over alleged links to PPE Medpro. That company won government contracts worth £202 million (US$253 million) to produce PPE equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic.

PPE Medpro Scandal

Mone, a Scottish former model who founded the lingerie company Ultimo in 1996, was made a “life peer” in September 2015 for her services to business. This allowed her to sit in the House of Lords, the UK’s upper house, and call herself Baroness Mone of Mayfair.

PPE Medpro was contracted to supply facemasks and surgical gowns without competitive tenders under COVID-19 emergency rules that waived regular procedures.

In January 2022, it emerged that Mone used her government position to “aggressively” recommend Medpro for the contract five days before the company had been incorporated.

Much of the supplied equipment fell below the required standard, and the UK government has initiated proceedings to recoup £122 million (US$153 million) from the company.

Despite the couple’s repeated denials of involvement with PPE Medpro, The Guardian reported in November 2022 that an offshore trust received £29 million from the company via a series of transactions involving Barrowman. Mone and her children were the beneficiaries of the trust.

In late January, it was reported that £75 million worth (US$94 million) of assets controlled by the couple had been “frozen or restrained” by a court order obtained by Crown prosecutors.

Wedding Present

Meanwhile, the British Horseracing Authority is investigating whether Monbeg Genius is one of those frozen assets. Mone purchased the eight-year-old gelding in November 2020 as a wedding present for her husband.

The BHA is aware of reports regarding a court order in relation to the assets of Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman,” a British Horseracing Authority spokesperson said in a statement. “We are in contact with the relevant individuals to understand what implications, if any, there are for their involvement with racing.”

Should Monbeg Genius be free to run, as has been suggested by The Daily Mirror, it would be bad optics for the BHA.

The Grand National is a national institution and the only horse racing event with which the general public engages every year. For bookmakers, it’s huge because it captures the “one-bet-a-year” demographic – those who choose to place a bet. After all, they see it as a harmless tradition.

The race comes with a £500K (US$627K) prize for the winning horse’s owner. Should Monbeg Genius run and come through at 20/1, he may just be the most unpopular winner in the race’s 185-year history.

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Atlanta Braves Begin Playoffs as Betting Favorite to Win 2023 World Series

The Atlanta Braves are the betting favorite at +310 odds to win the 2023 World Series with the MLB playoffs beginning today.

Ronald Acuna Braves
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald  Acuña Jr. celebrates a home run against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Image: Getty)

The Houston Astros won the 2022 World Series, and they began the season as the consensus favorite to repeat at +650 odds. There has not been a repeat champion in MLB in 23 years since New York Yankees won three-straight titles between 1998 and 2000.

2023 MLB PLAYOFF TEAM WORLD SERIES ODDS PRESEASON ODDS
Atlanta Braves +310 +750
LA Dodgers +400 +850
Houston Astros +450 +650
Tampa Bay Rays +1000 +1900
Baltimore Orioles +700 +7000
Texas Rangers +1600 +4500
Philadelphia Phillies +1300 +1800
Minnesota Twins +2000 +3500
Milwaukee Brewers +1700 +3500
Toronto Blue Jays +1600 +1200
Arizona Diamondbacks +3000 +18000
Miami Marlins +3500 +8000

The Astros (+650), Braves (+750), Yankees (+750), Los Angeles Dodgers (+850), New York Mets (+950), and San Diego Padres (+950) were the top six favorites to win the World Series at the end of Spring Training.

Three of those early betting favorites — Yankees, Mets, Padres — failed to qualify for the playoffs and they had among the highest-paid payrolls in baseball this season.

The Yankees went off the rails during one of their worst losing streaks in 28 years, and the Mets gutted their team and dealt pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the trade deadline.

Braves Hope to Avoid Another Early Exit

The Braves advanced to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons under manager Brian Snitker, but they won the World Series only once in 2021.

The Braves won 101 games last season, but were eliminated in the NLDS by the Philadelphia Phillies in four games. It marked the third time since 2018 that the Braves were knocked out of the postseason in the NLDS. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Dodgers defeated the Braves in the NLCS and denied them a trip to the World Series.

In the 2021 playoffs, the Braves ran the table with an 11-5 record and defeated the Astros in the World Series to win their first championship since 1995.

The Braves seek a fifth championship. They have been a popular pick the win the World Series for most of the season.

The Braves ended Spring Training at +750 odds to win the World Series as the second cofavorite on DraftKings’ futures board with the Yankees.

The Braves passed the 100-win mark in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 20 years. They won 104 games this season and surpassed last year’s total of 101 wins.

With 104 wins, the Braves tied a franchise mark for second-most wins in team history. The 1993 squad won 104 games but were eliminated in the NLCS. The 1998 Braves won 106 games, yet lost in the NLCS that year.

This year’s Braves had identical home and road records at 52-29, and they are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the best away record this season.

The Braves are the #1 seed in the National League, and have a bye. They will meet the winner of the NL Wild Card round between the #5 Miami Marlins and #4 Philadelphia Phillies.

Hotlanta’s Big 3: Acuña, Olson, and Strider

Right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. posted an MVP season with 41 home runs and 106 RBI. The speedster led the major with 73 stolen bases. He also slashed at .337/.416/.596.

First baseman Matt Olson was an ironman who played in every game this season. He was the Home Run King and led the majors with 54 home runs and 139 RBIs. Olson finished the season with a slashline of .283/.389/.604.

Designated hitter Marcell Ozuna bashed 40 home runs and drove in 100 RBI, and second baseman Ozzie Albies also contributed 33 home runs and 109 RBI.

The Braves got most of their tun production from Olson, Acuña, Albies, and Ozuna. All four players drove in 100-plus runs this season. Third baseman Austin Riley just missed the century mark with 97 RBI, but he also smacked 37 home runs. Their top five big bats combined for 151 home runs, or almost half of the team’s final tally of 307 long balls this season.

On the mound, ace Spencer Strider posted a 20-5 record with a 3.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 32 starts. He led the majors with 20 victories and 281 strikeouts. Strider anchors a dinged-up rotation with starters Max Fried and Charlie Morton both nursing injuries.

Set-up man AJ Minter and closer Raisel Iglesias are a dangerous combo late in the game for Snitker. Iglesias saved 33 games and has a 2.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Minter has 21 holds and 10 saves with a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

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Joey Chestnut Big Favorite for Hot Dog Eating Contest, Little Appetite for Underdogs

Joey Chestnut, 39, is the Tom Brady of competitive eating, and that’s why bettors are heavily backing the 15-time Mustard Yellow Belt winner to down the most hot dogs during tomorrow’s Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on New York’s Coney Island.

Joey Chestnut hot dog eating contest
Joey Chestnut chows down his 63rd hot dog during the 2022 Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2022. Chestnut is the heavy betting favorite to win his eighth consecutive Independence Day hot dog contest. (Image: Getty)

Chestnut won the 10-minute competition last year after managing to chow down 63 hot dogs and buns. Though a far cry from his world record of 76 dogs and buns that he stuffed his face with during the 2021 event, Chestnut still won last year’s July 4 competitive eating spectacle by 20 hot dogs over his nearest competitor.

Chestnut has won the previous seven Nathan’s hot dog eating competitions, and 15 of the past 16 events. His lone defeat came in 2015 when Matt Stonie beat him 62 to 60 hot dogs.

Little Appetite for Underdogs

Nathan’s has been holding its iconic hot dog eating contest on Coney Island during the July 4 Independence Day holiday since 1979. The format was a 12-minute showdown when Takeru Kobayashi won his six consecutive titles from 2001 through 2006, with 53 dogs being his best performance.

Chestnut won in 2007 and has been top dog of the competitive eating world since. Chestnut isn’t only good at watering down hot dogs and buns but a myriad of other food.

Chestnut holds 55 world records across 55 disciplines, according to Major League Eating, the preeminent organization that conducts competitive eating contests. A few of his notable world records include eating 53 Taco Bell beef soft tacos in 10 minutes, 182 chicken wings in a half hour, and 103 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes.

Chestnut’s feats have made him an almost sure-bet for tomorrow. Oddsmakers in New Jersey and other states where gaming regulators have signed off on allowing books to take action on the hot dog contest report there’s been little appetite for the underdogs.

As a result, BetMGM in New Jersey has Chestnut at -5000 to devour the most frankfurters. A $100 winning bet on those odds would net just $2.

Geoffrey Esper has the next shortest odds of winning the Nathan’s title at +1200. The same $100 bet would net $1,200 should the underdog pull of what would be one of the more unlikely upsets in recent sports history.

A more popular bet is wagering on how many dogs Chestnut will get down during the 10 minutes. BetMGM has Chestnut’s over/under at 73.5 hot dogs, with the under at -120 and over at -105.

Nutrition Facts

The Nathan’s hot dog contest uses the company’s standard dog, which has 160 calories, 12 grams of fat (five grams of saturated fat), and 480 milligrams of sodium. The bun adds another 130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 180 mg of sodium.

Assuming Chestnut gets 73 or so dogs down, he’ll consume roughly 20,000 calories, more than 1,000 grams of fat, including 450 grams of saturated fat, and more than 50,000 grams of sodium.

The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration generally encourages adults to consume about 2,000 calories per day, with some fluctuation based on age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.

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Los Angeles Clippers a Favorite to Add James Harden in a Trade

The Philadelphia 76ers and guard James Harden are headed for a divorce. The Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are among the betting favorites to land Harden in a trade from the 76ers, with the Clippers at -250 odds and the Knicks at +650.

James Harden
Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden, seen here bringing the ball up the court at Wells Fargo Arena, is the subject of offseason trade rumors to the Los Angeles Clippers. (Image: Getty)

Harden turns 34-years old in August. He averaged 21 points, 10.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game last season with the 76ers. He scaled back his scoring and led the league in assists while he took on the role of playmaker who set up is teammates. Although Harden only averaged seven 3-point attempts per game this season, he knocked down 38.5% of his 3-pointers, which was the second-best percentage of his career and his best clip in a decade.

Several teams are in the running for Harden’s services according to a prop bet from DraftKings. The Clippers are the outright favorite to secure Harden in a trade at -250 odds. The 76ers are +380 odds to retain Harden for the start of the season, but they could still potentially deal him later in the season.

The Knicks are third on the betting board at +650 odds to add Harden in a trade, followed by the Miami Heat at +800, Dallas Mavericks (+1200), Rockets (++1600), Los Angeles Lakers (+2000), Phoenix Suns (+2500), New Orleans Pelicans (+4000), Minnesota Timberwolves (+4000), Milwaukee Bucks (+5000), Portland Trail Blazers (+5000), and Oklahoma City Thunder (+5000).

Quickie Divorce Between the 76ers and Harden

The 76ers (54-28) secured the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, but had another disappointing postseason exit when they were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. The team parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers, and hired Nick Nurse.

Free agency officially started on Friday, but all signs last weekend suggested that Harden would explore free agency and sign with another team instead of opting in for a final year of his contract. The Houston Rockets, one of Harden’s former teams, emerged as betting favorites to add Harden in free agency.

Earlier this week, The Athletic reported that Harden would not explore free agency and he would exercise a player option for the 2023-24 season worth $35.6 million. The 76ers said they would explore trade options and field offers for Harden, and Harden indicated that he’d prefer to join the Clippers.

When oddsmakers opened the NBA futures markets for next season in early June, the 76ers were +1300 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA championship. The 76ers are currently +1500 odds amidst all the Harden drama.

The Beard Goes to Hollywood: Clippers -250

The Athletic floated a Harden trade scenario to the Clippers in a recent article. The 76ers would send Harden and forward Tobias Harris to the Clippers in exchange for guard Paul George, sixth man Norman Powell, and forward Marcus Morris.

The Clippers have been soft shopping George in the media over the last two weeks. Several rumors suggested the Clippers would trade George to the Knicks, but the local media in the Big Apple quickly dispelled those rumors. However, in the last 24 hours, a swap for Harden and George has been gaining momentum.

Harden Returns to NYC: Knicks +650

The Knicks are often mentioned in high-profile trade rumors, but they seldom come to fruition like the ubiquitous Damian Lillard trade rumor that won’t die down.

During the 2023 playoffs, multiple talking heads were calling for the Knicks to trade forward Julius Randle. When the postseason ended, rumors surfaced that the Knicks were looking at trading Randle to the Minnesota Timberwolves for big man Karl-Anthony Towns or sending Randle to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for forward Brandon Ingram.

Shortly after the 76ers fired Rivers, airwaves were filled with trade chatter involving the Knicks and center Joel Embiid.

Harden forced a trade out from the Brooklyn Nets in 2022, but could he return to Gotham to play for the Knicks? Fans in the tri-state area have mixed feelings about Harden returning to New York City. If the Knicks work out a trade with the 76ers, then Embiid is the preferred target and not Harden.

Any trade package for Harden would entail the Knicks dealing swingman RJ Barrett, sixth man Josh Hart, backup point guard Immanuel Quickly and a first-round draft pick.

South Beach Harden: Heat +800

The Miami Heat secured the #8 playoff seed through the play-in tournament, but then got hot in the playoffs and ran the table to win the Eastern Conference title. They ran out of gas in the NBA Finals, but lacked the fire power to keep up with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the Denver Nuggets.

The Heat have had the hots for Bradley Beal for a couple of seasons, but they were unable to work out a trade. The Washington Wizards dealt Beal to the Phoenix Suns in an unexpected trade, which sent ripples through the NBA. The Suns dealt point guard Chris Paul to the Wizards in the Beal trade, but the Wizards quickly flipped Paul to the Golden State Warriors.

In the meantime, the Heat shifted their focus on adding Damian Lillard in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. Earlier this week, the Trail Blazers shot down the Heat’s best trade offer, but the Heat are not going to give up so easily.

Although the Lillard trade talks cooled down, but the Heat could make a pitch for Harden in a deal that includes forward Caleb Martin, a pair of first-round picks, and either point guard Kyle Lowry or shooting guard Tyler Herro.

The Heat need help in their backcourt. They already lost guards Gabe Vincent and Max Strus in free agency, and traded Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the last 24 hours.

Rip City Harden: Trail Blazers +5000

The Portland Trail Blazers won one NBA championship during the 1976-77 season, when they were led by a bearded hippie named Bill Walton. The Trail Blazers have not won a title in 46 years, despite a pair of NBA Finals appearances in the early 1990s. Could another bearded NBA star finally lead the Trail Blazers back to the promised land?

The Trail Blazers stated their intentions to build a championship squad around Damian Lillard. They did not trade the #3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft despite numerous offers from teams seeking to move up in the draft. They retained their lottery pick and selected guard Scoot Henderson instead.

If the 76ers trade Harden to the Pacific Northwest, then the Trail Blazers can form a Lillard/Harden backcourt. If that happens, the Trail Blazers would have to send recently-drafted Henderson and either one of their top up-and-coming guards Anfernee Simons or Shaedon Sharpe to the 76ers.

However, on Saturday morning, Shams Charania reported that Lillard officially requested a trade and that the Heat and 76ers are leading candidates to land the seven-time NBA All-Star. The 76ers and Trail Blazers are currently discussing a swap for Harden and Lillard.

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Road to the Kentucky Derby: Forte Remains Solid Favorite as Field Solidifies

We’re now four weeks away from the Kentucky Derby, and with the final three major prep races occurring Saturday, we now have a fairly clear picture of who will be running for the roses on May 6.

Tapit Trice
Tapit Trice, left, runs past Verifying down the stretch of Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, KY on Saturday. The win gave Tapit Trice 100 points toward qualifying for next month’s Kentucky Derby. (Image: Keeneland/Twitter)

Despite exciting wins by a pair of favorites, Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass Stakes and Practical Move in the Santa Anita Derby, neither of them looked as impressive enough to bump Forte from the mantle of presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite. (The other Derby prep, the Wood Memorial, featured 59-1 shot Lord Miles edging favorite Hit King for the upset win.)

Honestly, it was going to take a lot for that even to be considered. Assuming he stays healthy, Forte will likely be a strong betting choice as the horses head to the starting gate at Churchill Downs.

All the Todd Pletcher-trained colt has done to earn that is win five straight races. Not only have they been graded stakes wins, but that streak includes four Grade 1 wins. The last came last weekend in the Florida Derby in stirring fashion as Forte rallied from fifth place and well outside in stretch to score the victory.

Pletcher will actually come into Louisville with three contenders. Besides Forte, he also trains Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns, an undefeated colt who won the Louisiana Derby two weeks ago.

“We’re blessed,” Pletcher told reporters at Keeneland Saturday after Tapit Trice’s victory. “We’ve had a good spring, and now we got to hopefully have another good four weeks.”

The Case for Forte

Favorites have had a little bit of a dry spell recently in the Derby. The last to win was Triple Crown winner Justify in 2018, but the bettors’ choices have come close in recent years, with Epicenter, last year’s favorite, finishing second.

What I think helps Forte’s case this year is how he won the Florida Derby.  He had an outside post – 11th out of 12 – and found himself stuck in traffic for most of the race and looked to be out of contention when he finally made his move. Those conditions are about as close as you can get to a Kentucky Derby environment, where Forte could find himself battling 19 other competitors.

Pletcher had said the major prep race at Gulfstream Park would serve as a good test for his prized colt. The trainer came away pleased that Forte’s best part of the 1-1/8 mile Florida Derby was the final sixteenth, which would indicate he’d do well in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby.

What was impressive… was when he did make the lead, he kind of pricked his ears again which we’ve seen him do a number of times,” Pletcher said. “It kind of makes you believe there’s a little more in the tank there.”

After Saturday’s races, Circa Sports in Las Vegas kept Forte as favorite, with odds of +315, meaning a $100 wager would net $315.  Tapit Trice and Practice Move are next at +550 each, and Verifying, who lost by a neck to Tapit Trice Saturday, and Kingsbarns are +950.

If Not Forte, Then…

With up to 20 horses in the field, the Kentucky Derby is definitely not a conventional horse race, and with that large a field, it does present bettors with opportunities for value.

If you’re looking for an intriguing long shot possibility, one horse to consider is Two Phil’s, who won the Jeff Ruby Steaks two weeks ago at Turfway Park. Turfway, a Churchill Downs track in Florence, KY, has a synthetic tapeta track, which is different from the dirt track at Churchill.

But Two Phil’s won at Churchill last year on a sloppy track.

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about Louisville in May, it’s that the weather is anything but consistent. It can be 80 and sunny or gloomy and 50 or anywhere inbetween. Sometimes even in the same week. Over the last seven Derby days, it’s rained on five. However, only two of those led to sloppy track ratings, the last coming in 2019.

“I’m hoping it rains,” trainer Larry Rivelli told reporters after the Jeff Ruby.

So, that’s something to keep in mind should the clouds turn dark on May 7. Two Phil’s could be your silver lining.

At Circa, Two Phil’s Derby futures odds are +3000.

Who Will Run in the Kentucky Derby

The field for the Derby is based on points horses accumulate in prep races. Saturday’s races each awarded 100 points to the winner, with the runners up getting 40, the horses in third getting 30, and the horses finishing fourth receiving 20.

Those with the 18 highest point totals are guaranteed spot in the race, with slots also available for horses in Japan and Europe. If an owner withdraws a qualifying horse from contention, the horse with the next highest total of points becomes eligible.

Churchill Downs Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers tweeted the updated point totals Saturday evening.

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