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Post Time: Mr. Sandman, Cash Me a Ticket ...

By Gene Kershner

Saturday is breakfast at Wimbledon for horse racing fans. I'd call it the Duel in the Desert, but there's really no big duel being touted on the Sheikh's biggest race day of the year. Post Time turns toward the Middle East for a look at Dubai World Cup Day. Typically it's a great day of racing climaxed by the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the richest race of the year. It's oddly similar to NASCAR, whose biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500, is run in mid-February, at the start of the stock car racing season. The race typically attracts the top horses from around the world to go after the large cash prize.

Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary while you munch your morning Cheerios:

Race 2: (9:15 a.m. EST) Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of $1 million (queue Dr. Evil voice) with 16 runners. It's beat the favorite time as several horses will be going off at juicy odds. The US of A sends over Quick Enough with Rafael Bejarano making the flight overseas to represent. Hard to look past Stradivinsky with Julien Leparoux in the irons, a top notch turf rider. Long shot consideration: Happy Dubai (12-1).

Race 3: (9:50 a.m.) Godolphin Mile. A one-mile route of ground on the Tapeta surface, for a cool $1 million. The race is a Triple Crown reunion of sorts for several horses. The 2009 Derby morning line favorite, who scratched the morning of the big race, I Want Revenge, ships over to try and cash for IEAH Stables and trainer Richard Dutrow. The 2010 Derby front-runner, Conveyance, runs for the second time since the Derby after being claimed and shipped to the desert. The last qualifier and fourth-place finisher in the 2010 Derby, Make Music for Me, also makes the trip with jockey Mike Smith. Godolphin horse Skysurfers (9-2) also looks dangerous in here.

Race 4: (10:25 a.m.) UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16ths miles on the Tapeta, for $2 million. No serious Derby horse has ever come out of this race. An intriguing horse from Brazil named Xin Xu Lin (4-1) ships in after winning five of seven races, including four Group 1 races. Flying Frankie Dettori gets the mount, which is a clue that the horse is live. U.S. invader Sweet Ducky at 12-1 offers some value and only finished 1 1/2 lengths off Dialed In (on most Derby Dozen lists) in the Holy Bull.

Race 5: (11:10 a.m.) Golden Shaheen. A 6-furlong sprint on the Tapeta surface, being run for $2 million. This race reminds me of my favorite Buffalo restaurant of the '80s called The Shabeen. So, I'll be calling it the Golden Shabeen and toasting the old Irish haunt of yesteryear. Looks like a two-horse duel between Euroears and Kinsale King, but as an Elton John fan how can you not throw Rocket Man into your trifecta?

Race 6: (11:50 a.m.) Dubai Duty Free. Going 1 1/8 miles on the Meydan turf course for $5 million. What Buffalonian doesn't like Duty Free? If Strawberrydaiquiri (30-1) isn't a hunch play here, I don't know what is, plus Johnny Murtagh is in the irons. This has to be too good to be true, no? Bankable (10-1) finished second here last year and is coming off a nice win on the same turf course.

Race 7: (12:30 p.m. Dubai Sheema Classic. 14 runners will run 1 1/2 miles on the turf for $5 million. We'll be boxing Champ Pegasus (9-2), Redwood (8-1) and Bourbon Bay (8-1). Post Time is also a big fan of the well-traveled Chinchon (12-1), who we cashed a nice ticket on last summer in the United Nations at Monmouth.

Race 8: (1:35 p.m.) Dubai World Cup. Run at the Classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the Tapeta for 10 MILLION DOLLARS. From a fan perspective I'd love to see Fly Down win this race, but he never seems to get over the hump. Look for him to hit the board. Has Gio Ponti's day in the sun (literally) finally arrived? This is a race that he is totally capable of winning. Richard's Kid gets a second chance on the Meydan Tapeta and is worth a look at 20-1 or higher. Cape Blanco tries the Tapeta for the first time ever. He is also worth a gander at 10-1. This is a great betting race, so be sure to keep an eye on the tote before wagering on this one.

Enjoy your breakfast from the desert, and let's go cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Welcome, baseball visitors

      March 25, 1991 -- The city of Buffalo had high hopes of getting an expansion team when Major League Baseball decided to add two teams in the 1990's. The city had a great track record of baseball interest and powerful local backing in Bob Rich Jr.

     A committee came to town on this day to see the then-relatively new Pilot Field and talk to everyone involved. It was part of a grand tour of possible expansion locations by the National League.

     Afterwards, the committee members met the media Ñ and didn't reveal a great deal about what they thought. However, one clue was supplied by Pittsburgh Pirates chairman Douglas Danforth, when asked about Buffalo's negatives in the expansion race.

     "It would be great if you had another million people living here," answered Danforth.

     The immediate translation was that Buffalo would have trouble competing with larger markets. That turned out to be the case, when Denver and Miami received expansion franchises.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Knox wheels and deals

     March 24, 1978 -- Here's a great example of selling at a high, football style.

     O.J. Simpson had been a Hall of Fame-level player for the Buffalo Bills for much his career. He was hurt in 1977, though, and only played in seven games. When Chuck Knox took over in 1978, he decided to completely rebuild the franchise, and his plans didn't include an aging running back.

     So Simpson was shipped to the San Francisco 49ers for five draft choices, including a first-rounder in 1979. Knox drafted Terry Miller to replace Simpson in 1978.

     The deal was a very good one, and it could have been even better. Simpson was essentially done at that point in his career, never gaining more than 600 yards in either of his two seasons in San Francisco. The draft choices helped Buffalo's rebuilding, although that first-rounder took a bit of a detour.

     The Bills used it to take Tom Cousineau, who fled to join the Canadian Football League. Think Kellen Winslow or Dan Hampton could have helped the Bills?

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: On to New York

    March 23, 1995 -- The Canisius College basketball team has had some good moments over the
years. The one on this date was a really nice one.

   The Golden Griffins beat Washington State, 89-80, to advance to NIT semifinals in New York. The win set up a game against Virginia Tech in Madison Square Garden on national television.

   Memorial Auditorium used a curtain to make the seat capacity a bit more intimate, and a crowd of 9,065 counted down the final seconds of the game. When the Golden Griffins had won, the arena's horn sounded and Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played. Fans stampeded the floor.

   It was the first trip by a Western New York team to the NIT's Final Four since St. Bonaventure won it all since 1977.

   "To win a game with close to 10,000 people out there watching and to have the fans embrace us like that just feels wonderful," said Griffs senior Craig Wise. "From when I came in (in 1991), when our first game at the Aud was against UB and there weren't even 2,000 fans out here, it's just been a total turnaround."

 --- Budd Bailey

Which is your favorite public golf course in Western New York?

Sure, it's forecast to snow up to five inches in the next day or so, but golf season is still right around the corner. That's got me thinking about the best public courses in Western New York, and I'm hoping to hear from you, as well.

E-mail me suggestions for a poll of the top courses in Western New York. Include a brief description as to why. I'll take the top 10 and make a poll. We'll publish the results in our annual golf preview, which will appear April 7.

E-mail the suggestions to [email protected] or send me a message on Twitter (the link is below). Thanks, and enjoy the season!

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Indoor soccer arrives

    March 22, 1979 -- What's the line about as one door closes, another one opens? That was certainly true for the sports scene of Buffalo in the early months of 1979.

   The Buffalo Braves had departed for San Diego in a complicated transaction in the summer of 1978. That had left a hole in the schedule of Memorial Auditorium for the winter months. What could fill it? Indoor soccer, that's what.

   On this day, the Major Indoor Soccer League announced that it would be expanding to Buffalo in the fall of 1979. The city didn't have a name at that point -- a "name the team" contest was announced at an news conference. But it did have a general manager and coach.

   It was Sal DeRosa, who was a familiar face to those living 90 miles to the east. DeRosa coached the Rochester Lancers of the North American Soccer League for three years in the early 1970's. He'd be in charge of getting the Buffalo franchise ready.

   In odd coincidence, the news conference featured a special guest from a different part of Buffalo's sports history. Earl Foreman was the commissioner of the MISL. He used to own the Virginia franchise of the American Basketball Association.

   In fact, he originally signed Bob McAdoo to a contract when McAdoo turned pro. The catch was that McAdoo wasn't 21 when he signed the deal, and the Braves wound up signing him legally. Foreman was the soccer commissioner from 1978 to 1985, and then in 1989.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Happy beginning, sad ending

    March 21, 1998 -- The formal announcement that John Rigas and Adelphia Communications had taken over control of the Buffalo Sabres seemed to be in limbo for months and months.

   Well, the two sides finally got a deal done on this date. John Rigas of Adelphia signed the agreement.

   "Details were not released," a prepared statement said, "but will be communicated to the Sabres' partners early next week. A meeting of the partnership is planned early next month to consider the transaction. The closing is expected to take place in April, but is subject to various third-party consents and approvals, including that of the National Hockey League."

   Rigas and Adelphia had bought a share of the Sabres earlier in the decade. The move was supposed to be a life-saver for the Sabres; Seymour Knox III once said that he thought the only way the Sabres could survive in the economic situation of the day was for the team to have a strong tie to the television channel.

   As it turned out, the team survived and the television outlet perished ... and Rigas wound up in prison.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A banner win

     March 20, 1977 -- Championships in Western New York college basketball history are few and far between. So the one that came in 1977 is worth remembering, even if it was a "minor" title.

     St. Bonaventure just missed qualifying for the NCAA tournament that year, in spite of a solid starting five that included a pair of elite forwards in Essie Hollins and Greg Sanders. A loss against Syracuse in the ECAC playoffs ended their hopes for the Big Dance.

     The consolation prize was a trip to the National Invitation Tournament. The Bonnies had a nice run in that tournament, beating Rutgers, Oregon and Villanova to reach the final in Madison Square Garden in New York.

     The more than 12,000 in attendance that night saw quite a shootout. Otis Birdsong was the leader for Houston. Birdsong was a fine professional player as a shooting guard, so you can imagine how good he was in college. But Sanders on this night was even better.

     Sanders had 40 points to Birdsong's 38, while Hollis added 24 and guard Glenn Hagen had 14. The result was a 94-91 win to capture the NIT championship.

     Tim Waterman and future Bona coach Jim Baron were the other starters on that championship team. The 1978 edition of the Bonnies qualified for the NCAA tournament.

-- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A huge Sabre rally

     March 19, 2008 -- The Sabres seemed to be done like dinner when they trailed Tampa Bay, 4-1. The crowd in HSBC Arena was booing in the second period, and even the Buffalo coach thought his team deserved it.

    "I thought the boos were a little shallow, as a matter of fact," the coach said to The News' John Vogl.

     Then everything changed. The Sabres scored the last six goals of the game - in 15 minutes no less -- to stun the Lightning, 7-4.

     It was a big win for a team that needed one in its fight for a playoff spot. The Sabres pulled within a point of Philadelphia in the race for the final Eastern Conference spot in the post season.

     "If we would have dropped that one tonight, maybe three weeks from now we might have looked back at this game and been like, 'Oh, wow, this really cost us,' " said left wing Thomas Vanek, had a hat trick that included the game-winner. "But we took care of business. Not the pretty way, but it counts as two points."

     There weren't enough nights like this, as the Sabres missed the playoffs by four points.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Talking dollars

There's only one race on the calendar this weekend, and I've heard a lot about it in the past few weeks.

It's the Bengal 5K, which has been part of the March calendar for more than a decade. It's always been quite well run and popular.

This year, however, I've heard quietly from a number of runners who have said "no thanks" to it this year. The reason? Price.

The Bengal Run cost $25 for preregistration. For those who hadn't signed up before Wednesday, the price went up to $30. That's a lot for a standard 5-kilometer race, at least in the eyes of many of the potential participants. The premium is also a headband, which may not go over well either.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see just how many people participate in the race. I'll be there, at least. You can sign up before the race tomorrow morning; the deadline for registration is at 9 and the gun goes at 9:30. Call 878-3774 for details.

Elsewhere, a documentary on a man who ran from Minnesota to Atlanta for the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics will be shown on March 31 at a couple of local theaters. Here's a link to the web site.

--- Budd Bailey

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