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Post Time: Derby scene shifts to Tampa

By Gene Kershner

The Derby trail shifts to Tampa, Fla., this weekend for one of two key Derby prep races, the $350,000 Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Run over two turns at 1 1/16 miles, nine sophomores will attempt to garner precious graded stakes earnings, the winner taking home $210,000 and most likely positioning themselves for a spot in Derby 137.

The other key prep race will be run at Santa Anita Park on Saturday afternoon, the $250,000 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

The last Tampa Bay Derby winner to wear the roses was in 2007, when Street Sense nosed out Any Given Saturday before going on to win the Derby with Calvin Borel's rail skimming ride. The race was upgraded this year from a Grade 3 to a Grade 2 by the American Graded Stakes Committee in December.

One entrant that won't be showing up for the Tampa Derby is the current Kentucky Derby favorite, Uncle Mo. His connections decided to skip the two-turn Tampa Bay Derby to run in a newly designed one-turn mile race at Gulfstream Park this weekend, the $100,000 Timely Writer. Instead, trainer Todd Pletcher will send out the morning line even money favorite Brethren, winner of the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa last month.

Let's take a look at the entrants for Saturday's big race with analysis (trainer, jockey and morning line odds in parentheses):

1 - Striding Ahead (Mott, Solis, 10-1) - The Empire Maker colt comes out of an impressive maiden win at Tampa winning by over six lengths. Alex Solis crosses the state to ride him for trainer Bill Mott. First step into graded company in his third career race may prove to be difficult. Has distance pedigree and solid workout pattern. Considering.

2 - Economic Summit (Violette, NR, 8-1) - On the bench since the Grade 2 Nashua in November, the Malibu Moon colt has been working well at Palm Meadows, but the thought here is he'll need a race before taking on this crew. As of this writing, a rider had not been named for Economic Summit.

3 - Beamer (Nafzger, Goncalves, 10-1) - Finished fourth in the Davis five and a half lengths behind Brethren where he got off to a slow start. Has some late speed, so if the race falls apart late he could be there to pick up the pieces. Useful underneath in the exotics.

4 - Uncle Mo (Pletcher, Velazquez, 3-5) - He will most likely scratch out in favor of the Timely Writer at Gulfstream as mentioned above.

5 - Too Experience (Passley, Centeno, 8-1) - Never dismiss Daniel Centeno at Tampa Bay. The meeting's leading rider is winning at a 23 percent clip and is in the money 61 percent of the time. Finished second behind Brethren in the Davis and has two solid workouts under his belt since then. He could prove to be another useful colt underneath in the exotics.

6 - Crimson Knight (Bennett, Allen, 30-1) - Jumping from the claiming ranks to graded company is quite the leap, so trainer Gerald Bennett must know something we don't. His sire Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) was a brilliant miler and his dam's sire Numerous was a graded stakes winner at shorter distances. The gelding's last start was a victory at the distance. We'll pass on this one on Saturday.

7 - Free Entry (Brown, A Garcia, 7-2) - Intriguing Tale of the Cat colt who will be stretching out to the mile and 1/16 distance for the first times. He shows terrific late speed and enters the race third off the layoff shipping in for trainer Chad Brown. The very talented Alan Garcia has the reins on this impressive sophomore. He is definitely the main threat to unseating the favorite.

8 - Moonhanger (Alexander, Marquez, 20-1) - The turf to dirt angle for trainer Alexander has been a profitable won, winning 11 of 33 tries. Not sure he has the speed to hang with the top horses in here but has early speed and solid wet figures should the track come up muddy or sloppy. We'll be tossing Moonhanger unless the track happens to come up wet.

9 - Watch Me Go (O'Connell, L Garcia, 12-1) - Finished third in the Davis when he had nothing left in the tank to take on Brethren in the stretch. Expected his peak effort in his last race, and he came up short. His sire was unraced and his dam's sire was a Canadian Hall of Famer. Would be shocking if he swept this group.

10 - Brethren (Pletcher, Dominguez, 1-1) - Similar to the Davis, he drew the outside post. It didn't faze him in the Davis, so don't expect it to hinder him on Saturday. He stalked the pace nicely until taking over at the quarter pole. Ramon ships in from the New York circuit to ride him in this huge race. With $110,000 of graded earnings to date, the Post Time Derby Dozen No. 5 horse needs a decent showing to solidify his place in the gate in Louisville. Looking for the half brother to last year's Derby winner Super Saver to gut this one out.

Post Time Selections:
1 - #10 Brethren
2 - #7 Free Entry
3 - #3 Beamer

Exotics Possibilities:
Exacta box 7/10
Trifecta part wheel 7,10/7,10/1,3,5
Good luck 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 and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Trading a disturber

    March 11, 1999 -- The Buffalo Sabres tried and tried, but they just couldn't get Matthew Barnaby going again. So on this date, they sent him packing. Barnaby went to Pittsburgh for Stu Barnes.

   It was, on one level, a fine trade for the Sabres. Barnaby hadn't returned to the level of play that he displayed when he first came up to Buffalo under Ted Nolan. He had public differences with goalie Dominik Hasek, and his talent for drawing attention to himself caused some problems at time.

   What's more, Barnes was a great addition. He was a solid citizen who could play center or wing, and was able to help out on the power play.

    Even so, the deal carried a little sadness with it. Barnaby was one of those players that you loved when he was on your side and hated when he was on the other side. He also cared a lot and played with a great deal of emotion, and that can be a valuable asset for a team.

   Barnaby played for six other NHL teams after leaving Buffalo, but he might have been at his best when he helped the Sabres win a division title in 1996-97. It seemed poetic that he moved back to Buffalo after he retired from hockey.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Disconnected

   March 10, 1981-- At the end of the 1979-80 season, Rick Martin was one of the top scorers in the National Hockey League. He had scored 45 goals, his best season since 1975-76, and helped the Sabres reach the semifinals in the spring of 1980.

   It went straight downhill from there, at least for Martin. The left winger, part of the famed French Connection line, injured his knee and only scored seven goals in 23 games through the first part of 1980-81 season.

   It was easy to wonder about his long-term future, knee injuries being what they were at the time. What's more, Martin believed the Sabres were trying to rush him back into the lineup before he was ready.

   The Los Angeles Kings didn't care about that. They sent a first- and third-round draft choice in 1983 to the Sabres for Martin.

   That package actually represents a revision, since the Kings weren't too happy with the Sabres when they saw Martin's physical condition at the time of the deal. Martin played in one game for the Kings that season, scoring a goal with an assist. The next season, the winger had four points in three games. And that was it.

   What about the Sabres? They used the first rounder to take Tom Barrasso, who probably was the best 18-year-old goalie in NHL history in 1983-84. The Sabres even won a legal fight with Martin, who claimed the team damaged his career with its actions in that year. At least Martin eventually settled his differences with Sabre management, and had his number retired.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Ritcher departs

      March 9, 1994 -- It's tough to keep a great team together for a long time these days. Ask Jim Ritcher.

     The veteran offensive lineman of the Buffalo Bills was released on this day, and the exit was a sad one. Ritcher answered the phone one day at his home in North Carolina, and thought the team was getting ready to have him back for the 1994 season.

     "I was sort of excited," Ritcher said to The News' Vic Carucci. "Then John and Coach (Marv) Levy got on the phone and said that, because of the salary cap, they wouldn't be bringing me back this year."

     Just like that, the longest playing career in Bills' history at the time was over. Ritcher was considered too expensive ($675,000) to re-sign because of salary cap issues, and was let go.

     "Even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear, I appreciated them being honest about it instead of letting me go on with the hope that maybe I would be back and not pursue something with another team," Ritcher said.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Tony's big night

     March 8, 1969 -- In the late 1960s, Bob Lanier and Calvin Murphy dominated the college basketball scene in Western New York. For one night, at least, Tony Masiello joined them.

     He picked a great night to do it, too. Masiello scored 35 points to lead Canisius to an 83-79 win over Murphy and Niagara on this night. It was the final game of Masiello's college basketball career.

     Masiello had quite a ride in his basketball career. Masiello started for three years at Dougherty, averaging 21 points per game as a junior. Then it was on to Canisius, where he led the team in scoring, rebounding and free throw percentage. He still is one of the all-time leading scorers in the history of the Golden Griffins.

     What ever happened to Masiello after basketball, anyway? Oh, right, he was mayor of Buffalo for three terms and served in the State Senate as well.

     Murphy and Lanier did pretty well too.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: More drama in Calgary

You didn't think there would be an easy settlement to the Calgary Roughnecks' situation, did you?

The Roughnecks announced a couple of weeks ago that they were in danger of folding before the end of the season. An anonymous donor appeared to give the team enough money to fund its road trip to Philadelphia last weekend. Everyone wondered, what next?

A temporary answer came today. The Roughnecks have received another donation, estimated to be in the $20,000 range. Calgary will make it to the Seattle area to play the Washington Stealth this weekend. Past that, who knows?

The Roughnecks had missed a couple of payrolls, sending off more alarms. However, the players are receiving money from a special fund. Teams do post a bond with the league upon entrance, and it is believed that money is saved for exactly this sort of situation. It's tough to say how long that might last.

Meanwhile, the Bandits are resting after a very impressive weekend. The wins over Rochester and Boston moved them into second place in the East, and they look like a contender again ... particularly if goalie Mike Thompson plays like he did over the weekend.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History; Niagara does a dance

     March 7, 1970 -- For all of the talk of the great basketball tradition at Niagara, one thing was missing in 1970: an appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles had played in the NIT several times, but had never made it to the national championship tournament.

     That changed in 1970. Niagara finally got to play in the so-called Big Dance. What's more, it won.

     March Madness was a little different then. The first round was played not in some huge building like HSBC Arena, but in relatively tiny Jadwin Gym in Princeton, N.J.

     The Purple Eagles were rated as underdogs in the game against Penn, but they captured a 79-69 win. Calvin Murphy had 35 points in the game. Murphy had been one of the great players in college basketball history, but this was his first postseason game. Bob Churchwell added 14. For Penn, Dave Wohl -- a future Buffalo Brave -- had 11 points.

     It would be 37 years before Niagara would win another NCAA game.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Help wanted

   March 6, 1989 -- The Buffalo Sabres needed a goaltender in 1989 as they anticipated a playoff run. Daren Puppa was hurt and Jacques Cloutier was starting to wear down.

   So Buffalo went shopping, and traded a good defenseman to Washington for some immediate goaltending help.

    That goalie was Clint Malarchuk, who figured to help. Malarchuk and Grant Ledyard were acquired for Calle Johansson, a former first-round pick.

   "We had targeted Clint Malarchuk from the beginning," said Sabres general manager Gerry Meehan in talking about the deal. "The price was relatively high, and we may have helped establish that in the Tom Barrasso deal (two players for one goaltender), but we've paid that price and we feel we're getting a quality player in the process."

   Meehan went on to say that Malarchuk has a "solid record of proven ability. His record may have been a little uneven this year, but we really feel he was the best goaltender available and a far better goaltender than I thought would be available at this time of the year."

   Malarchuk proved to be a good addition until a horrific injury sidelined him. The Sabres made a first-round playoff exit to Boston that year.

---Budd Bailey 

Live from HSBC Arena: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:37 p.m. -- We had some computer problems, but the game is underway, and you didn't miss a thing. Buffalo has a big weekend in front of it. Two wins and the Bandits are in great shape. Two losses and it will be a struggle for a playoff spot.

Mike Thompson is in goal for Buffalo. He's had a couple of weeks off, including the All-Star break, so he should be fresh.

It's pretty close to sold out here tonight. Nice to see the house rocking.

7:43 p.m. -- It's been an excellent pace so far. Just no scoring. Thompson has made some good saves already.

By the way, this should be the last night for the John Tavares Milestone Tour. He is looking for his 800th career assist. He's already gone past round numbers in goals and points over the last couple of weeks.

7:48 p.m. -- Joe Walters has a goal, so we're not going to be scoreless. Rochester has a 1-0 lead with 6:54 left. Buffalo seems a bit off in its passing so far. But it's early.

7:56 p.m. -- Another night, another milestone. Assist 800 for Tavares came on a goal by Brett Bucktooth. There's 1:14 left in the first quarter, and it's 1-1. This is quite a change from the All-Star Game, when a goal was scored every 67 seconds (on average).

8:02 p.m. -- After further review, Mark Steenhuis gets credit for a goal that gives Buffalo a 2-1 lead. We're done with 15 minutes.

8:08 p.m. -- Roger Vyse looks like he's scored the goal of the game, and it's only the second quarter. He had the ball near the goal, and took a blind backhand shot that beat Matt Vinc. It was Buffalo's second goal in seven seconds, and gave the Bandits a 4-1 lead.

8:16 p.m. -- It's been an easy night for the scorekeeper and stat crew so far. With 7:36 to go in the first half, the Bandits lead, 4-2.

I think this is the third team for Matt Vinc since I started covering the Bandits three years ago. Let's see, first New York, then Orlando, and now Rochester. The former Canisius College standout has seen the country, if you include his acquisition by Colorado from Orlando and then his trade to Rochester. He's always been a good goalie.

8;25 p.m. -- I'm still here, and we're still at 4-2. It hasn't been a boring game, just not a high scoring one. Buffalo just killed off a penalty to stay up by two.

8:30 p.m. -- It's 5-3, Buffalo, after the first half of play. There was a mass meeting of the two teams around the center of the field, but eveyrone is leaving peacefully now.

8:52 p.m. -- It looked as if the Knighthawks were going to kill off a couple of penalties. Then Bucktooth struck for a goal to make it 6-3 with three minutes gone. Bucktooth has a hat trick; he must have been inspired by the All-Star selection last week.

8:56 p.m. -- Ex-Bandit Troy Bonterre and current Bandit Brandon Francis got into a scrap. It took them quite a while to actually exchange punches once they removed some equipment and circled. I half-expected them to call in trainers and then play the National Anthem.

9:02 p.m. -- Two goals in 58 seconds have helped Rochester get within one at 6-5. I'll bet Thompson would like that last goal, by Cody Jamieson, back.

9:06 p.m. -- Another minute, another goal. This one was by Jordan Hall, and has tied the game, 6-6.

9:16 p.m. -- That's where we stay after 45 minutes -- a 6-6 tie. There aren't many blowouts in this league, especially in the East.

9:24 p.m. -- Rochester had a goal taken off the board in the first 10 seconds of the period, and Buffalo has come back with two quick goals to take an 8-6 lead. Turning point?

9:33 p.m. -- Roger Vyse scores from the slot on a delayed penalty. Buffalo makes it 10-7 with 6:06 gone in the fourth quarter. Vyse is having one of his best games of the season.

9:41 p.m. -- Buffalo is hanging on to a 10-8 lead with 3:53 left. We'll see if that spurt at the start of the fourth quarter will be the difference.

9:51 p.m. -- It is. The Bandits win, 11-8, with an empty-netter from Tom Montour. Nice win; a loss going into the Boston game Sunday would have hurt.

11:19 p.m. -- The Bandits seemed pretty happy with their performance when interviewed after the game. Thompson fit into that classification:

"We played a strong game," he said. "Sometimes we get away from our system and get into trouble, but we've been working on improving that and we did that tonight. Pressure on the other team forces shots from the outside."

Don't forget the game on Sunday afternoon/evening, starting at 5 p.m. Good night from HSBC Arena. 

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Off to Congress

   March 5, 1970 -- Players come and go from professional sports all the time, but rarely is it because said player is planning to run for political office. Then again, Jack Kemp was never a run-of-the-mill professional athlete.

   The Buffalo Evening News discovered on this date that Kemp was planning to retire in order to run for Congress in 1970, seeking the seat about to be vacated by Max McCarthy.

   Kemp always was politically aware, and was a key member - a five-time president in fact -- of the American Football League Players Association. Not too many conservative candidates for office were the head of a labor union.

   Kemp had by most definitions an outstanding career, and one fact stands out: There were 10 AFL championship games, and Kemp played in five of them. The quarterback helped the Bills win championships in 1964 and 1965.

   Kemp went on to win that Congressional election, and then became a Cabinet member and a candidate for Vice President with Bob Dole in 1996. Despite his national fame, he'll always be #15 back here.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.