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Post Time: Spa's first Grade 1 is loaded

By Gene Kershner

     The first Grade 1 race on the Saratoga racing schedule this summer is Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks (CCAO), the second leg of the Triple Tiara for 3-year-old fillies. The series has had four configurations of races over the years. This is the second year of the Acorn-CCAO-Alabama combination sponsored by Betfair TVG. The first leg, the Acorn Stakes, was won on Belmont Stakes day by 5-It's Tricky, who beat the highly regarded Turbulent Descent.

The CCAO may have only five horses in the starting gate Saturday, but the field is loaded with the year's top fillies. The race will feature the winners of the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, Acorn, Mother Goose and Fantasy Stakes. Let's just say that's impressive in itself.

 The CCAO will be making its first ever appearance at Saratoga Race Course. The biggest change in NYRA's schedule this year was moving this race from Belmont to the Spa. The 95th renewal of the race will be run for $250,000 over 1 1/8-miles on the dirt.

The race will be televised live nationally by NBC from 5 to 6 p.m. as the first of eight broadcasts in the "Summer at Saratoga" series to be presented on the network or its sister station Versus this summer.
Let's take a look at the CCAO challengers attempting to take leg two of the Triple Tiara (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):

1 -- Buster's Ready (Pletcher, Velazquez, 7-2) -- The Pletcher/Velazquez combo has captured this race four times in the past 10 years, an amazing feat. Pletcher would tie the legendary Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons with his fifth CCAO title Saturday and Johnny V would sit atop the jockeys with his fifth victory. The filly won going away in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at 9 furlongs. Her only effort at the Spa was her first maiden race when she finished fourth last September.  It's hard to dismiss the jockey/trainer combination here as well as their past success in the race (Devil May Care won last year's edition). Serious contender.

2 -- Plum Pretty (Baffert, Garcia, 3-1) -- After running four straight solid efforts on the dirt, she finished second to the very good Zazu in the American Oaks on the Cushion Track at Hollywood last month. The Kentucky Oaks winner ships in for west coast trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia flies east to ride her in this solid Grade 1. She looks ready to run after spitting out a bullet July 17 at Hollywood. The pick.

3 -- Joyful Victory (Jones, Dominguez, 6-1) -- The Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner at Oaklawn has found the going a little rougher in her last two. She hasn't responded after her two dominating wins in Arkansas for trainer Larry Jones. She also rattled off a bullet at Delaware Park on July 18 and is looking to rebound off her last two losing efforts. We'll be looking elsewhere.

4 -- Royal Delta (Mott, Lezcano, 2-1) -- Lightly raced filly has been off since winning the Black-Eyed Susan during Preakness weekend in May over a late closing 1-Buster's Ready. She missed the Mother Goose due to a foot bruise, but conditioner Bill Mott doesn't think this will be a problem Saturday. I'm going to wait one race on this filly, who could use it as a nice prep for the Alabama later in the meet.

5 -- It's Tricky (McLauglin, Castro, 3-1) -- Winner of the Acorn and only horse with a shot at the Triple Tiara looks to be better at the mile distance. This trainer/jockey combo in the last 60 days is white hot, winning at a 42 percent clip. McLaughlin doesn't believe the 9 furlongs is an issue. "We've always felt she'd want the distance because she's by Mineshaft, and she won the Busher and the allowance going two turns at Aqueduct," said McLaughlin. Godolphin has had big opening weekends at the Spa in the past so don't hastily dismiss this filly.

This race is extremely tough to call, but will go with Baffert's confidence in shipping his star filly east to take on the best of this coast's 3-year-old filly crop. This will be one terrific horse race and I'll be taking it in from the Saratoga press box.

Post Time Outlook:

     1 -- Plum Pretty; 2 -- It's Tricky; 3 -- Buster's Ready.

Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Twin trades

     July 22, 1976 -- The Buffalo Bills did some good-sized trading on this day as they started to prepare for the upcoming season.

     First-round draft choices usually aren't dealt very often, but a pair were involved on this day. Buffalo sent J.D. Hill to the Lions for Detroit's first-round pick in 1977. Then the Bills gave up their own No. 1  in '77 for defensive end Sherman White.

     It was tough to see Hill go. He was the Bills' first-round pick in 1971, going fourth overall. Hill caught 52 passes in 1972, by far his best season in the league. Part of the problem was that the Bills emphasized the ground game during his years in Buffalo, which wasn't a bad idea with O.J. Simpson in the backfield.

  The transaction didn't work out too well for the Lions. Hill only caught 25 passes in two years and was done with football after 1977.

     White turned out better in Buffalo. He stayed on the roster through 1983, when he left at the age of 35.

     As for the draft picks, Buffalo had a poor 1976 and thus had the third overall pick, and the Bengals used the choice on Eddie Edwards. The next pick, Marvin Powell, would have been better. Buffalo used the Lions' choice to take Phil Dokes, who only lasted two seasons.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A tragic anniversary

     July 21, 1970 -- It's one of the saddest days in Buffalo Bills' history, as offensive lineman Bob Kalsu dies when he is hit by mortar fire in Vietnam's Ashua Valley.

     Kalsu was an All-American at Oklahoma and was an eighth-round draft choice of the Bills in 1968. He became a regular in the Bills' lineup in his rookie season, and was voted the team's top first-year player. Kalsu was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy year for the Bills, who finished with the worst record in the league that season. 

    He was required to satisfy his ROTC obligation after college and thus left the Bills to become an officer in the U.S. Army on March 29, 1969. Kalsu arrived in Vietnam in November, 1969, and was killed in action about eight months later. He was the only NFL player to die in combat in Vietnam.

     His wife Jan gave birth to a son, James Robert Kalsu Jr., on July 23. A few hours later, she was told of the death of her husband.

     Kalsu's name was added to the Bills' Wall of Fame in 2000.

--- Budd Bailey

Williamsville's Katz has lead at state amateur

Westwood Country Club's Jake Katz shot a second straight 1-under-par round of 69 Wednesday on the Oak Hill West Course in Pittsford and took a two-stroke lead in the 89th New York State Amateur Men's Golf Championship.

Williamsville North grad Katz, 22, is the only golfer under par for 36 holes.

First-day leader Jimmy Welch (Winding Brook CC) of Valatie and University of Connecticut golfer Jeb Buchanan (Wolferts Roost CC) of Albany are alone in second place at 140. Welch shot 74 after his opening-round 66. Buchanan had a 73 after his first-round 67.

Tuesday, Katz had an up-and-down round that included four birdies, five bogeys, and an eagle. Wednesday he carded four birdies with only three bogeys.

He pointed to his accuracy off the tee as crucial. Another improvement for Katz was his mid-range putting. On his first day he struggled to make anything more than a few feet. "Making 10-, 12-footers are huge," said Katz. "Those putts keep the round going for me."

This is the second year Katz will be in the final group at the Men's championship. Last year, he finished runner-up to Doug Kleeschulte.

"I know what to expect," said Katz. "You just have to be patient."

Matthew Stasiak of Fox Valley, who was tied for 12th after the opening round, made the biggest jump among the Western New York contingent. Stasiak fired a 2-under 33 on the front nine but had four bogeys on the tough back nine and finished with a 1-over 71 to tie for eighth.

Five WNY golfers made the cut for today's final two rounds, including 17-year-old James Blackwell of Westwood who hit right on the cut line of 150 after his 74 Wednesday. While Welch and Buchanan lost ground on the West Course final nine, Katz played it in 1-under 34.

Hall withdraws from Porter Cup

Rochester phenom Gavin Hall, the 16-year-old who tied for second at last year's Porter Cup, will not be back in Lewiston this year.

Hall withdrew from the event on Wednesday, because of a right wrist injury he suffered last month, according to tournament director Steve Denn.

"He saw a specialist in Atlanta on [Tuesday] and another guy in Buffalo on [Wednesday]," Denn said. "They prescribed at least two more weeks off. It's obviously tough news, but it's not unexpected."

Denn said last week he was holding out hope Hall, who's the No. 6 junior golfer in the country in the Golfweek/Titleist rankings, would be able to return from the injury in time for the event.

Hall also withdrew from this week's U.S. Junior Amateur, which is being held at Gold Mountain in Bremerton, Wash.

---Jay Skurski

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Going, going, lost

     July 20, 1883 -- The Buffalo Bisons of 1883 weren't exactly sluggers. It really was the dead ball era back then, as teams relied on singles, stolen bases and sacrifices to move runners around the bases.

     On this day, though, the Bisons turned into power hitters. Sort of.

     The Bisons were playing Philadelphia at Riverside Park. Hardy Richardson and Jack Rowe both hit balls into the long grass in the southeast corner of the field. In both cases, Connie Doyle of the Quakers couldn't find a baseball anywhere. That allowed both men to round the bases for a home run.

     That sort of power wasn't the norm. The Bisons hit only eight home runs for the entire season. One of them was by a pitcher, future Hall of Famer Pud Galvin. He hit a ball on July 3 that bounced off a road, over a shack, off a coal car and into a nearby stream.

     The Bisons finished with a 52-45 record in 1883. The Quakers wound up 17-81.

-- Budd Bailey

Releasing snowboard bindings proposed

     The Chris Zider Snowboarding Binding Design Challenge put up $20,000 in prize money to encourage people to design a snowboard binding that would release, freeing someone who has fallen into deep snow. It has announced the four finalists.
     "We're trying to save some lives, and hoping snowboarding companies and manufacturers will pick up on these ideas and help the inventors commercialize them," Bob Zider, whose son, Chris, fell into a tree well and suffocated, said in a press release. "We need input from engineers and boarders. The key criteria are technically solid design, and a device young, deep-powder boarders would buy (at less than $100)."
     The finalists propose bindings that would release when the boarder is upside down for 30 or 60 seconds, would be separated from the board by a small explosive device triggered remotely by the boarder, or would be release by a foot lever similar to those found on skis.
     You can check out and vote on the bindings at the challenge's facebook page.

-- Fletcher Doyle


This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The second race

   July 19, 1958 -- It's time to clear up a small mystery.

   Buffalo is not exactly known for its auto racing history, but the records show that one of the greatest stock car drivers in history raced within the city limits. Maybe you've heard of Richard Petty.

   He wasn't "The King" quite yet. In fact, he was just getting started in what would eventually be called NASCAR.

   Petty drove in a Grand National event in Civic Stadium (later War Memorial Stadium) on this date. He finished 11th.

   There are some historical sources that say this was the first time that Petty had ever taken part in a Grand National event. But before we start raising money to put up a plaque, we should check the facts.

   According to, Petty's career actually began the day before … in Toronto. He finished 17th in that race, and competed in five other races that season. Dad Lee Petty was the overall champion that year.

   Richard Petty went on to a staggering career with seven championships. The Grand National circuit, and Petty, never did return to Buffalo, though.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Staying put

   July 18, 2008 -- The Sabres were starting to get the reputation that potential free agents seemed to leave more often than not. After all, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury in July of 2007, and Brian Campbell had been traded to San Jose in the spring of 2008.

   But Ryan Miller might have been the most important player on the roster at that time, and he decided he wasn't going anywhere for a while.

   Miller signed a five-year, $31.25 million extension that would take effect in 2009 and keep him with the Sabres through 2014.

   "I was really happy with the way it went," Miller said at the time about the deal, that eventually would make him one of the league's highest-paid goalies. "There wasn't that much back and forth. They made a good offer and projected what the marketplace is now going forward with the cap. It's a fair deal for both sides. I just like the fact they showed faith in me. They want to build a team with core guys."

   "I don't think we're paying for potential here," general manager Darcy Regier said. "He's established himself as one of the top young goaltenders, wWhen you're talking about conference finals, playoff wins, what he's done in the playoffs, what he's done in his career."

   Miller has emerged as one of hockey's best goalies in that span, winning a Vezina Trophy and leading Team USA to a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Capping the day's news

   July 17, 1956 -- The Buffalo Sabres recently made some news when they purchased the Rochester Americans in order to put their top minor-league players there.

   A mere 55 years ago, an National Hockey League team pulled the reserve financial transaction, selling a Buffalo franchise to local interests.

   The Pastor Brothers, Ruby, Al and Sam … bought the Pepsi bottling works in 1955. They decided more than two years later that getting into the hockey business would be good public relations. So they bought the hockey Bisons from the Chicago Black Hawks, as they were called then, for a reported $125,000.

   Someone certainly knew a thing or two about marketing, because the Pastors did something that is still fondly remembered today. They changed the Bisons' logo into a replica of a Pepsi bottlecap, with a sweeping "Buffalo‘ written in the middle of it.

   The Pastors held on to the the team until 1970, when it folded because of the arrival of the NHL's Sabres. The bottlecap lives on a bit in an alternate sweater design that includes a sweeping "Buffalo‘"across the chest.

-- 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.