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Junior Masters Update

James Blackwell of North Tonawanda is all square with David Marin of Colombia in their semifinal match at the 60th International Junior Masters at East Aurora CC.

-- Bob DiCesare

Post Time: Weekend racing notes

By Gene Kershner

Now that the Triple Crown season has subsided, it’s time to focus on the Canadian Triple Crown, the older handicap division and the summer racing series for 3-year-olds. Saratoga is a mere three weeks away and Del Mar opens up a week earlier. If the second half of the season is anything like the first six months, buckle your seat belts we have some great racing on the horizon.

The 3-year-olds really brought it during the spring and several of this talented group including Bodemeister, Paynter, Union Rags should continue to chip away at the hold that I’ll Have Another has on the 3-year-old divisional year end laurels. Last year, Stay Thirsty really established himself at Saratoga after a noble second place finish in the Belmont and with a key victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Breeders’ Cup Classic would have catapulted him into consideration for year end honors. Is there a horse that meets this description that can challenge the handicap division horses for Horse of the Year honors or has I’ll Have Another locked it up with his four straight graded stake victories (including three Grade 1’s)?

This weekend’s big race is the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, where some colts who competed in the Triple Crown series will attack Big Sandy over 1 1/16 miles. I favor Belmont runner Unstoppable U for trainer Kenny McPeek over the talented Teeth of the Dog who was impressive on Belmont day.

It’s still quiet on the Canadian front whether or not the Queen’s Plate victor, Strait of Dover, will head down the QEW to the Fort for the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Ron Turcotte, the jockey on Secretariat for the majority of his career, will serve as the honorary draw master on Wednesday July 11 at the border oval. I still have a sneaking suspicion that he will skip the second leg based on his difficulties with a dirt track, evidenced by his first two career races at Hastings.

The handicap division has some talented horses vying for possible year end hardware, with Ron The Greek pulling off the Santa Anita Handicap/Stephen Foster double for the first time in history. Game On Dude is still a potential contender along with Wise Dan and Successful Dan, all with opportunities in the second half of the year to make noise in the older division.

The 3-year-old filly division is still up in the air with Zo Impressive’s big win in at Belmont this past weekend in the Mother Goose over Kentucky Oaks champion Believe You Can and the highly talented Contested. Things will start to heat up at Saratoga on opening weekend with the Coaching Club American Oaks and culminating with the Alabama later in the meet. This division should start to sort itself over the next two months.

We’re looking forward to the next few weeks of racing, featuring the Prince of Wales and Saratoga opening weekend in addition to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. We’ll be making the trek to the Jersey Shore for the Haskell for the first time since 2006 when Bluegrass Cat romped home with the victory. The race is shaping up to have some top contenders including Bodemeister and Union Rags, so we’ll keep you posted as the race unfolds over the next few weeks.

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

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ollie Carnegie

     (Born June 29, 1899) -- There won't be another Ollie Carnegie in Buffalo's baseball history. There have been better players to pass through over the years, but no one that talented will ever stay here that long.

     Carnegie first turned professional in 1922 when he played in the Michigan-Ontario League. An appendicitis attack stopped his career for nine seasons.

     Carnegie reappeared with Hazelton of the New York-Penn League in 1931. The Bisons acquired him at the age of 32 for $500, one of the best uses of money in Buffalo's sports history.

     The outfielder spent 12 seasons as a Bison. He has team records for games, hits, homers, and RBIs, among other accomplishments. Carnegie hit 45 homers in 1938.

     Sadly, major league teams weren't very interested in a player of his age. He died in 1976 at the age of 77.

     Carnegie was an easy choice for the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: A fine mess

It's been quite a week in the running business.

At first, it looked as if the planned half-marathon at Orchard Park had collapsed. Runners were rather angry, particularly those who had trained for months in preparation for a race that had been postponed nine days before the start. They had every right to be angry too.

However, a few days ago, a coalition of organizations and people got together and saved the race. So hundreds will be taking to the streets early Saturday with the goal of finishing 13.1 miles of running at the 50-year line at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

I'll have a recap of what I thought of the entire episode in my next running column a week from Saturday. Your thoughts, before and after the actual running, are welcome at [email protected].

Speaking of mix-ups, the CityBration race suffered from a couple of them over the weekend. It's a first-year event and errors are to be expected, but it doesn't make runners any happier.

Number one came the day before, as shirt and number pick-up were promised from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Central Wharf. A couple of runners went down there at 1 o'clock or so, and there was no sign of anyone connected to the race ... and no one in the area knew anything about it. I stopped down later at 4:15 p.m. or so, and the package was available then.

Then on raceday, runners were told they could use a ticket for either Cheerios or chicken wings after the race. The people in charge of those foods knew nothing about it -- and remember, runners don't often carry money with them for races. Then, the athletes found out that their tickets for beer were good ... but that the beer tent opened at noon. For a race that started at 9:30 a.m., this was a bit of a wait. So a lot of runners went home hungry and thirsty.

Rule number one in business: keep your promises.

It's a strange weekend on the calendar, as there's nothing scheduled around Buffalo outside of the Orchard Park run on Saturday or Sunday. Here's the slate, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* Road 2 Recovery Mental Health 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 883-3331 x321.

* Fitness 360 JDRF Run for the Cure 5K, 2625 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, 7 p.m. on Friday, 874-2005.

* The 50-Yard Line Finish, 13.1 miles & 5K, Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchad Park, 7 a.m. Saturday, 830-6703.

* D&F 5K Challenge, 1170 Central Ave. in Dunkirk, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 510-0702.

-- Budd Bailey

Blackwell holds off upset at IJM

It took all 18 holes, but James Blackwell held off an upset and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the International Junior Masters Thursday afternoon.

Blackwell, the top-seeded player at the tournament from North Tonawanda, conceded holes 14 and 15 to Eduardo Rivera of Colombia to bring the match even and only advanced by winning 18.

“To be completely honest with you, he probably deserved to win,” Blackwell said after the round. “His short game is absolutely phenomenal. For the age he is, to have a short game like that is amazing.”

Blackwell had a shot to take the lead on 17 after Rivera’s tee shot landed on the fairway -- one hole over. But with the threat of Rivera’s putting in the back of his mind, Blackwell took a gamble and went for a difficult putt, missing it long. Rivera sunk his putt to save par and split the hole.

“If it was somebody else, I probably wouldn’t have gone that aggressive at the pin,” Blackwell said. “I knew I had to make a birdie to win that hole.”

With the match tied on 18, Rivera’s tee shot went into the right rough, and he only made it worse by hitting his second shot into a water hazard. Blackwell’s first shot took a favorable bounce on the fairway before he hit a beautiful approach with a 9-iron from 160 yards out that landed within feet of the cup.

Rivera gave an attempt at chipping in from his drop before conceding the match.

The next round will begin around 2 p.m.

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

 

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jim Watson

     (Born June 28, 1943) -- Here's the first thing you should know about "Jumbo Jim" Watson, an original member of the Buffalo Sabres. He was 6-foot-2, 188 pounds. If Zdeno Chara had played back then, they'd need an entirely new set of adjectives to describe him.

     Watson had a long career that went through a lot of leagues and cities. He started as a professional when he played one game for the Detroit Red Wings in the 1963-64 season, dividing the rest of that season between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. He played one more game for Detroit in 1964-65, and two more in 1965-66. After a full year in San Diego in 1966-67, the defenseman finally got to be a regular with Detroit in 1967-68.

     However, that status didn't stick. He was mostly in the minors in the next two seasons before he finally wound up as a Buffalo Sabres. Watson was there on opening night in Pittsburgh when the Sabres debuted. What's more, he scored the first goal in team history. It came at 5:01 of the first period.

     Watson played 78 games in that first season. He never played more games in one city in one year in his career. The defenseman was back in 1971-72 for 66 more games.

     In the summer of 1972, he jumped to the Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Association. Watson passed through a couple of more stops before finishing his career with the Quebec Nordiques in 1976.

     He finished with 231 games in the NHL, and 144 of them were in Buffalo.

--- Budd Bailey

4 Locals Top 32 at IJM

Four local players -- James Blackwell, Josh Stauffer, Jacob Kreuz and Andrew Romano -- will tee off in this afternoon's championship bracket at the International Junior Masters at East Aurora CC. Blackwell placed first (139), Stauffer second (143), Kreuz T3 (145) and Andrew Romano T19 (153). Blackwell and Kreuz are making their second straight appearance in the final 32.

-- Bob DiCesare

Blackwell Medals, Stauffer Sets Record

James Blackwell (3-under 139) is the medalist and Josh Stauffer set a tournament record with a 65 at the International Junior Masters this morning. Stauffer (143) will be the No. 2 seed when they tee off in match play this afternoon.

We're still waiting for the final pairings. There's a group still out and it already looks like a playoff for the last of the 32 spots in the Championship Flight.

-- Bob DiCesare

Blackwell Sizzles at Jr. Masters

Ball State-bound James Blackwell, a St. Joe's graduate, produced his second straight sub-par round this morning and appears a shoo-in to grab medalist honors and the Gary Player Trophy at the 60th International Junior Masters at East Aurora Country Club.

Blackwell followed Tuesday's 2-under 69 with a 70 and has a four-stroke advantage over those who've posted. It would take a ridiculous score to knock Blackwell out of the top spot as lower scores went off first in the morning.

But there are scores out there. Bona-bound Josh Stauffer of Bradford, son of PGA Professional Kirk Staffer, went bogeyless in a 6-under 65 that has tournament organizers scrambling for the record books.

Blackwell's 3-under total is believed to tie for the lowest score in at least the last 20 years. Medalists shot 139 in 2002 and 2008.

Match play begins this afternoon.

-- Bob DiCesare

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: John Tracey

     (Born June 27, 1933) -- It's almost surprising that John Tracey, Mike Stratton and Harry Jacobs don't share the same birthday. They are usually linked together when one of them is mentioned.

     Most people don't remember that Tracey started his football career as a wide receiver. He set several school records at that position at Texas A&M.

     Tracey wasn't considered good enough for the National Football League, playing briefly for a pair of teams. However, Bills coach Lou Saban liked him in training camp in 1962. But Saban put him at linebacker to take advantage of Tracey's size and speed.

     That was a good idea. Tracey teamed up with Stratton and Jacobs to become the American Football League's best linebacker trio. They played 62 straight games together from 1963 to 1967, and Tracey was an AFL All-Star twice.

     The linebacker's career ended after the 1967 season. Tracey died of lung cancer in 1978.

--- Budd Bailey

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