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Post Time: Archwarrior’s debut successful at the Spa

By Gene Kershner

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The hype has been deafening. The next Kentucky Derby winner has arrived according to those who have been watching a certain colt by Arch out of a Seeking The Gold mare in the mornings. I stopped by the historic race course on Thursday afternoon to see what all the fuss was about and came away impressed by the physical presence of the dark bay colt named Archwarrior.

The anticipation level of a first time 2-year-old starter has never reached the level that Archwarrior has provided over the past few weeks. After scratching out of his first two entries, he ran his first race on Thursday afternoon and won an $85K Maiden Special Weight, covering six furlongs in 1:10.07.

The heralded maiden winner was bet down to 1-4 on the tote board and paid $2.50 to win, $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show. His 3 ¼-length victory was rather routine in nature, making his move at the top of the stretch and loping home under a hand ride by jockey Johnny Velazquez after taking control of the race as he hit the eighth pole.

The big strapping colt should get even better for meet leading trainer Todd Pletcher who shrugged off the hype and explained his thoughts on why this horse was getting more than his share of attention. “The horse has trained well. I think there are a couple of guys who work for the [Daily Racing] Form that are clocking him in the mornings and maybe talking on the internet and giving out information on horses that are working out in the mornings. I don’t know,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher wasn’t nervous about his young colt’s first race. “Well, it wasn’t exactly like the Kentucky Derby, but generally when you lead a first-time starter over here, you’re the one that kind of knows what to expect. Not everyone else maybe expects the same thing. But yeah, we were hoping he’d run as he’d been training. I mean, we’ve brought a lot of first-time starters over here over the years, but I’ve never had so many questions beforehand.”

Johnny V was asked to compare him to the highly regarded Uncle Mo in his post race comments. “No, he’s not as fast as Uncle Mo. He is much bigger and heavier than Uncle Mo. Uncle Mo was smaller and faster. Archwarrior is more the type of horse who will really get good when the distances get longer. He’s not going to win by 10 or 12 lengths, he’s not going to open up on the field. He’s just kind of steady. He should run all day long,” said the Hall of Fame jockey.

He still has a lot of work to do before he dons the garland of roses in May and hopefully we’ll get to see how he progresses stretching out in the future. Pletcher was close to the vest when asked what’s up next for Archwarrior. We’ll play it by ear and see how he comes out of it.”

Spa Notebook 

The Saratoga meeting will come to a conclusion on Labor Day, highlighted by the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (Grade 2) on Monday afternoon for 2-year-olds. The holiday weekend will feature seven graded stakes races, including three Grade 1 races (Woodward, Forego and Spinaway).

The Grade 1 Woodward features last year’s Travers winner Stay Thirsty (5-1), who is winless in four attempts since winning last season’s Midsummer Derby. The morning line favorite, Mucho Macho Man (8-5) has never won a Grade 1 race, nor has trainer Kathy Ritvo won a Grade 1. He is coming off a win in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in July. Cigar Mile champion To Honor and Serve (2-1) has only missed the board once in six attempts at the 9-furlong distance of the Woodward.

The 7-furlong Forego will be run on Saturday on the Woodward undercard and will be another duel between morning line favorite Shackleford (2-1) and the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend (7-2). James Marvin winner at the same distance, Pacific Ocean (4-1) will look to sweep the Spa sprint stakes for older horses.

Sunday’s card features the Grade 1 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies and the Grade 3 Saranac, a 1 1/8-mile race on the turf.

Archwarrior Photo Credit: NYRA, Adam Coglianese

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

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ray Dandridge

(Born August 31, 1913) -- At first it’s a little difficult to find the connection between Ray Dandridge and Buffalo. Then comes the discovering: the Baseball Hall of Famer grew up here.

Dandridge was born in Richmond, Virginia, but soon landed in Buffalo. He showed great ability to play the game of baseball here and eventually ended up in the Negro leagues.

The third baseman broke in with the Detroit Stars in 1933. He eventually landed in Newark for much of the 1930s, where he established a reputation as one of the best infielders in the game. Roy Campanella once said he never saw a better third baseman.

Dandridge eventually jumped to the Mexican League, where he spent much of his time between 1940 and 1948. Finally in 1949, he was signed to play in the minors ... and hit .362 to win rookie of the year honors at the age of 36. Dandridge was the American Association’s MVP a year later.

Dandridge retired from playing in 1955, and became a scout for the San Francisco Giants. Eventually he took his rightful place in Cooperstown, his arrival delayed by bad timing more than talent. Dandridge also went into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Roberto Hernandez

(Born August 30, 1980) -- Here’s a performer who spent some time in Buffalo, but not with this name. Most fans remember him as Fausto Carmona.

Hernandez came up through the Cleveland Indians’ organization as a member of the Dominican Republic. He was named the pitcher of the year in the Indians’ system in 2003., mostly because of a 17-4 record and 2.06 ERA for Lake County of the Single-A Sally League.

Hernandez pitched one game in Buffalo in 2004, and then went 7-4 for the Herd in 2005. That earned him a trip to the major leagues, where he debuted for Cleveland in 2006, although he came back to Buffalo for a short time during that season.

After going 1-10 that rookie season, Hernandez went 19-8 in 2007 in helping the Indians reach the American League playoffs. That turned out to be the best year of his career so far.

In 2012, Hernandez was arrested by Dominican authorities for using the fake name of Carmona in gaining a visa to enter the United States. He went back to his original name and picked up three years of age when his real birth certificate was produced.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Joe Mihalich

(Born August 29, 1956) -- In the world of college basketball, good coaches are supposed to come to the mid-major schools, win some games, and move on to a better job.

Joe Mihalich has turned out to be an exception to the rule. He’s acting as if he’s found that better job.
Mihalich was a guard at La Salle from 1974 to 1978 under coach Paul Westhead. After graduation he signed on as an assistant coach at DeMatha Catholic High School in Washington, one of the great prep dynasties in the game’s history. From there it was back to La Salle to work as an assistant coach.

After 17 years there, Niagara picked him to be its head basketball coach. The Purple Eagles haven’t looked back. He has guided Niagara to two NCAA tournaments, two NIT spots, and more than 200 wins.

What’s more, the Purple Eagles have played an entertaining brand of basketball that has featured uptempo play and scorers such as Charron Fisher, Juan Mendez and Tyrone Lewis.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Pierre Turgeon

(Born August 28, 1969) -- The Buffalo Sabres were hoping that history would repeat itself in 1987. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The Sabres had the first pick in the NHL Entry Draft in 1987. The first time that had happened to them in 1970, they took a center from Quebec named Gil Perreault, who stayed through 1986 and became an all-time great.

The Sabres had hopes that another center from Quebec would do well. Turgeon had scored 154 points in 58 games in his final year of junior, and jumped right into the NHL in 1987-88. It took him a year to get the hang of the place, but by 1990 Turgeon was one of the top scorers in the league with 106 points.

By the fall of 1991, though, the Sabres needed a star to help sell the idea of a new arena in Buffalo. They thought the Islanders’ Pat LaFontaine had that star power, so those two players were the centerpiece of a huge deal.

Turgeon later played for the Canadiens, Blues, Stars, and Avalanche. When he was done in 2006, Turgeon had scored 515 goals. Interestingly enough, Perreault finished with 512.

--- Budd Bailey

Video: Suhr shows off gold in Western New York

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: John "Scrappy" Carroll

(Born August 27, 1860) -- Two days ago, this space covered a baseball player with an unusual nickname. Here’s another one, and he’s a Buffalo native as well.

John Carroll has been described as the first baseball player to ever be called “Scrappy,” due to a feisty disposition. In 1884, Carroll played for St. Paul in the Union Association, considered a major league by some, and led off the very first game for that short-lived franchise.

He joined the Buffalo Bisons of the National League in 1885, appearing in 13 games. It’s fair to say the outfielder struggled, since he went 3 for 40 at the plate. The Bisons faded away after that, and Carroll’s big-league career was over. But he kept plugging away for several years. He popped up on the Buffalo roster in 1891 in the Eastern Association. At least Carroll hit .215 that season.

In 1892, Scrappy moved on to play one more season. He split his time between Binghampton and Minneapolis, and called it a career.

From there, we only know that Carroll returned to his native city at some point, as he was buried here in 1942. His remains are in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

--- Budd Bailey

TWC's high school schedule

Time Warner Cable will air 20 high school football games this season, on channels 13 and 713. All but two of the games will be televised on tape delay. The two live broadcasts are next Saturday’s McQuaid at Canisius (1 p.m.) game, and Sept. 28’s meeting between St. Joe’s and Aquinas.

The schedule:

Sept. 1, 1 p.m., McQuaid at Canisius;
Sept. 1, 7 p.m., Bishop Timon-St. Jude at Williamsville South;
Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m., St. Joe’s at Bennett;
Sept. 15, 4:30 p.m., Lackawanna at Cheektowaga;
Sept. 22, 7 p.m., Clarence at Lancaster;
Sept. 28, 7 p.m., St. Joe’s at Aquinas;
Sept. 30, 7 p.m., North Tonawanda at Starpoint;
Oct. 6, 7 p.m., McKinley at North Tonawanda;
Oct. 13, TBA, Depew at Lancaster;
Oct. 14, TBA, Kenmore West at Kenmore East;
Oct. 20, TBA, Section VI playoff;
Oct. 27, TBA, Section VI playoff;
Nov. 3-4, TBA, Section VI Championships;
Nov. 8, TBA, Msgr. Martin Association semifinals.

--Greg Connors

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Billy DeMars

(Born August 26, 1925) -- Billy DeMars liked Western New York so much, he kept coming back and back to it.

He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, and his second stop in the minor leagues was with the Olean Oilers. He was one of two players on that team to make it to the big leagues. Baseball fans know the other name - Ralph Branca. DeMars hit .270 in Olean.

After a break due to World War II, DeMars wound up in the Athletics’ chain and played in the majors in 1948. But he was sent to Buffalo in 1949. DeMars hit .278 in seeing plenty of duty at shortstop.

It was on to the St. Louis Browns for parts of the next couple of seasons, and DeMars then landed in Toronto for four years. But he was back in Buffalo in 1956, against appearing in more than 100 games and hitting .244.

DeMars hung around the Triple-A level for a few more years, and then moved into managing. His last stop in that job came in 1968 in Rochester in the Orioles’ chain.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Bona Venture Stables' Summer of Fun wins at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS-- Bona Venture Stables' Summer of Fun upset a field of ten 2-year-old fillies in the sixth race today at Saratoga Race Course at odds of 11-1. Summer of Fun made her move on the far turn and moved ahead of the pace setter at the top of the stretch and held off a hard charging effort from Wave Theory to win the $85K maiden special weight at 1 1/16-miles on the Mellon Turf Course at the Spa.

Summer of Fun paid $24.80 to win, $9.10 to place and $7.10 to show and covered the distance in 1:43.86 to break his maiden in his second career race. The Include filly trained by George Weaver ran fifth on a sloppy track three weeks ago before winning today's race with jockey Eddie Castro aboard.

Bona Venture Stables' managing partner Dan Collins had some anxious moments in the stretch run, but thinks that Summer of Fun can become a special filly. "She seemed to relax a bit in the stretch. We will team him to stay aggressive," said Collins. "We will look for a stakes race that could set us up for a Breeders' Cup return, hopefully at Belmont this Fall.

Bona Venture Stables' Royal Bonnie competed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last fall at Churchill Downs. The 2012 Breeders' Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park in November.

-- Gene Kershner

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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.