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Live from Toronto: Bandits vs. Rock

6:44 p.m. -- It's Good Friday, which means it's something of a holiday in Toronto. The Bandits and Rock are about to get ready to play an important game in the Air Canada Centre.

Both teams ought to be in a bad mood tonight. The Bandits got spanked by Edmonton on Saturday night. Then the Rush turned right around the next afternoon and clobbered the Rock. Both sides, then, are interested in righting the ship. It's more important for the Bandits, since they are in the midst of a playoff fight. Any win would be appreciated after losing four in a row.

As usual as of late, some of the pregame drama centers on the Bandits lineup. The scratches were announced as Mike McNamara, Jamie Rooney and Hayden Smith. Luke Wiles has supposedly been activated off the practice squad, but there's no official word of that yet. We should see the official lineup soon. Someone would have to be dropped off the roster to make room for Wiles if the story is true.

Speaking of roster moves, old friend Mike Thompson has been signed to a one-year contract by Philadelphia. He was prompted put on the holdout list, proving once again that the word "holdout" has different meanings than it does in other sports. Nick Cotter went on the holdout list when the Bandit took a hit to the head at home recently.

As for the Rock, it plays Rochester tomorrow. Two wins this weekend would wrap up the East. After winning five of six, Toronto has gone 3-3. The Rock plays nothing but East teams the rest of the way, including one game with Phliadelphia and another one with Rochester here.  So clearly, Toronto will have something to say about the playoff race.

Tonight's game is on espn3.com, as it is being broadcast by TSN here in Canada and picked up in the U.S. by ESPN. Youtube is not showing the game in North America.

Lots going on this weekend, with Canisius and Niagara in the NCAA hockey tournament. Meanwhile, of interest to, well, Syracuse grads, the NCAA basketball tournament continues through Sunday. But, the game in front of us ought to be worth our time.

7:02 p.m. - There's a familiar name on the Rock. Roger Vyse, the ex-Bandit, is playing in his first game with Toronto. Good guy.

7:07 p.m. -- Dropping the first ball tonight - Roberto Alomar. Wonder if he has ever seen a game?

Luke Wiles is dressed and in the lineup. We'll see if we can find out how he got there.

7:13 p.m. - Glen Bryan scored a short-handed goal for Buffalo, followed by a good-sized scrum behind the Toronto net. Guess we were right to figure these teams would be a in a bad mood after last weekend.

7:16 p.m. - Not much room in the penalty box.

7:23 p.m. - Another scrum has broken out, with the score 2-1 Toronto with 8:14 left in the period. Looks like Derek Hopcroft and his dance partner will be sitting for a while.

The answer to the Wiles roster spot is probably the obvious one - I assume Chad Culp has gone on injured reserve. The league as a whole sometimes doesn't do a great job of keeping everyone informed of roster moves.

7:32 p.m. - It's still 2-1, Toronto with 4:55 left in the quarter. Shots are 12-7 for the Rock, perhaps because of power play time.

7:37 p.m. - Wiles already has two minor penalties, and seems frustrated. It's now 4-1, Toronto.

7:40 p.m. - Dhane Smith gets one back for the Bandits near the end of the quarter. Buffalo trails, 4-2. I'm not sure if Dhane Smith is the most valuable player on the team, but the rookie has been very consistent this season.

7:52 p.m. - Still 9:49 left in the second quarter, and the Rock has a 6-4 lead. Buffalo got it down to 5-4 on goals by Hopcroft and Hominuck, but Bill Greer replied for Toronto right of the faceoff. Refs are calling a lot of penalties, and the Buffalo bench got a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while the team was on a delayed penalty.

8:00 p.m. - While we wait for a review of a Buffalo goal, the arena has played an entire dance mix of a song. Bad news for the Bandits at the end, as it was waved off. Still 6-4.

8:05 p.m. - Nothing new on the scoresheet for a change lately. Toronto still lead 6-4.

8:15 p.m. - We had a bit of a flurry in the final minutes of the half. Shawn Williams's low shot beat Nick Rose with 1.1 seconds left to narrow the margin to 7-6, Toronto. John Tavares had scored with 12:29 gone in the period. Considering Buffalo's penalty problems, it has to be relatively happy to only be down a goal.

8;33 p.m. - We're back in action, and Colin Doyle has already scored for the Rock (18 seconds).

8:37 p.m. - Danger time for the Bandits. Toronto has scored three goals in 3:39 to take a 10-6 lead. Buffalo has come out a bit flat.

8:40 p.m. - Make it four straight Toronto goals to start the period. Wagar in for Cosmo in the Buffalo net.

8:41 p.m. - Doesn't help. Five in a row, 12-6. And shots are 40-23, Toronto.

8:43 p.m. - This is the fourth straight game that Wagar has come on in relief of Cosmo. In fairness, one of them was the home game in Toronto, when Wagar came on after the line brawl.

8:49 p.m. -- When it goes badly ... Shawn Williams' apparent score is wiped out after a review.

8:56 p.m. - Toronto adds a short-handed goal, and then Wiles picks up two minors and Billy Dee Smith gets a slashing minor after the goal. I'd say it's going to be a long bus ride back to Buffalo, but most of the guys live in Ontario.

9:02 p.m. .- Third quarter mercifully ends, with Toronto up, 14-6. The Rock had a 7-0 edge in the thrid quarter. The Bandits don't keep a record for being outscored in a quarter, However, that matches the worst total by a Buffalo team since 2006. It was last done by Rochester in 2009. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

9:11 p.m. - Not getting any better as Toronto is ahead by 17-8. The 17 goals allowed is a season high for the Bandits.

9:23 p.m. - Just playing out the string here. It's 18-10 with 3:09 left.

9;32 p.m. - Mercifully over with an 18-11 final.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Breakfast in Dubai

By Gene Kershner 

Breakfast at the races is on tap on Saturday morning as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a spectacular weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes the Florida Derby (NBC Sports Network, 6 p.m. EDT) from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds.  The Meydan Race Course will be home to some of the richest races of the year.  American style past performances for the Dubai races can be found here.

Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary, a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so fill up your bowl with some Lucky Charms and start handicapping…

Race 4: (10:25 a.m. EDT) UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16-mile on the Tapeta, for $2 million big ones. his race is also part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, offering the winner 100 points and a gate in the Derby. The race has drawn 12 three-year-olds, including several from the States. Lightly raced 7-Secret Number (3-1) is the morning line favorite, but I favor 4-Lines of Battle (10-1), a War Front colt we last saw at Santa Anita. He finished sixth in a fairly strong Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf race where he had a very wide trip and covered much more ground than the top finishers. The top American challenger is El Camino Real winner 5-Dice Flavor, who won that race at Golden Gate Fields, a track with a Tapeta surface.

Race 5: (11:05 a.m. EDT) Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of $1 million dollars has attracted 16 runners. Appears to be a duel between favored 7-Shea Shea (5-2) and 15-Sole Power (5-1), who met earlier in the month at Meydan in a $175K ungraded stake where Shea Shea prevailed by over two lengths.  With a faster pace to the race likely, let's go with Sole Power to  avenge his loss in the Meydan Sprint. Top American hopeful is 6-Varsity (6-1) with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. He'll most likely be on or near the lead and will try to take them gate to wire.  

Race 6: (11:45 a.m. EDT) Dubai Golden Shaheen.  A 6-furlong sprint on the Tapeta surface, with a purse of two bills, encompasses a field of 13 horses. Don’t confuse this race with the Shabeen, an old Buffalo bar and grill on Delaware Avenue, very popular on and around March 17. 3-Trinniberg (5-2) comes off the long layoff after his Breeders' Cup Sprint win to go for the money. Will he be ready to roll against horses that have had decent starts so far in 2013? His main rival, also an American horse, 12-Private Zone (9-2) has had three straight second place finishes in graded company in California. They are both "in the lead" types so depending on the pace early will decide whether any stalking or closers can catch them. I like 5-Reynaldothewizard (12-1) and 10-Mental (7-2), horses that each have earned wins on the Meydan Tapeta to challenge the Americans.

Race 7: (12:40 p.m. EDT) Dubai Duty Free. A nice field of 14 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $5 million. One of America's top turf horses and defending Breeders' Cup Turf champion 3-Little Mike (3-1) will try to prove that last year was no fluke in winning three major U.S. races. He had a tune up race on the Tapeta in the Al Maktoum challenge where he finished sixth. If he wins he'd be the first American horse to win on the turf course during a World Cup meet. If you're looking to beat Little Mike, look no further than 5-Sajjhaa (GB) (8-1) who owns a Grade 1 victory  over this course for Godophin. Johnny Murtagh is aboard New Zealand-bred 7-Ocean Park (9-2) who ships in with an impressive record. This could be one of the best races of the day. 

Race 8: (1:20 p.m. EDT) Dubai Sheema Classic.  Eleven runners will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $5 million large. 8-Gentildonna (9-5), winner of last November's Japan Cup is the most likely favorite on the card. You can never count out 6-St. Nicholas Abbey (5-2), but looks like he could have his work cut out for him on Saturday.  

Race 9: (2:05 p.m. EDT) Dubai World Cup. Run at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the Tapeta for $10 million. Yes, you read that correctly, $10 million. Several American hopefuls will try and bring back the big purse to the homeland, including the two-time Ladies Classic champion 8-Royal Delta (4-1) who had a difficult trip last year in this race, but is back to redeem herself. She brings Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith with her this year to challenge. A familiar Americanhorse, 3-Dullahan (6-1) should go off at a better price and will be rolling late. He will have 50-year-old jockey Gary Stevens in the irons for the first time and will try and improve off his last effort over the Meydan all-weather surface earlier this month. The dangerous Godolphin stable has the morning line favorite in 4-Hunter's Light (IRE) (7-2) who will be running third off the layoff and comes off two impressive wins over the track. Also entered are last year's winner, 10-Monterosso (20-1) and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner 12-Animal Kingdom (5-1), whose last win on a synthetic surface was the Spiral Stakes prior to the Derby at Turfway Park. This race is shaping up to be nothing less than a classic. I like Dullahan's chances and think Royal Delta will prove last year's race was a simply a bad trip.

Saturday is a terrific day of racing, be sure to check out tomorrow's print edition for previews of the huge races from Florida and Louisiana. 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

Running notebook: Put on your shoes

If you are looking for a reason to get out the door and run, even while spring refuses to arrive in full, I'll have one for you on Sunday in the running column. You'll hear from a runner who has an inspirational story about overcoming adversity and helping others along the way.

It's been a very slow first three months for running. But there is a popular race coming up this weekend. Then the deluge begins. Here's the listing from buffalorunners.com:

* Bunny Hop, 5k, 1 Legion Drive in East Aurora, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 866-0136.

-- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: The day after

I was tempted to steal from the most famous line in rock music literary criticism ("I have seen rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen") after watching the Edmonton-Bandits game Saturday night. The Rush were so big, and so athletic, that I thought I was watching the future of indoor lacrosse. It was a clinic. Edmonton came back a day later, meaning this afternoon, and jumped out on Toronto just like it did Saturday. The Rush coasted home a winner, 17-12. Edmonton and Calgary are now in the playoffs.

As for the Bandits, I've spent a little of the afternoon looking up a few statistical nuggets for my own curiosity. Things come to mind in a game like Saturday's.

* The Bandits have lost five in a row at home (my mistake yesterday). Buffalo has only lost five home games in a season once before, in 1999 - in a six-game home slate. The Bandits lost the last four that year, and then lost the opener for five in a row. Therefore, this year's team has tied the all-time record for consecutive home losses.

One other fact in that department - Bandits haven't been above .500 at home for a whole season since 2009.

* Edmonton's 22-9 edge in shots in the first period was impressive, but it wasn't by any means a Buffalo team record for shot differential in a quarter. I went back to 2012, and found that Calgary had an 18-3 edge in the fourth quarter of its game last March.  

By the way, the Bandits had a 22-5 edge in Rochester last March. That's their biggest margin on their side in the last two seasons. It is relatively unusual to outshoot someone by more than 10 shots in a period.

Meanwhile, Edmonton had a 22-8 edge on Toronto in the first quarter today. Wow.

* Edmonton seemed to get most of the loose balls that mattered Saturday night. My guess is that the totals vary wildly by who is keeping the stats, but here are some figures that may surprise.

The Bandits lost the loose ball battle Saturday night by 96-76. That difference of 20 isn't even a high for this year; Philadelphia had an 88-66 edge on opening night. However, Buffalo had had a deficit in loose balls by at least 18 in five different games this season. That's a heck of a disadvantage over the course of a season.

Last year, Buffalo only lost one loose ball count by at least 10, but it was a whopper. In the season's final game in Washington, the Stealth piled up a 97-49 edge. How dd that one make it to overtime?

--- Budd Bailey

Rush 14, Bandits 7

6:45 p.m. - What was that Newton said about objects in motion? I think it was something about how they tend to remain in motion.

Wonder if that Newton fellow knew much about indoor lacrossse, because we have two teams flying in opposite directions tonight. The Bandits have lost three in a row, while the Edmonton Rush has won three in a row. The Bandits want to change direction, the Rush do not.

And that's the setting for tonight's game. It's a big one for the Bandits, who are facing a three-game road trip after this. When you are but one game ahead of the last-place squads in the league, the margin for error is small.

The lineup for the Bandits already looks interesting. Nick Cotter has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. That has opened up a roster spot, and it has been taken by Alex Kedoh-Hill. (Note: I've seen his name as Alex-Kedoh Hill, Alex "Kedoh" Hill, and Alex Kedoh-Hill. I'll stick with the latter from now on - unless I hear otherwise.) Hill came over from the Knighthawks for Scott Self just before the deadline.

Meanwhile Chad Culp and Carter Bender are also hurting, according to coach Darris Kilgour. Billy Dee Smith will miss tonight's game because of a suspension from the Colorado home game. He dropped his appeal.

I saw Tracey Kelusky participate in the morning shootaround. He said his injury was coming around, and that he was almost healed. Kelusky is on injured reserve.

Cheap plug for a reason department: I wrote up a imaginary conversation between the Bandits' Steve Dietrich and his Toronto counterpart about the deal that brought Dietrich's rights back to Buffalo. I saw Dietrich at practice this morning, and said I hoped he got a laugh out of it. He said he did, adding that he liked the idea of it taking three players and two draft choices to get his rights. Dietrich also said he has no plans to return to active duty. I bring it up because you'll like Kilgour's reaction to the trade; it's in Sunday's notebook in the newspaper.

The Bandits are wearing special uniforms tonight. They will be auctioned off later to raise money for the fight against cancer. The pink trim isn't bad against the black uniforms.

You can watch tonight's game on line through nll.com, which has a link to the You Tube's Lacrosse Network. Or you can listen to the game on 1520 AM. When this game is over, you can listen to Syracuse's basketball win over California on that same station. Note: That last part may turn out to be wishful thinking. Blame March Madness.

7:17 p.m. - It's been pointed out that this is Jordan Critch's first career game with the Bandits. He is one of the team's second-round draft choices. (Thank you, Alan.)

7:33 p.m. - Interesting how some good young players drafted by the Bandits have wound up in Edmonton - Jeremy Thomnpson, Chris Corbeil and Jeffr Cornwall.

7:47 p.m. - Edmonton is out to a 2-1 lead with about 10 minutes left in the quarter. The tiebreaking goal scored when Curtis Knight flipped the ball into the crease. Mike McNamara and Anthony Cosmo couldn't figure out who should pick the ball up, and it dribbled in. These things happen in a losing streak.

By the way, kudos to the sound man for playing "YYZ" by Rush when Edmonton took the floor. Good to hear one of my favorite bands in the building.

7:55 p.m. - Edmonton has done a great deal right already. Corey Small has a hat trick, and it's 5-2, Rush. Bandits have missed some passes, and Edmonton looks stocked with good athletes.

7:58 p.m. - Kurtis Wagar has come on in relief after Jarrett Davis scores to make it 6-2. Cosmo was far from sharp, but he hasn't gotten much help. By the way, Mark Matthews made a great pass across the crease to set up Davis' goal. I'm starting to see what the fuss is all about when it comes with the rookie. Shots are 18-7, Edmonton.

8:05 p.m. - Shots for the period ended up 22-8, which describes how the first period went. Buffalo might even be a bit lucky to be down by only four.

8:14 p.m. - Buffalo has cut down on the shots on goal in the first part of the second quarter. Bad news - Edmonton has scored on two of its three shots. Rush leads, 8-3.

8:21 p.m. - The game has calmed down a bit. Edmonton still has the five-goal lead, but the Bandits have settled down a bit. There is 5:11 left.

8:32 p.m. - Not much noise from the crowd at the end of the half. It's 9-4 Edmonton after two periods. Shots are 33-18.

8:56 p.m. - Bandits are showing a little life early in the second half. They have scored two straight goals to cut the lead to 10-6.

9:00 p.m. - It's still 10-6 with 5:53 left. Edmonton has gotten a little too fancy in its shots, trying to be flashy. Still, the Rush is hanging on to the four-goal lead.

9:11 p.m. - Dam has broken again. Edmonton has taken a 13-6 lead with a minute to go in the period. Cosmo back in.

9:25 p.m. - 16,629 are here tonight. OK, some have left. It';s 14-6 with 7:48 left.

9:19 p.m. - Still 13-6 with 12 minutes to go. At least the Bandits killed off a five-minute major.

9:38 p.m. - Bandits' misery, at least on the field, is over. It's a 14-7 final. Alex Kedoh-Hill's three goals are the only bright spot.

11:41 p.m. - Whew. When I left the arena at 10:20, the Bandits were still in a players-only meeting in their locker room. Buffalo has gone from 5-3 to 5-7 in no time at all, seemingly, and the Bandits are a half-game out of the overall basement.

Coach Darris Kilgour started his remarks tonight by saying, "We were in trouble from the first minute to the last minute." No argument.

There are only four games to turn things around, and the first three of them will be on the road. This could be quite a ride.

My stories will be posted soon. Thanks for following along.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Strolling down the Derby trail

By Gene Kershner 

The last two races comprising the first leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series are on tap this weekend with 50 points and a Derby gate awaiting the winners. Saturday afternoon will find the trail in Florence, Ky. at Turfway Park, just outside of Cincinnati for the $550,000 Spiral Stakes. On Sunday afternoon, we'll head west to New Mexico and Sunland Park where the $800,000 Sunland Derby will be run.  

Both of these races have produced recent Kentucky Derby winners, Mine That Bird came out of the Sunland Derby in 2009 and Animal Kingdom won the Spiral in 2011. The Spiral will be run on polytrack and the Sunland Derby is run on a dirt surface.  

So what are some of the goings on in the racing world before we head into the major prep races next weekend while taking a break from March Madness to watch the two key preps this weekend?

- Itsmyluckyday stays atop of my Derby Dozen ballot and the poll itself as Volume III of the  Wireplayers.com poll was released on Wednesday. He owns the fastest speed figure of any 3-year-old on the trail setting the track record in the Holy Bull in January. He is set to run next weekend in the highly competitive Florida Derby.

- Trainer Todd Pletcher will try and sneak two more colts into the Derby this weekend to join likely starters Verrazano and Revolutionary, both owners of 50 Derby points. At Turfway Park, he'll send Capo Bastone in the 12-horse field and maiden winner Abraham in New Mexico. Johnny V will head west to ride Abraham, who has the pedigree to make things interesting in Lobo land.

-  The Spiral Stakes, a race I have grown to have much respect for, drew a nice field with some interesting horses that will battle. Specifically, Mac the Man, who has won two non-graded stakes on the polytrack, and turf horse Balance the Books, who last ran third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf for trainer Chad Brown.

- Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club winner Uncaptured will be the likely favorite and has been the buzz horse most of this week. He has experience on the polytrack up at his homebase at Woodbine, but there may be just enough speed in the race to favor a stalker or closer like General Election or  Balance the Books that could catch him at the wire. It's an intriguing betting race likely to be determined by how fast they go early on.

- Shakin it Up looks to be the class of the Sunland Derby. The Midnight Lute colt is trained by Bob Baffert (@MidnightLute) and has been working lights out since his win in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita. He'll also send Govenor Charlie to post, who looks to be a pretty nice horse. The track tends to favor speed horses, so keep an eye on the "other Baffert."

- Next Saturday will feature three 100 point races in the Florida Derby, the Louisiana Derby and the UAE Derby in Dubai.

- This weekend will be the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool (#3) and Verrazano was made the 7-2 morning line favorite in the pool by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, who will also call the Spiral at Turfway Park.

- Titletown Five, a Tiznow colt owned by a partnership that includes former Green Bay Packer greats Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, will run in next weekend's Louisiana Derby. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who finished 1-2 in last weekend's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, decided to keep him closer to home instead of shipping to New Mexico.

- Hornung, a Louisville native, was asked how he enticed Davis to join the colt's partnership on a national media call earlier this week. "I got Willie to get interested in it.  I don't think Willie knows a horse from a billy goat, but he got involved and he's got a small piece," said the former Heisman Trophy winner. He was not shy on the faith he has in the horse either.  "I learned how to make a wager, and believe me, if my horse would win the Derby, I'm going to break Las Vegas."

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Super trainers face off in Rebel

By Gene Kershner

Three races remain in the first leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the top four finishers acquiring points on a 50-20-10-5 basis.  At Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, the first of the final three races of this leg will be run in the $600,000 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. This portion of the point schedule will conclude next weekend with the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico and the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Kentucky, outside of Cincinnati.  

The Rebel features horses that will be sent to the gate by Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas and from likely future Hall of Famers Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen. Baffert and Lukas will both send out two horses in the 8 1/2-furlong race.  

Baffert has been no less than sensational in the past in the Oaklawn Derby preps dominating with horses such as Lookin at Lucky, The Factor, Secret Circle and Bodemeister over the past three years. He continued that string last month when Super Ninety Nine crushed a Southwest Stakes field by over 11 lengths, earning 10 Derby points from the victory. Baffert has won the last three Rebels in a row and will be heavily favored to make it four. He's won 14 of his last 21 races in Hot Springs.  

The Pulpit colt raced outside of California for the first time in the Southwest relishing the sloppy track in his first graded stakes victory. Super Ninety Nine drew the outside post (No. 11) and was assigned a highweight of 122 pounds. All horses racing in the Kentucky Derby carry 126 pounds.  

His main competition will come from Lukas' trainee, Oxbow, who leaves Louisiana after winning the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes and finishing fourth in the wild finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star three weeks ago won by long shot Ive Struck a Nerve. Oxbow will break just inside Super Ninety Nine, both horses have flashed early speed in the past so the tactical moves early in the race from the outside pair will be interesting to watch. Lukas replaces Jon Court with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, in to ride him for the first time. 

Lukas will be looking for his second career Rebel victory, he finished second last year with Optimizer. He will also send out Will Take Charge, the Smarty Jones winner in January over the Oaklawn dirt. His protégé Todd Pletcher will send out Delhomme, not the quarterback, but the 3-year-old who will be making his 2013 Debut after a third place finish in the Remsen behind Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion. Garret Gomez will fly in to ride Delhomme for Pletcher.  

One colt that is worth a second look is Title Contender, who was claimed from Baffert by Wayne Catalano after his last race. He appears to have struggled on the cushion track at Hollywood Park and didn't fire in the Juvenile last November at Santa Anita. If you go back to his maiden victory, he beat two quality horses in Code West and the Risen Star winner Ive Struck a Nerve. He was caught in the stretch by Carve, the Asmussen trainee who will be on the rail, in the race in which he was claimed at Oaklawn last month.  

Baffert will also try Den's Legacy, a horse with a severe case of seconditis (10 starts; 2-5-1) who still lacks a win on the dirt, he has wins on the turf and the cushion track at Hollywood Park.   

Baffert has owned this race for the past three years and it's hard to pick against him on Saturday. If you're trying to beat Super Ninety Nine my best bets would be Oxbow and Title Contender. Oxbow's had a nice progression of races on the dirt and could be sitting on a big effort. Title Contender has shown he can handle this class of contenders and will be a nice price at post time.  

We're getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Derby trail and the final seven Championship Series prep races will present an opportunity at 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers, virtually guaranteeing the winners a spot and the second place finishers a high probability for qualifying for a Derby gate. The new system has certainly brought more focus to these races as the folks at Churchill Downs had hoped. We are seven weeks away from hearing "My Old Kentucky Home." 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and  Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Bandits notebook: Two more transactions

The Buffalo Bandits have announced that they completed two more trades just before Wednesday's deadline. One of them, oddly enough, raises all sorts of comic possibilities.

The Bandits gave up a sixth-round draft choice in 2015 to Toronto for the rights to retired goaltender - and current Buffalo general manager - Steve Dietrich.

You read that correctly. Dietrich gave up a pick to acquire himself. Has that ever happened before in any sport? I guess it would be like Michael Jordan, now an owner of Charlotte of the NBA, picking up the rights to himself in a deal with Washington. (Note: I'm not sure if the Wizards still own his playing rights, so don't take me literally.)

I suppose it's possible that the Bandits wanted a third goaltender around in case of an emergency, and this was a solution. Still, you can probably write the news release himself, with Dietrich the GM saying how pleased he was to acquire a great player like this, and Dietrich the player saying he's thrilled to be with a top-notch organzation with such outstanding front-office leadership.

Meanwhile, the Bandits received a conditional third-round draft choice from Philadelphia in exchange for the rights to goalie Mike Thompson, who also has retired. This probably is another case of insurance from injury, suspension, etc.

The Bandits also confirmed the two other transactions completed on Wednesday involving Jim Purves and Scott Self. The roster must be set by tomorrow.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits swap Self to Knighthawks for Hill

The last shoe has dropped for the Bandits at the trading deadline.

Buffalo dealt defenseman Scott Self to the Rochester Knighthawks for forward Alex-Kedoh Hill. The transaction has not been announced by the two teams or the league as of this writing (7:45 p.m.), but Self confirmed the trade by phone while driving to a Rochester practice.

Self is a veteran defenseman who spent almost three full seasons as a Bandit after coming over from Minnesota. He saw plenty of playing time here, and it remains to be seen how that gap will be filled.

Hill is a promising young player, but has been on the Knighthawks' practice squad. He was a standout over the summer for Six Nations in Ontario, where he played for Bandits' assistant coach Rich Kilgour.

Meanwhile, Derek Hopcroft has been added to Buffalo's active roster. He was acquired from Colorado for a draft pick in the offseason.

Check out the News on line later tonight and in Thursday's editions for Self's thoughts on the deal.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits' Purves off to Rochester

The Buffalo Bandits have traded transition player Jimmy Purves to the Rochester Knighthawks for a second-round draft choice.

Purves played in eight games for the Bandits this season. He had two goals, one assist and 26 penalty minutes.

"It's tough to make a trade. Everyone is so even," Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said Wednesday afternoon. "But we need draft picks. Jimmy is young (22), but you have to give up something. I like Jimmy on the back door; he had that mean attitude. It's hard to see him go, but it's the business we're in."

Purves was a fifth-round draft choice of the Bandits in 2010. He played one game for Buffalo in 2011 and 12 in 2012.

Kilgour also said that Jay Thorimbert and John Tavares took part in Tuesday night's practice, and they probably will be able to play against the Colorado Mammoth in Denver on Saturday.

--- 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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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