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Post Time: Grilling up the Belmont field

By Gene Kershner

The final leg of the Triple Crown season is just over a week away with "The Test of Champions" slated for next Saturday, June 8, at beautiful Belmont Park. This year's Belmont Stakes could pit the champions of the first two legs against each other, the Preakness champion Oxbow is confirmed and a decision on the Derby champ, Orb is pending.  

Let's take an early capsule look at the probable entries with our initial thoughts on each using a grilling thermometer to gauge each horse's chances…  

Orb - He's raced five times already in 2013 and comes off the first two legs in decent shape, but the Triple Crown trail can take its toll on even the best horse. While the connections said it was 70-30 earlier in the week that they will run, my gut tells me they'll pass on Big Sandy and point towards the
summer, specifically Saratoga. The connections have said more than once, it's all about the horse, by running him again I think they'll be going against the constant theme we've heard since the First Saturday in May. With that said, however, he has the ability and pedigree to handle the mile and a half distance and has the hottest jockey in the land aboard in Joel Rosario. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium Well - Win Threat. 

Oxbow - I pegged him several weeks ago as a potential Belmont winner in my Degrees of Separation post, and his Tomlinson distance rating and solid pedigree rate him in the top echelon of horses with the stamina to win the Belmont. This will be his seventh race of 2013, a throwback from a training
perspective, and he was "hardly blowing" according to jockey Gary Stevens after crossing the line at the Preakness. Will likely encounter a different pace scenario in the Belmont, and may be forced to expend energy sooner than he'd like.  Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium Well - Win Threat.

Revolutionary - Show horse (and my pick) in the Derby, Javier Castellano picks up the mount for Todd Pletcher. He should get a lot of steam here with the five week break, a decent showing in the Derby and the right pedigree to boot. His dam's sire, A.P. Indy won the Belmont in 1992. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Hot - Win Threat.

Freedom Child - The runaway winner of the Peter Pan in the slop will be backed at the windows, even thought it is a prep that hasn't exactly presented many Belmont winners as of late. Has more stamina on the sire side (Orb's sire Malibu Moon on top) and speed on the bottom. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium - Exotics player. 

Golden Soul - The surprise second place finisher in the Derby definitely should be able to handle the distance of the Belmont, but concerns over appetite and training schedule could put this one down on the totem pole. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium Rare - Superfecta player. 

Unlimited Budget - Interesting filly that may get the nod from Pletcher to attempt to become the second filly from his barn to win the Belmont (Rags to Riches - 2007).  Rosie Napravnik is "likely to ride" according to the 5-time Eclipse winning trainer. Another with stamina on top and speed on the bottom within her pedigree makes her a possible exotics play.  Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium - Exotics player.

Code West - Baffert colt that was upset on the undercard at the Derby due to a bad trip in an allowance race. I fancied this colt on the Derby trail, but he could never get it going. He's a sneaky horse that could be overlooked at the windows. His sire, Lemon Drop Kid won the Belmont in 1999, foiling Charismatic's Triple Crown chances, so we know he can go long. His dam's sire, Saint Ballado sired 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park that year. Post Time  Temperature Gauge: Medium Well- Bombs-Away Win Threat.

Overanalyze - The Dixie Union colt was bumped at the half-mile pole which "threw him off" according to jockey Rafael Bejarano, causing him to finish 11th in the Kentucky Derby. He did make a run down the stretch, but it was "too late" per Bejarano.  His sire, Dixie Union sired last year's Belmont winner Union Rags, so there is plenty of live pedigree available to win the Test of Champions. His dam  Unacloud is by the Private Account stallion Unaccounted For, winner of the Jim Dandy and Whitney Handicap. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium Well - Win Threat. 

Palace Malice - The son of Classic-winning Curlin, is another Pletcher hopeful who was on the engine on the front end in the Derby after putting on blinkers, a tactic that did not pan out. His sire was certainly a factor in the 2007 Belmont losing by a nose. Palace Malice's dam, the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor, was a miler whose best win came on the turf at Ellis Park at 8 1/2-furlongs. He still  finished 12th after setting blazing fractions, so he could improve with an honest pace. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium - Exotics player.

Will Take Charge - His abrupt halt behind a tiring Verrazano in the Derby is well-documented, but he was never a factor in the Preakness where many thought he would step up and hit the board in Baltimore. Lukas isn't afraid to take shots, not sure there's anything left in the gun though. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Medium Rare - Superfecta player.

Giant Finish - Last entry into the Derby, the New York-bred finished a respectable 10th in the mud. He would be a huge upset winner at large odds if he indeed had a giant finish. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Rare.

Incognito - Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed that the son of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy out of Octave, a mare who won the 10-furlong American Oaks, will run in the Belmont. McLaughlin feels his breeding suggests he can get the 12-furlong test at the mile and a half oval in Elmont. Post Time Temperature Gauge: Rare.

Big Apple Triple - Mike Lee Stakes 

The first leg of the Big Apple Triple is this Saturday at Belmont Park on Showcase Day for NY-breds. The $125K Mike Lee Stakes run over 7-furlongs is the first of three races restricted for 3-year-olds foaled in New York State. The second leg is the $150K New York Derby on July 20 at Finger Lakes down the Thruway and the final leg is at Saratoga, the $150K Albany Stakes on August 21. A bonus of $250,000 will be paid to the owner of the same horse that wins all three legs of the Triple, as long as there are not less than six horses starting out of the gate.  

West Hills Giant, second in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct behind Vyjack after leading into through the 1/16 pole, should be the morning line favorite. The Frost Giant colt drew the rail for trainer John Terranova II and Jose Espinoza has the ride.  

Bona Venture Stables' Smooth Bert worked 3 furlongs in a blazing 0:36.5 on Tuesday and attracts Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez to ride for the first time. The Damon Runyan winner is looking to rebound from a sixth place finish in the Grade 3 Withers and cuts back in distance.  

Other win threats include Michael Hushion-trained Amberjack and the Speightstown colt Weekend Hideaway trained by Phil Serpe and ridden by Jose Lezcano.  

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

Running notebook: Hall of Fame perspective

When someone with about 50 years of experience in running starts talking, it's a good idea to listen. That's what I did when I interviewed John Chew for a story on the latest class of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame.

I hadn't spoken with John before the interview, and found him funny and interesting. It's always fun to talk with people who have strong opinions, and I certainly got an earful when I brought up the state of running locally.

"I think what's happening in Western New York is wonderful. There are more people running that ever before, and it's marvelous," Chew said. "But the quality of running is so bad it's embarrassing. If we are going to be a viable national sport, we have to clean up some things."

Chew pointed out that while there are plenty of races in Western New York, most of them raise money for charity.

"The focus today is on raising money for somebody else, whether its leukemia, cancer, the Y. There's no money going into the sport," Chew said. "When I ran my first Turkey Day race, we lined up at the Delaware Y, gave five cents to Carl Roesch, and ran the race. All the money went to the local sports. At the end some money went to charities, but there was money to support the sport and bid the race.

"When I look at entry feeds are today, if I were a single runner, I'd barely have enough money to eat, let alone support running. ... We're the only sport I can think of where the money gets siphoned to other areas."

It's going to be a very busy weekend for races around Western New York this weekend. Funny how some June weekend dates are jammed, while others are rather empty. The activity actually started on Thursday night with the Gay 5K, which sounded like it had a chance to be a fun event. Now the rest of the calendar, courtesy of Buffalorunners.com:

* Alden's 5K Race for Scholarships, 13190 Park St. in Alden, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 937-9116. Me, I only run in Alden when it is 14 degrees out. That February day during a Winterfest remains about the coldest race of my life.

* Brian Dugan Memorial Scholarship 5K Road Race, Lincoln Arena in Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. Friday. Make sure to drink up during the water stops.

* Woods Walk & Trail Run, various distances, 1420 Yubadam Road in Portville, 8 a.m. Saturday, 933-0187.

* Finn McCool 4 Mile Odyssey, Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, 9 a.m. Saturday, 830-6703.

* Run the 'Berg for Autism, 5K, 4236 Clark St. in Hamburg, 11 a.m. Saturday, 572-3613. There's a new course this year; I still remember all the turns on the old one.

* Salmon Run, 5K, Clark's Park in Wilson, 5 p.m. on Saturday, 751-6120.

* Derby Snap Fitness 5K Run, 6950 Erie Road in Derby, 9 a.m. Sunday, 947-9010.

* Juneteenth Run for Health, 5K only, 585 William St. in Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 830-6560. The 10K, run at the same time, has been cancelled. This is always a friendly race; I've done it several times.

* Girls on the Run 5K, UB/Amherst campus, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 645-6815. I've followed Girls on the Run since it started locally, and can't wait to see how it's grown at one of its two races for the year.

* Tim Oehmler 5K for Kidneys, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Sunday, 510-6702. Runners get a free pass to see the Zoo after the race.

And don't forget the Grace Race in Williamsville on Tuesday night.

-- Budd Bailey

Buffalo Marathon: A day at the races

On a day when everything at the Buffalo Marathon ran smoothly, Etalema Ambaye and Muliye Gurmu took home the winner's trophies on Sunday morning.

Ambaye, currently from New York City, finished in 2 hours, 23 minutes and 5 seconds. That was more than eight minutes ahead of Jason Lokwatom, now of Rocky River, Ohio.

The women's race was much more dramatic. Gurmu finished in 2:51:15. That was only seven seconds ahead of Aileen Hoak of Buffalo.

The men's half-marathon title went to Kiplangat Tisia of Kenya, who finished the 13.1 mile event in 1:07:13. Natasha Yaremczvk of Paris, Ont., was the women's winner in 1:19:46.

Assistant race director Tom Donnelly reported no problems during the course of the race.

-- Budd Bailey

Video: Bucky & Sully on Lebron's game-winner

<p>News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan talked NBA hoops action Friday morning during the "Bucky & Sully Show."</p>
<p>On Lebron James' game-winning performance:</p>
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<p>For more segments from the show, click here.</p>

Post Time: Buffalo market solid in Preakness TV ratings

By Gene Kershner

The Preakness drew 9.7 million viewers to its broadcast on NBC last weekend. This represented an increase of 20 percent over last year's viewership (8.1 million). Once again, the Buffalo television market has shown it holds up as a racing hotbed as the television ratings for the Preakness by city  were recently released by the NBC Sports Group. The overnight ratings of 5.9 were up 13 percent over last year's Preakness that had a 5.5 rating, the lowest since 2000.  

The Buffalo market ranked sixth in the Kentucky Derby rankings and slipped down four spots to in the Preakness final figures. Buffalo had a 15.9 rating and a 33 share for the Kentucky Derby. Last year, Buffalo had a 8.8 rating for the Preakness and a 20 share. It's nice being on the Top 10 list of something other than snowfall…here's a look at the Top 10 metered markets for this year's Preakness:

TOP METERED MARKETS FOR
2013 PREAKNESS STAKES (Race Portion)

1.

Baltimore

15.7/32

2.

Louisville

15.0/27

3.

Oklahoma City

11.2/20

4.

Knoxville

11.1/20

5.

Ft. Myers

10.6/20

6.

West Palm Beach

10.2/20

7.

Cincinnati

 9.1/18

8.

Greensboro

 9.0/17

9.

Washington D.C.

 8.9/21

10.

Buffalo

 8.6/20

Source: NBC Sports Group

Without a Triple Crown at stake, the Belmont Stakes and NBC will likely be looking at a decline in numbers. The last two Triple Crown efforts by Big Brown (2008) and Smarty Jones (2004) achieved 10.5 and 13.1 ratings, respectively. A non-Triple Crown broadcast usually is in the 3-4 range.  

Preakness Afterthoughts  

  • Sometimes I should take my own advice. In my Degrees of Separation post prior to the Derby I  separated the 20 Derby contenders into my own "divisions." Oxbow fell into the "Afleet Alex" division - defined as horses that won't win the Derby, but will have to be respected and could hit the board. Those qualifying here have the potential to become a Classic winner down the road in either the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes. My comment line on Oxbow - "Still waiting for this one to show up. Thinking it may be in the Belmont where he may savor the Test of a Champion."
  • I watched the race from the trackside winners' circle and in the Making Up Excuses portion of today's post, I saw Govenor Charlie's handlers struggling to reattach his bridle on his way to the track. This was obviously upsetting the horse and the expletives being shouted between the groom and assistant trainer signaled to me, the timing of this wasn't good. It took a good 45 seconds to get the bridle on and the horse was clearly agitated. I could have ripped up my tickets right then and there.
  • As for Goldencents, he was right where I thought he would be at the start, but I expected him to continue to fully challenge the leader(s) in the early stages of the race. Sometimes you just have to let the horse run, this was one of those times.
  • I was pleased with Mylute's performance and with a little more pace early on, he could have been more of a factor. The son of Midnight Lute made up some serious ground in the final 3/8ths of the race and hit the board in a Classic. 

Racing Notes 

  • The New York State Gaming Commission today announced enhanced security measures for horsescompeting in the June 8 Belmont Stakes. Horses competing in the $1 million purse race will be subject to out-of-competition blood testing for banned substances, be required to be on Belmont Park’s grounds by June 5 and be subject to 24 hour monitoring at their trainers’ own barns and stalls on the grounds. The Gaming Commission is also requiring the submission of veterinary records for three days leading up to the race, which will be published on the Commission’s Web site starting June 5.
  • We'll look at the Belmont contenders starting next week as we approach the third and final leg of the Triple Crown trail.
  • The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame recently announced the 2013 class that will be inducted on August 9 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs. Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Boreland the racehorses Housebuster, Invasor, Lure, McDyanmo and Tuscalee were this year's selections.
  • Fort Erie Race Track kicks off its 116th year of live racing at the border oval on Sunday afternoon. First post is 1:15 p.m.

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

Running notebook: Ready to go

There's only one event scheduled this weekend, and it's arguably the highlight of the year's calendar. The Buffalo Marathon goes off at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, and the event continues to grow slowly but surely.

The activity starts Saturday with an Expo at the Convention Center, complete with more vendors than ever before and a speaker's bureau. (By the way, there will be discounted race entries for July's Subaru 4-Mile Chase available at the Expo.) There's a pre-race dinner Saturday night, and then the marathon and half-marathon go off. It looks like the weather will be just about perfect for a marathon, as the heat has gotten out of the way at a most convenient time.

Meanwhile, it's hoped that runners will take time out of their Sunday somewhere along the way to read about the newest inductees of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame. It's another top-notch class, and I'll have an interview with one of them in Sunday's sports section.

One other leftover note - last week I mentioned how I had left before seeing the results of a race and discovered later I had actually won my age-group. Well, the good folks at LOL heard about that, and sent me my medal in short order. Nicely done; thank you, thank you, thank you.

-- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Live from the Preakness

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Hello and greetings from Pimlico Race Course where we've been racing since 10:45 a.m. this morning on the longest day of racing of the calendar year. The stakes portion of the card is underway and the infield is full as we've been through six races on the card.

The rain has held off so far and it's cool and cloudy at Old Hilltop. Speed has been holding so far and there have been no big surprises on the undercard. I visited the Derby champion this morning and he was nibbling on the hay outside of traditional stall No. 40 in the Pimlico Preakness barn. Orb seemed to have his appetite and trainer Shug McGaughey sat relaxing knowing a big day lays ahead of him.

I spent an hour in the infield earlier and it is quite the scene with thousands partying and enjoying the music being played. Last year's infield handle was north of $3 million, so a few folks will also be wagering while enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere. HorseplayerNow has a tent set up for racing beginner's and I visited with handicapper Brian Nadeau earlier who said business has been brisk in the Racing 101 tent.

If you've never been to the Preakness, it's a must-see. There's not many places in America that have the mix of crowd that Pimlico brings together. The main acts on the infield are Pitbull and Macklemore (yes, I have no idea who that is) and you can hear the roars from outside the stage up here in the press box.

But we're ready for racing and we're live in a Pick-3 into the second leg in Race 7 where we have 1-Notacatbutallama, 6-Shining Copper and 10-Redwood Kitten, let's get this next leg home.

2:45 p.m.: Well then, if you boxed my top three you nailed the trifecta(the $2 tri paid $102) as the $100K James Murphy finished 10-6-1, with Redwood Kitten ($6.80) wiring the field in the one mile turf race. It also keeps us alive in a fairly chalky Pick-3 wager to 3-Moon Philly, 5-Sea Island, 6-Summer Applause and 7-Brushed By A Star. The will-pays for the $0.50 bet paying from $19 on the favorite 6-Summer Applause to $54.90 on 5-Sea Island. Only the 4-Daydreamin Gracie can beat us here.

2:55 p.m.: The Grade 3 Allaire Dupont Distaff is next which also starts the Pick-5 jackpot into the Preakness, if you're so inclined. Chad Brown has Johnny V up on the favorite Summer Applause who comes out of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn where she finished fourth behind the winner, who was the runner-up on Oaks Day On Fire Baby in the La Troienne won by Authenticity.

I'm rooting for the 5-Sea Island which is owned by Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey, both with a bigger rooting interest later this afternoon with a horse named Orb. Speaking of Orb, the current Preakness odds show him at 4-5. In case you missed my Preakness advance in this morning's paper, here is the link to it.

3:25 p.m.: 6-Summer Applause ($5.20) was much the best in the Dupont, holding off a late charging Sea Island. We cash a ticket which covers our next bet and move on. By the way, a heavy mist has enveloped Pimlico as feared before the day began. Let's hope it passes through quickly as we are just short of three hours until the Preakness. 

3:40 p.m.: The Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares is up next going 8-1/2 furlongs on the turf course. We'll get a Pick-4 ticket started with four horses in the Gallorette. We've got 1-Hard Not to Like, 4-Samitar, 5-Old Tune and 9-Silver Screamer. I spend some time with Hard Not to Like at last year's Kentucky Oaks, she's a nice filly who should rebound off her last effort at Keeneland that was against tougher company. Silver Screamer is also a longer shot and gets Julien Leparoux, a great turf jockey in the irons. 

It appears it could get a little messy in the infield with this heavy mist...last check of the radar does not show any green blobs (a sign that bad things are to come) nor does it show anything close by, so I'm hoping this will pass over or just lightly mist until the big race. It would be a shame if the first two jewels are marred by off tracks.

3:55 p.m.: In case you were wondering, Pitbull is in the house.

4:10 p.m.: Hard Not to Like had me fairly excited coming down the stretch, but she appeared to slip or take a misstep around the eighth pole and could not regain momentum to catch runaway winner 3-Pianist who paid a healthy $15.40 to win the Gallorette. Our Pick-4 ticket is dead out of the gate so we'll put in a Pick-3 into the Preakness for fun or eat this giant chocolate cookie served up in McKenzie's Pub in the press box.

The next race up is the G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap to be run 6-furlongs over the dirt course. Back in a few minutes to give you my thoughts.

4:17 p.m.: Funny (or maybe not so funny) story from this morning, I ran into Paul Moran, long-time turfwriter for Newsday who now freelances for ESPN, who is also a Buffalo native who has retired to Saratoga. After exchanging pleasantries during our security search and elevator ride he told me that ESPN asked him to be available in case there was a terrorist attack at Pimlico today. Whoa. Certainly that puts things into perspective in what you have to think about when covering a sporting event.  He likes Orb, by the way.

4:30 p.m.: In the Maryland Sprint I'm going to try a four-horse exacta box and try and catch a price with two of my longer shots. We'll box 1-Action Andy (6-1), 3-Manito (10-1), 4-Hardened Wildcat (4-1) and 10-Sage Valley (5-2).

Some folks from the NYRA media office just passed out a list of Belmont Stakes likely contenders that include aside from Orb, the following: Freedom Child, Golden Soul (second in the Derby), Goldencents, Overanalyze, Palace Malice (possible), Power Broker and Revolutionary (third in the Derby).

4:50 p.m.: The good news is we hit the exacta, the bad news is the 3-Manito faded with the lead at the top of the stretch and costing us $1.20. 10-Sage Valley surged by him at the eighth pole and 4-Hardened Wildcat made a late run too little too late. The rain has stopped and the track probably needed the moisture. The track appears to be favoring stalking horses so far on the undercard.

5:05 p.m.: We're 75 minutes to post for the Preakness and the Grade 2 Dixie is up next. I like 1-Willcox Inn (6-1) and will play him across the board. I'll also throw a $2 show bet on 13-Forte de Marmei who ran third in the Canadian International last October up at Woodbine in a solid field. McGuaghey and Phipps Stable have the current second choice 4-Imaging with Javier Castellano up.

5:20 p.m.: There are a number of storylines that could result out of today's Preakness. Rosie Napravnik could become the first female rider to win the Preakness aboard Mylute. Kevin Krigger with a win on Goldencents would be the first for an African-American in 115 years (1898). D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert are both looking for their sixth Preakness win with Baffert trying to complete the first Black-eyed Susan-Preakness double in over a decade. Gary Stevens is looking for his third Preakness win and his first since 2001.

5:25 p.m.: The anticipation is starting to build for the big race. I'm planning on walking over with the horses from the stakes barn and over to the saddling area over on the inside of the track, so I'll be back with you after the big race with some final thoughts. I'm sticking with the picks in the paper and back-wheeling an exacta with Orb in second to protect against the upset.  Good luck everyone.

1-Willcox Inn finishes second in the Dixie, which was won by 10-Skyring ($50.40) trained by D. Wayne Lukas. 

6:40 p.m.: It's 6-Oxbow ($32.80) in an upset in the Preakness and the Triple Crown drought continues. Stevens wins his third Preakness and puts a cherry on top of his comeback after a 7-year retirement, riding a brilliant race stealing it on the front end. Orb, the Triple Crown hopeful finished fourth. D. Wayne Lukas finished the day with the double that paid $279 for a $1 Off to work on my post-race commentary, I hope you enjoyed following along today. Back for the Belmont! 

-- Gene Kershner

Post Time: Fiftyshadesofhay sets stage for Baffert

By Gene Kershner

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Fiftyshadesofhay ($6.60) won the 89th running of the Grade 2 $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert edging out Marathon Lady by a neck. The Pulpit filly put blinkers back on for the first time since her first three maiden races to win the feature race on the Preakness eve undercard.

Trainer Bob Baffert won his third Black-Eyed Susan, winning the race in 2004 (Yearly Report) and 1999 (Silverbulletday). The win sets the stage for a big weekend for Baffert as he will try to win his sixth Preakness tomorrow with Govenor Charlie, whose second dam just so happens to be Silverbulletday. To win tomorrow though he'll have to defeat the jockey who won the Susan for him today.

Red hot jockey Joel Rosario gave Baffert some cause for concern when he wasn't up near the lead during the early stages of the race. "I wasn't sure turning for home because I told Rosario that she usually runs 1-2-3, but ride her the way you feel you should ride her. Rosario sort of did his own thing today, but it was the right thing," said the white-haired conditioner.

Rosario sat chilly and had her make the late run right around the three-eighths pole. "She kind of got away from me a little bit at that point, I was kind of worried about it, but she was able to get it back together and kept going," said Rosario who will ride Orb tomorrow in the Preakness. "When I passed the sixteenth-pole I could see that the horse in front of me was backing up a little."

Emollient, the 4-5 favorite, stumbled out of the gate and never threatened under jockey Mike Smith. "She stumbled out of the gate real bad, and she caught her leg. It was pretty much over for us after that," said the Hall of Fame jockey.

Third-place finisher Toasting ($5.40 to show) ran a solid race for West Point Thoroughbreds. Terry Finley, managing partner was pleased with her efforts. "She closed strong and Javier [Castellano] was very pleased with the way she responded down the stretch," said Finley. He will likely point her towards Saratoga next as she progresses in her 3-year-old campaign.

Fiftyshadesofgray finished the 1 1/8-miles in 1:52.73 and the $2 exacta with Marathon Lady paid $54.00. The $2 trifecta paid $333.40.

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

 

Post Time: Black-Eyed Susan highlights Preakness eve card

By Gene Kershner

BALTIMORE, Md. – We’ve arrived and are ready to kickoff a great weekend at Old Hilltop which will culminate in the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon. On tap Friday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course is the 1 1/8-mile $300,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card will include the G3 Pimlico Special and five other non-graded stakes races.  

The final and thirteenth race of the day is the Old Hilltop Stakes where Bona Ventures' Stables Summer of Fun (4-1) will take on 10 other fillies in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Paco Lopez will be in the irons for trainer George Weaver. Graham Motion-trained Kitten's Point (5-2) looks to be Summer of Fun's main rival. She comes out of the G1 Ashland Stakes where she was trounced by 10 lengths by Emollient, who will run in the Black-Eyed Susan.  

The 89th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features nine fillies trying to step up within the  3-year-old filly division, which saw Princess of Sylmar strike first blood in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.  

This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (4 p.m.) in a one-hour telecast as part of NBC’s weekend coverage of the Preakness Stakes.

Let’s take a look at the field for the Black-Eyed Susan (trainer, jockey, odds in parenthesis):  

1 – Makuna Honey (Terranova II, Prado, 10-1) – Borrego filly took six races to break her maiden, but has not missed the exacta in her last three races. She finished a well-beaten second in the G2 Fantasy to Rose to Gold at Oaklawn Park her last out. Not convinced she's fast enough for this field.  [UPDATE: Per trainer John Terranova, she came out of her work flat on Monday and she will SCRATCH]

2 – Lady Banks (Lawrence II, Pimentel, 30-1) – The daughter of Successful Appeal has struggled since winning the 6-furlong Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct in January. Toss. 

3 – Fiftyshadesofhay (Baffert, Rosario, 2-1) – Baffert puts the shades on her for the first time. She's flattered by Beholder's good performance in Kentucky Oaks (finished second). Baffert held her out of the Oaks when she didn't ship well. The Pulpit filly posted a nice work on May 10 at Churchill. Dangerous. 

4 – Petit Trianon (Vazquez, Carrasco, 20-1) – Local talent has won three in a row. Receives six pound weight break from top horses, but this is an awfully big step up in class. Pass.  

5 – Walkwithapurpose (Correas, Lezcano, 5-1) – SCRATCHED on Thursday afternoon when she took a bad step and bruised her foot making her unable to compete.  

6 – Maracuya (Nicks, Velazquez, 8-1) - The unbeaten Big Brown filly is lightly raced and also takes a major step up in class. Has the pedigree to handle the 9-furlongs and should be pressing the leaders. Comes in off a long layoff and might need a race before improving. Exotics play underneath.

7 - Emollient (Mott, Smith, 9-5) – Morning line favorite rebounded from the Dreaming of Julia freak show at Gulfstream to win a Grade 1 on the polytrack at Keeneland. She also finished second to the Oaks third place finisher in the Grade 2 Demoisselle at the Big A. Could benefit from a hot pace up front as she likes to stalk and pounce. Keeps jockey Mike Smith aboard for the second straight race.  Workout pattern for Bill Mott says she's sitting on a big one. On paper she's the one to beat.  

8 – Toasting (Albertrani, Castellano, 20-1) – West Point Thoroughbreds filly that puts the shades on for the first time and has Castellano riding. Rosario jumps off to ride the Baffert horse. Surface change should help but not seeing it unless track comes up sloppy.  

9 – Marathon Lady (Hobby, Albarado, 12-1) – Raced well on the polytrack at Turfway Park two back finishing second to Silsita, who finished last. She finished behind the rail horse in the Fantasy last out. Looks likes she would thrive at a mile and could be distance challenged at 9 furlongs. 

Post Time Outlook – 1 –Fiftyshadesofhay; 2 –Emollient; 3 - Maracuya

Good luck and let’s cash some tickets.

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

Running notebook: Ten are in the lead pack

Can you wait several more days before you find out who will be this year's class in the Western New York Running Hall of Fame? You'll have to wait. The voting on which five of the 10 finalists will make the Hall took place on Wednesday, and the winners will be announced in The News a week from Sunday. Take it from a voter - any of the 10 certainly could end up honored.

It's a busy week for area running, now that the weather has warmed up again. (Note: the waterfront was rather chilly Saturday morning during the Heritage run). Here's the schedule from buffalorunners.com:

* Town of Tonawanda 5K, 1 Pool Plaza in Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 876-7424. I've done this race a couple of times, and it's a nice flat course for those so, ahem, inclined.

* Buffalo Greek Fest, 5K, 146 W. Utica St. in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 796-3381. Greek food at a postrace party might be a nice switch from pizza and hot dogs.

* Run with the Rapids 5K, Old Falls St. in Niagara Falls, 9 a.m. on Saturday, 278-2111.

* Bully Free 5K, 71 Lorraine Ave. in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Saturday, 816-4809. Let's welcome this new race to the list.

* Chris Griswold 5K, Como Park in Lancaster, 10 a.m. on Saturday, 685-2640. The organizers don't let anyone go away hungry, and many runners take home a door prize. Too bad my streak of winning lawn hoses at this race came to an end a while back.
 
* SSPP's Charge of the Knights 5K, 5480 Main St. in Williamsville, 6 p.m on Saturday, 440-8003. It's rare to have a Saturday night event, and this race almost sounds like it's a chess competition. Plenty of activity after the race by the sounds of it.

-- Budd Bailey

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