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Post Time: Triple Crown among mid-year high points

Editor's note: Our apologies for not posting this earlier. It was published in Saturday's editions of The Buffalo News. 

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By Gene Kershner

We’ve hit the midpoint of the thoroughbred racing season, and the first half of the year gave racing fans plenty to cheer about.

The 3-year-olds, led by California Chrome, took us through a great spring, and the older horses and handicap division will start to take center stage this summer.

The second half of the season will take us first to the summer destinations of Saratoga, Monmouth and Del Mar before returning in the fall to Belmont Park and Keeneland Race Course before the season culminates at Santa Anita Racetrack where the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The race for Horse of the Year is wide open with several horses in position to claim the sport’s most prominent award next January at the annual Eclipse Awards ceremony.

Here are some thoughts on the year’s highs and lows in racing at the halfway mark of the 2014 season:

Continue reading "Post Time: Triple Crown among mid-year high points" »

Live from International Junior Masters: Pittsford's Thomson, 13, becomes youngest winner in 62nd annual event

Thirteen-year-old Will Thomson of Pittsford defeated Blake Gerber of Mesa, Ariz., 3 and 2, to become the youngest winner in the 62-year history of the International Junior Masters.  

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Follow updates from the final day of the International Junior Masters at the East Aurora Country Club, including from The News' Bob DiCesare, Taylor Nigrelli and photojournalist James P. McCoy, in the live blog below.

The semifinal matches began this morning, with the championship match scheduled for approximately 1:30 p.m.

Live Blog Friday's final day of the International Junior Masters

Post Time: Queen's Plate field shaping up

By Gene Kershner 

The 155th running of the Queen's Plate is just over a week away and the field is shaping up to be a competitive one. Woodbine is currently listing 14 probables for the oldest continuously run race in North America to be held on July 6 at the suburban Toronto track.

 Leading the way is Kentucky Derby qualifier We Miss Artie, son of 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller, who won the Plate Trial stakes by 3/4-lengths in the key prep race for the Plate. Trained by five-time Eclipse winning trainer Todd Pletcher, the winter book favorite, will likely sustain that role when he steps in the gate a week from Sunday. Add Eclipse winning jockey Javier Castellano to the mix and you have the ingredients for a potential Canadian Triple Crown run.

On paper We Miss Artie is the one to beat on the Polytrack, but they don't run the race on paper. Several contenders will try and stack up to the favorite and give him a battle in the mile and a quarter race. 

Let's look at the top contenders he will face on Plate day, in no particular order.

Continue reading "Post Time: Queen's Plate field shaping up" »

Running notebook: Blowing up Facebook

Edna Hyer turned into a media superstar this week.

When the story on her from last Sunday's News was posted on Facebook, about 100 people shared it with others - and more than 1,800 saw the post. I saw her at a race on Wednesday night, I suggested that she start autographing the story ... for a mere $25.

She said she forgot to tell me a story about one of her first races.

Continue reading "Running notebook: Blowing up Facebook" »

Live from the International Junior Masters

Follow updates from the International Junior Masters, including from The News' Bob DiCesare, Taylor Nigrelli and Harry Scull Jr.

Live Blog Thursday Live from International Junior Masters

Tight Quarters at Junior Masters

By Bob DiCesare

Last year it took a record 36-hole score of 152 to advance to the championship flight at the International Junior Masters at East Aurora Country Club. This year's field is on pace to match that number.

Thirty-six players shot 76 or better today, with one group still on the course after a late starting time necessitated by morning exams. Thirty-two qualify for the championship flight.

The co-leaders in the clubhouse at 3-under 68 are Andres Gonzalez of Mexico and Paul Edgar of Kitchener, Ont. Three shots back at even-par 71 are Javier Gonzalez of Boca Del Rio, Mexico (Andres' younger brother) and Evan Santa of Edgewater, Md.

The low local pending results of the final group was Ben Reichert, a jnior-to-be at Williamsville North. He shot 73. Defending championTrevor Ranton of Waterloo, Ont., is solidly in the mix at 74.

Last year there was a five-man playoff for the final three spots in the championship flight.

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner 

Summer racing is just around the corner, it's hard to believe that in four short weeks it will be opening day at Saratoga Race Course.  The Queen's Plate and coverage by The News is just around the corner on July 6 as well.

Some random thoughts as we put the Triple Crown season in the rear view mirror and look forward to a great summer of racing…

It was a riveting Triple Crown series with another failed attempt at the troika by a valiant horse who gave his all in the Belmont. We'll never know how much the cut foot on California Chrome's right front really bothered him in the race. One thing we do know is that it surely couldn't have enhanced his effort.

A number of stories have been written about changing the Triple Crown series as is done every year ad nauseum. I once thought spacing the races out made some sense using the First Saturday concept of May, June and July, but I've since changed my tune being closer to the series. The Belmont would really get lost in the July 4th holiday if that was the case.

One thing I would change is who qualifies to run in the races, especially the Belmont. Matterhorn, the horse that stepped on Chrome's foot, was never even graded-stakes placed, but could run in the Belmont. Something needs to give here. Horses that have been stakes-placed and have earned Derby points (or maybe TC points for races like the Peter Pan) should be the only ones allowed to enter.  Matuszak would have been the other horse that wouldn't have qualified under this parameter.

In I'll Have Another's year, several horses hadn't even run in a stakes race but ran in the Belmont. Stalwarts including Five Sixteen, Unstoppable U, and Guyana Star Dweej were all entered in the 2012 Belmont.  Am I painting a picture?

The Breeders' Cup announced the track rotation for the next three years, being Keeneland (2015), Santa Anita (2016) and Del Mar (2017). Both Keeneland and Del Mar will hold their inaugural Breeders' Cups and I have to say I'm excited for both of them and a change of pace from Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. Back in 2009, I actually nailed Keeneland in the 2015 year, in a post on the Blood-horse website; just don't pay any attention to my other predictions.

Speaking of predictions, I'm currently 4-for-7 in my 2014 Racing Kreskin post last December, already doubling my 2013 total. The stinking Haskell hat projection eluded me again this year.  It's orange, if you were curious.

We Miss Artie propelled himself into the favorite role for the 2014 Queen's Plate with a win in Sunday's Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine by 3/4-lenghts over Majestic Sunset. A shorter field than normal is still not expected even with the presence of the son of Artie Schiller. The Plate Trial drew only seven entries including the Todd Pletcher-trained winner, but 15 horses are currently probable for the Plate.

I'd say We Miss Artie has as good a chance as any horse in recent years to capture the Canadian Triple Crown, first since 2003 when Wando pulled off the feat. The 3-year-old colt who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby should have no issues with turf, his sire Artie Schiller won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2004. It will likely come down to the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday, July 29 on dirt as the race that will be the toughest of the three.  The final leg, the Breeders' Stakes, is run on turf at Woodbine in August.

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

Running notebook: Back on the job

A quick story about my vacation, which is why there have been no weekly updates the last two weeks:

I found myself in Skagway, Alaska, last week, just up the river from Juneau for those keeping score. I noticed that the Skagway Marathon was going to be held on June 14, making me a few days early (not that I could have run it). The light bulb went off.

I went into the visitors information center and said I had an unusual question. How could I get a shirt from the race to bring back home? Luckily, the staff member who waited on me was a former runner, and sent me to an outdoors store around the corner that was handling the logistics. They had a shirt from the 2013 race for only $10. Sold.

So if you see a guy with a Skagway Marathon shirt around town, don't think he actually did the race. There isn't much level land in that part of the world, and I'm not up to that task.

Meanwhile, the Corporate Challenge gets the weekend off to a huge start tonight. Then it's the usual busy weekend (although someone should have scheduled a race for Sunday). Here's the rundown from buffalorunners.com:

* St. Gregory the Great's Great Race, 5K, 100 St. Gregory Court in Williamsville, 7 p.m. Friday, 479-2442. A News' runner of the year race that is well known for being a fast and flat course.

* MSMH River Run, 5K, 145 N. Fourth St. in Lewiston, 9 a.m. Saturday, 622-5667.

* Red Devil Run for Recovery, 5K, 9365 Clarence Center Road in Clarence Center, 9 a.m. Saturday, 634-9565.

* FGIII Memorial 5K, 8965 Old Lake Shore Road in Angola, 9 a.m. Saturday, 598-9121.

* D&F 5K Challenge, 1170 Central Ave. in Dunkirk, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 363-6383.

* Trooper Brinkerhoff 5K, Boston Town Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, 604-8949.

* Madison 5K Strawberry Run, Brant Town Park, 6 p.m. Saturday, 870-8306.

* Chase the Sun Summer Solstice 5K, 26 Thorn Ave. in Orchard Park, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 553-9455.

-- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Key Queen's Plate prep on tap

By Gene Kershner 

As we shift away from the American Triple Crown trail after last weekend's disappointing fourth-place finish by California Chrome, we can look to our neighbors to the north to get the Canadian Triple Crown revved up for another summer. On Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack in suburban Toronto, the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes restricted to Ontario-bred 3-year-olds, will serve as the key prep race for the opening leg of Canada's Triple Crown.

A field of seven horses will head postward, including Kentucky Derby starter We Miss Artie, seeking a valuable race over the Woodbine Polytrack before next month's Queen's Plate scheduled for Sunday July 6. We Miss Artie finished 10th in the Derby, 8 1/4-lengths behind the horse who attempted to complete the 12th Triple Crown in history last Saturday at Belmont Park.

The field also includes horses from last year's winning trainer Nick Gonzalez, 2013 Sovereign winning trainer Mark Casse and eight-time Plate winning trainer Roger Attfield. While the trainers may be top-quality, the field, other than Ramsey's colt, is much to be desired.

The Plate Trial is on the undercard for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a race that has produced several Plate contenders in the past few years.

Let's take a look at the field:

1 - Rhythm Blues (Husbands, N Gonzalez) - The son of Tale of a Cat will try and catapult Gonzalez into the Plate with a chance to repeat last year's Plate win by Midnight Aria. He's run two decent allowance races in his last two, but has some work to do against this field. He broke badly at Keeneland two back and finished strongly, but still needs to improve quite a bit to challenge the favorite.

2 - We Miss Artie (Castellano, Pletcher) - Javier ships in to ride the Breeders' Futurity and Spiral winner, the only graded stakes winner in the field. Ridden by an Eclipse winning jockey, he has both Eclipse winning owners and a five-time Eclipse winning trainer. Do I need to go on? The one to beat.

3 - Man Cave (Campbell, Brnjas) - Last year's Plate-winning jock Jesse Campbell jumps aboard this colt who faltered in his only race against stakes company, finishing sixth in the Display Stakes. Patrick Husbands jumps off to ride Rhythm Blues, enough of a signal for me to stay away.

4 - Ascot Martin (Contreras, Keogh) - The son of Seeking the Dia is still seeking his first victory finishing second twice in four maiden races. Other than Contreras aboard, I'm not seeing many more positives about this one.

5 - Tower of Texas (Boulanger, Attfield) - When I ran into Attfield at Gulfstream in January, I inquired if he had any Plate horses and this is the one that he spoke of first.  A $195K purchase at Keeneland, the son of the 2007 Derby winner Street Sense certainly has the breeding to get the Plate distance. He ran an impressive fourth in the Marine Stakes losing by only a length. He's a contender for place or show spots.

6 - Majestic Sunset (Garcia, Casse) - Another maiden in the field who has yet to win in eight races. His running lines look to be more favorable in his 2-year-old season where he finished second behind Asserting Bear in the Coronation Stakes. Garcia aboard is a bonus, but enough to crack the top three?

7 - Man o' Bear (Wilson, Baker) - Son of 2007 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile champion Corinthian, he comes in off a long layoff since the Coronation in November. His work tab looks like he's fit, but probably needs this one to ready for the Plate. He's been competitive in all five of his career races and get Emma Jane in the irons. Best of the rest.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - We Miss Artie; 2 - Man o' Bear and; 3 - Tower of Texas

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

Will California Chrome make history?

California Chrome hopes to become horse racing's 12 Triple Crown champion Saturday. The News' Brian Meyer visited Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. on McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo to chat with local horse racing fans:

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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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