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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:

Post Time: Spectacular undercard on Belmont day

By Gene Kershner 

ELMONT -- The main event will obviously be the focal point of the nation tomorrow afternoon, but if you love racing, the undercard is loaded with some of the best talent in the land. There will be eight other graded stakes races before the Belmont Stakes, including an all-Grade 1 Pick-Six ending in the Belmont. Total purses exceed $8 million on the day and the card has a mini-Breeders' Cup feel to it. If you can find the right singles there is some money to be made if you can key the right horses.

The key horses in my plays will surround My Miss Sophia in the Acorn, Beholder in the Phipps, and Grandeur (IRE) in the Manhattan.

Let’s take a sneak peek at the five G1 races leading into the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Race 6: TVG Acorn Stakes ($750,000) - This stake for 3-year-old fillies filled up nicely with 13 fillies, the only one missing from the group is Untapable, the Kentucky Oaks winner, who will likely run next in the Mother Goose. The second two finishers in the Oaks have entered as both 8-My Miss Sophia (6-5) and 7-Unbridled Forever (10-1) should contend for the win. The winner of the Eight Belles at Churchill on Oaks day 3-Fiftyshadesofgold (8-1) should covet the mile distance for trainer Bret Calhoun. Gary Stevens will be aboard the speedy 1-Fashion Plate (12-1), who didn't handle the Churchill track and will be at a price off her last effort.

Post Time Outlook: 1 -My Miss Sophia; 2-Fashion Plate; and 3-Unbridled Forever

Race 7: Ogden Phipps ($1 million) - This 1 1/16-mile race features the long-awaited rematch between 5-Beholder (7-5) and 6-Princess of Sylmar (9-5), last year's top two finishers in the Eclipse voting for champion 3-year-old filly. Add last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff second place finisher 1-Close Hatches (5-2), who has three Grade 1 victories under her belt, and you have one helluva race. While it looks to be a toss up, Beholder has looked the best on the track all week and is out to prove she can run on both coasts.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Beholder; 2 - Close Hatches; and 3 - Princess of Sylmar

Race 8: Longines Just a Game ($750,000) - The Just a Game attracted 10 older fillies and mares going a mile on the Widener Turf course. Three Grade 1 winners head this talented field including last year's winner 6-Stephanie's Kitten (4-1), who will try to rebound off a poor effort at Keeneland. The other two Grade 1 winners are 9-Discreet Marq (5-2) who hasn't missed the exacta in eight straight races and 10-Better Lucky (3-1) for Godophin Stables. 5-Coffee Clique (10-1) is a possibility at decent odds with Castellano in the irons coming off a Grade 2 win at Churchill on Derby day.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Better Lucky; 2-Discreet Marq and; 3 - Coffee Clique

Race 9: Metropolitan Handicap ($1.25 million) - The race best known as the Met Mile was moved this year to Belmont Day from Memorial Day which was a long-standing tradition. Last year's Belmont winner 1-Palace Malice (8-5) drew the rail and will be your pos time favorite. The race has drawn some real speedsters including last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner 4-Goldencents (10-1), 5-Moreno (10-1) and 13-Shakin it Up (6-1).  Add to the mix two of last year's Derby trail horses 2-Vyjack (30-1) and 9-Normandy Invasion (5-1)and you have a tremendous field for this year's edition of the race. With all of the speed, I'm looking at Normandy Invasion to pick up the pieces in a close finish. Upset possibility: 10-Clearly Now (10-1).

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Normandy Invasion; 2 - Palace Malice and; 3 - Goldencents

Race 10: Knob Creek Manhattan ($1 million) - The race preceding the Belmont on the turf at a mile and a quarter has drawn 10 horses with Woodford Reserve Turf Classic runner-up 6-Seek Again (3-1) and Phipps Stables 6-year-old 1-Imagining (7-2) heading up the pack. Contenders to the top two choices include 4-Grandeur (IRE) (5-1) and 5-Boisterous (8-1) who finished a nose behind Seek Again in the Turf Classic on Derby day. An upset possibility is 9-Kaigun (15-1), who participated in the Canadian Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Mark Casse, should make this another interesting race.

Post Time Outlook - 1 - Grandeur (IRE); 2 - Imagining and; 3 - Seek Again

Check tomorrow morning's paper for my print column and thoughts on the Belmont Stakes and be sure to follow me on twitter @EquiSpace throughout the day.  Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!

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

Post Time: Belmont Stakes draw complete

By Gene Kershner 

This morning the post position draw for this weekend's $1.5 million Belmont Stakes was completed and California Chrome's quest for the Triple Crown will start from the No. 2 post.

A field of 11 horses will enter the starting gate at approximately 6:52 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the final leg of the Triple Crown series where over 100,000 race fans will be descending on Belmont Park just outside of New York City.

California Chrome was set as the 3-5 favorite on the morning line and should have little difficulty heading out of the 2 hole, which has produced 11 Belmont winners since 1905.  Post positions in the mile and a half classic are not as important as the Derby where 20 runners are fighting for position going in the first turn, but it won't hurt his chances based on his tactical speed to be in the inside early.

Fun Facts and Quotations:

- Horses starting with the letter C have won the most Belmont Stakes (20) since 1905, so that bodes well for the favorite.

- Chrome's trainer Art Sherman was happy with the draw. "Well, I think going a mile and a half, it's a good post position. We feel safe on the ground leaving there. I think it's going to be a jockey's race anyhow. It gives you a chance to see who's going to have the speed and where you land going into the first turn," said Sherman.

- The chestnut colt will seek to become the 55th of that color in the race's history to don the carnations which would bring them even with the bays who have won as many.

- Speaking of the carnation blanket, more than 700 select carnations from Colombia are glued by hand onto a green velveteen spread. A similar, smaller blanket is created and will be hanging on the statue of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, in the paddock.

- Earlier in the week, the Triple Crown trophy left its environs in the Kentucky Derby Museum to make its way to the Big Apple for this weekend's activities. The trophy was created in 1950 via the Thoroughbred Racing Association and designed by the world famous Cartier Jewelry Company it was bestowed on the previous eight winners of the Triple Crown retroactively. It wasn't officially awarded to a winner at Belmont (third jewel) until 23 years later to the great Secretariat. The three-sided vase, each face equally representing the three races (jewels) of the Triple Crown, is a permanent trophy awarded to the winner with engraved information on each side describing each victory.

Wicked Strong was made the second choice on the morning line at 6-1 and drew post No. 9 for trainer James Jerkens, who had the far outside post in the Derby. "I would have liked him to be a couple of spots inside. But it's better than being way on the outside. At least he's got two horses shielding him from the crowd. Maybe that'll help a little bit," said Jerkens.

- Newcomer to the Triple Crown series and Peter Pan winner Tonalist (8-1) is the third choice on the morning line and will likely be forwardly placed in the early going.  Early thinking is that he, Chrome, General a Rod and Samraat will all be in the front group heading into the first turn.

- Derby runner-up Commanding Curve (12-1) returns after a five-week rest to set his sights on derailing Chrome's Triple Crown hopes. Trainer Dallas Stewart wouldn't tip his hand on where he'd like his deep closer to be stationed throughout the race and will be leaving it up to his jockey. "We've got a great rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, I'm sure he'll stay in touch with the race, and he's got a lot of confidence in the horse, so I'm going to put it in his hands and we're going to see, but it's going to be a great race. The Triple Crown on the line, a lot of excitement, so I hope we get a big crowd," said Stewart.

The News will be on site in Elmont on Thursday and will have a Friday preview of the undercard at the Sports, Ink blog which features nine graded stakes and over $8 million in purses. On Saturday we'll have a Derby preview in print with a race recap Sunday morning.

Here's a look at the field for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes: 

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Medal Count Romans Albarado 20-1
2 California Chrome Sherman Espinoza 3-5
3 Matterhorn Pletcher Bravo 30-1
4 Commanding Curve Stewart Bridgmohan 15-1
5 Ride On Curlin Gowan Velazquez 12-1
6 Matuszak Mott Smith 30-1
7 Samraat Violette Jr J Ortiz 20-1
8 Commissioner Pletcher Castellano 20-1
9 Wicked Strong Jerkens Maragh 6-1
10 General a Rod Maker Napravnik 20-1
11 Tonalist Clement Rosario 8-1

 

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

Video: Bucky & Sully on WBBZ, by segment

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan have a live show that airs on WBBZ-TV twice weekly, at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays. Tonight's show was the last for this season.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

Running notebook: The best yet?

Another Buffalo Marathon is in the books, and this one might have been the best one yet.

Participation continues to grow as the day cements itself as a fine regional event. The area's runners really have gotten behind the whole effort during the past few years, either by running or volunteering. It has showed.

It will be interesting to see if the 5-kilometer run stays in place or moves to Saturday in upcoming race weekends. The organizers had 292 finishers in the first-ever staging. Would they do better on a Saturday when the starting time isn't at 6:45 a.m. in the morning? Perhaps, as some of the raceday volunteers could actually run. It also would be different logistics, as it would be essentially starting from scratch for a race. We'll have to see how this one develops.

Now we move on to the summer schedule. The calendar is courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* The Gay 5K, 64 W. Chippewa St. in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Thursday. This race is in its third running, and it had a nice turnout last year.

* Alden's 5K Race for Scholarships, 6:30 p.m. Friday, (585) 413-0173.

* Brian Dugan Memorial Scholarship 5K, Lincoln Arena in Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. Friday.

* Bully Free 5K, 71 Lorraine Ave. in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 816-4809.

* Williamsville East 5K, Williamsville East High School, 7 p.m. Friday, 626-8426. It's a very busy Friday night for races. You'd think someone would have moved to Saturday or Sunday morning.

* Lancaster Middle School Jr. SADD 5K Run, Como Lake Park in Lancaster, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 685-8077. Fifth Saturdays of a month traditionally don't do well for dates. Note to race directors: That means it's a good opportunity to find a niche.

* Salmon Run, 5K, Clark's Park in Wilson, 5 p.m. Saturday, 751-6120. The chicken dinner always goes over well.

* Grinder Trail Run, 3.5 miles, Sprague Brook Park in Glenwood, 10 a.m. Sunday.

--- Budd Bailey

LPGA Championship reportedly leaving Rochester for NYC

By Jay Skurski

The Wegmans LPGA Championship in August at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford will reportedly be the last one held in the Rochester area.

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the LPGA plans to move the event to New York City starting in 2015. An official announcement is expected Thursday, according to the paper.

That will end a run of 38 straight years with an LPGA event being held in Rochester. For the first 37 of those, it was at Locust Hill Country Club. This year, after the LPGA made it clear it wanted to rotate courses for its championship, the Tour reached a one-year agreement with Monroe, shifting from its usual spot on the calendar in June to Aug. 14-17.

Moving the tournament away from Rochester meant the Tour ran the risk of losing Wegmans as the championship's title sponsor, as it has been for the past four years. According to the report, however, the LPGA has reached an agreement with auditing firm KPMG to serve as the title sponsor starting in 2015. The opportunities for corporate sponsorship are greater in New York than they are in Rochester.

Of course, what remains to be seen is the level of fan support the championship will get in its new home. While the LPGA does not keep official attendance figures, the Rochester community is known to have been a loyal base for nearly four decades. Despite the opportunity to draw from a much bigger population down state, there's no guarantee that will happen. 

A press conference previewing this year's Wegmans LPGA Championship is scheduled for Monday at Monroe.

 

Video: Bucky & Sully on WBBZ, by segment

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan have a live show that airs on WBBZ-TV twice weekly, at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

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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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