Archives for posts with tag: horse racing.

Soccer’s World Cup takes semi-center stage for the next few weeks...and for some the start can’t come soon enough while for others the end can’t arrive too quickly.  Prepare for three groups of fans to emerge:  the first that can’t stand soccer and complains how the lack of scoring make it such a boring game, a second that can’t believe how one can’t see the pure beauty of a 19th century game that’s brilliance lies in its pure simplicity, and a third that would wish both previous groups would shut up so they can actually follow the games and tournament.  I wish the substitution rules were relaxed (unlimited after goals, between periods and before goal kicks) and time kept on an actual scoreboard (can the game move into the 20th century sometime during the 21st?) but understand that it’s not America’s game to tamper with.  The only substitution rule that would help Team USA is if they were allowed to suit up 12 against Germany and Portugal.  If the US gets to the knockout round, it’ll be a major victory.  Instead, we get to watch the world go crazy as Brazil tries to wash away the stain of losing the 1950 Final on its home soil (trust me, that defeat to Uruguay still stings)…Spain try to become the first European nation to win in the Americas and first repeat champ since Brazil in ’62…nations like Chile and the Netherlands hope that this is finally the year they join the small circle of world champs…and England obsess over what’s wrong with this year’s roster and why they can’t dominate a sport they created.  It’s been 48 years since England stood atop the world…can you imagine Team USA not winning Olympic Gold in mens basketball from now until 2060?  Hopefully Brazil will be ready to host the tournament– word is the conditions will make the Sochi Olympics look like the London Games.

 

Golf’s US Open has two Grand Slams in question:  can Bubba Watson follow his Masters win better than he did in 2012 when he missed the cut?  Outside of his two green jackets, Waffle House’s most famous patron has just two top ten finishes in majors– (2nd at the 2010 PGA Championship and T5 at the 2007 US Open).  He’s already made remarks about the conditions at Pinehurst–and even if they have merit you don’t crush the course.  Come on, Bubba.  The other Grand Slam in question replaces the annual “is the year Phil finally breaks through?” storyline.  Can a player who appeared to be doomed a little over a decade ago (no Major wins until the 2004 Masters) join the ranks of Tiger, Jack, Player, Hogan and Sarazen?  Injuries and inconsistencies have helped keep the reigning British Open Champ out of the top ten this year (with 3 missed cuts and 2 withdrawals)…although the fact he returns to the site of his first of a record six runner-up finishes makes the heart hope he’ll complete the circle.  In Lefty’s near-misses, the first three came at the expense of a multiple-major winner (Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen) while the last three came to one-hit wonders (Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover and Justin Rose).  In four of his six second place finishes, Mickelson had the lead after the second or third round (trailing by an average 6.5 shots after those rounds at Bethpage in ’02 and ’09) and shot 70 three times while carding a 71 and a pair of 74’s.  Everybody will be rooting for him though…

 

Rafael Reigns at the French Open– Nobody can contend with the King of Clay:  Nadal wins his 9th championship at Roland Garros and improves to 66-1 lifetime in the tournament.  His Finals victory over Novak Djokovic turns the pendulum back;  after once losing three straight Grand Slam Finals to the Serb Nadal has now bested Djokovic four straight times (3 times at Roland Garros and once at the US Open).  His 14 Grand Slam titles ties him with Pete Sampras (and he’s won each major, something a French-less Sampras was unable to do)…and Roger Federer’s 17 while not a slam-dunk isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  At age 28 one could see Nadal winning perhaps 1 or 2 more French Opens while nabbing one more Australian or US Open.  We often compare grand slam tennis to golf because they’re both individual sports;  but the cliff that elite players fall off of in tennis is far steeper.  But the way Nadal has played over the last year makes one think he has 2-3 left in his pocket.  

 

Horse Racing trots quietly into the night– No Triple Crown winner again, you say?  The streak hits 36?  California Chrome’s co-owner turned what was a good story that just missed perfection somewhat ugly by whining about how Tonalist didn’t deserve to be the Belmont champ because it didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.  Not cool.  Even after the first outburst he could have regained a little dignity…but now the blue bloods who snubbed the Cinderella Story will tell themselves “go figure”.  Now-Steve Coburn has a point.  The short turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness causes a lot of owners to hold his horse out of the race at Pimlico if they don’t prevail at Churchill Downs.  This often inflates the actual perceived ability of the horse that wins the Derby and Preakness–as often it takes the Black Eyed Susan amidst a diminished field (or at least one that’s not as elite as the one it competed against two weeks ago).  And then to run the longest distance of its career against the best of the rested?  I’ve long wished they move the gaps between the races to 3 or even 4 weeks…but much like unlimited substitution and scoreboard clocks in soccer, it’s not going to happen.  Until next year…

To be honest, after the NFL Draft I kind of go into autopilot mode.  I’m removed enough from the college hoops and college football seasons to recharge my batteries– and although OTA’s will demand immediate attention, the Burgundy and Gold News service drops to “Maroon and Black” alert.  But what a weekend to begin the month of May…

Gone in six seconds– much like the end of The Usual Suspects defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory… as a high stick leads to a 3-2 deficit with the Capitals trying to avoid elimination instead of trying to clinch on home ice.  While the Ward penalty cost the Caps in the final minute of regulation and in overtime… the fact that they managed just 4 shots on goal in the first period can’t be ignored.  The fact that they missed a few chances to open up a two goal advantage in the third period but didn’t connect can’t be looked over.  And the fact that the Rangers entered the postseason as the second best team in the league has to make you realize that any mistake will be pounced on.  Can they rally at home?  The Caps are 2-3 at Verizon during the playoffs… but if there’s one trend to follow in the NHL Playoffs- it’s that often there are no trends.

Purpose Pitch– Thanks, Cole Hamels, for showing what a fearsome pitcher you are by hitting a 19 year old rookie and then bragging about it.  So much more street cred headed up I-95 now.  I’m fine with any pitcher hitting a batter (especially in the back as opposed to the head)– but the true masters of the mound state it was intentional without saying it was intentional (“Hey– I threw an inside pitch and it got away– he should know this isn’t AA Harrisburg.  We protect the plate here.  This isn’t some Junior College out west– this is Major League Baseball.”).  That would have sent the message.  Instead, Hamels pats himself on the back… as MLB pats him on the wallet. 

Meanwhile, the Nats get two big bats back in to the lineup (Zimmerman and LaRoche) while their bullpen burns a little bit.  Henry Rodriguez’s blown save at Pittsburgh the latest stomach punch.

Captain Obvious flies over Ashburn– to the surprise of very few people, the Redskins have named Robert Griffin III the team’s #1 quarterback.  Was this necessary now?  I think everybody figured RGIII would eventually lock down the starting job… now he’ll get the vast majority of the snaps immediately.  Will Rex Grossman be around in August or will the Skins find a better veteran to mentor.

Congratulations to “I’ll Have Another” for winning the Kentucky Derby– now we move on to the Preakness in less than two weeks.  I wish horse racing would enter the 21st century and gap the races better… in the 1890’s it wasn’t uncommon for 3 year olds to race two or even three times a month.  Now– a four or five week gap between starts is the norm for many.  Thus, the horses aren’t accustomed to 3 high stake races in 5 weeks… and the best case is Big Brown not having its best race in the 2008 Belmont.  The worst case is Barbaro shattering its leg at the 2006 Preakness.  So move the Preakness back a week or two… and do the same with the Belmont.  You’d have better rested horses and better racing.  I know it flies in the face of tradition… but the sports that are chained by yesteryear dwindle tomorrow.