by Danny Brewer
The Clark is no doubt one of the top races in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. A grade 1 event worth $500,000, this mile and an eighth run over the main track has been the centerpiece of the Churchill Downs Fall meet for 146 years. Featuring some of the best classic distance runners, this has long been a showcase for the sport of kings. In recent years it has been a great spot after the Breeders’ Cup for top talent. This year is no different. In fact, a field of fourteen means the starting gates will be as loaded as that plate you made at Aunt Wilma Jean’s house on Turkey day. Let’s take a look at the prospective field and decide who is the ham and turkey and who might be the show-stopping green bean casserole. Get an extra-big plate and don’t forget the buttermilk pie!
1 Craft Daddy-Trained by Kenny McPeek, this son of Scat Daddy has Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. Having run mostly on the grass, his last start was a win over the Downs dirt. We say he’s like some sweet potato pie- attractive to some but not on our plate.
2 Title Ready- Son of More Than Ready has run a lot in Stakes company but hasn’t gotten there. Was 7th last out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Trainer Dallas Stewart has a way of making stuff happen. Like the cornbread dressing, you need a little for your exotic wagers because he could kick’em up.
3 Code of Honor- This Shug McGauhey trainee is supposed to be the honey baked ham. His last 11 starts have been in graded stakes company and his Travers triumph a year ago was delectable. Got to have him on the plate in all your exotics.
4 Multiplier- Trainer Peter Miller says there are 500,000 reasons to start his veteran here. No wins this year and only 3 in 31 lifetime starts may cause you to ask why, but a fourth place finish in the Stephen Foster back in June says he could make the superfecta pay big. Like some honey roasted carrots, you may want a little on your plate.
5 Aurelius Maximus- Two wins and a second in three starts this year coupled with all-time Churchill leading trainer Steve Asmussen means this son of Pioneerof the Nile might be like the fudge pie. Something you need to leave room for because with the other dishes, may be forgotten by some but tasty as can be.
6 Plus Que Parfait-Winless in six starts this year, this well-traveled son of Point of Entry may be the Jello dish with the marsh mellows in it. Not many people trying and most of it left on the table.
7 Mr Freeze-Here is the white bread stuffing your granny makes. An absolute must because it is sooo tasty. Winner of the Fayette two starts back and an Ack-Ack triumph in 2019 sandwiched around some other prime time efforts means this Dale Romans trained son of To Honor and Serve will be all over our plate.
8 Bodeexpress-Always thought to be talented, this son of Bodemeister has only found the winner’s circle 3 times in 16 starts. Like the corn soufflé, you want some on your plate because he has been in the top three 10 times, just don’t take up too much room as there are other potentially more tasty treats.
9 Owendale-Having finished second in this race in 2019, this son of Into Mischief is conditioned by one of the hottest chefs in the kitchen. Brad Cox has been cooking up some fabulous things of late and he might just get a grade 1 here with some green bean casserole.
10 Bourbon Calling- Let’s get real for a second. There is usually something that’s not on the table, but most of the men are searching for so they can hang with the relatives. Ian Wilkes trained and in the money in half his starts this year, he might be the brown bag for a celebratory superfecta.
11 Coastal Defense- With all eight of his career starts coming this year, this four-year old son of Curlin has only raced in stakes company once. Can trainer Dale Romans make an unlikely starter into some broccoli cheesey rice casserole that everybody wants some of?…Dale has won a whole bunch at Churchill and set off bombs before.
12 By My Standards- The star of the show at our feast has long been the Fried Turkey and that’s where this son of Goldencents comes in. Trainer Bret Calhoun has guided this fabulous four-year old to 4 wins and 2 seconds in 7 starts this year. A nice win in the Alysheba at Churchill on September 4 means he smells like that wonderful deep fried goodness.
13 Phantom Currency-A winner of a turf switched to dirt race in his last start means trainer Brian Lynch wants to roll the dice. Also a son of Goldencents, this four-year old has 3 wins in 11 career tries but is the cranberry sauce. A dish that’s there but nobody really wants.
14 Silver Prospector-The lone three year old in the race, this Steve Asmussen trained son of Declaration of War might be our buttermilk pie. Early in the year he looked like a player on the Triple Crown trail but a 7th place finish in the Arkansas Derby squelched that. Two wins and a third in three lifetime starts at Churchill means you better make space on your platter.
The Clark is the 10th race on an 11 race card that is to be run beneath the twin spires on November 27. Prospective post time is 5:27 eastern.
by Danny Brewer
A quick glance at the final score of the Oakland-Riverdale third round playoff game kinda says “blowout”. But those in attendance understand the game was still highly in question over halfway into the fourth quarter, That was until Patriot coach Kevin Creasy put on his chef’s hat.
Rolling into the third quarter of a post-season edition of the battle for the Boro, it appeared as though the Patriots were in complete control. Using all facets of their game, Oakland was leading their crosstown rival 26-0. Refusing to go down without a fight, Riverdale put up two scores and trailed 26-14. With a little more than five minutes left in the contest and all their timeouts remaining, the Warriors were far from scalped.
Normally in a situation like this, a coach will implore a game plan to “not lose” the game. Run the ball, try and eat some clock, and depend on the defense. A turn of events, however, caused the highly successful Patriot leader to make a trip to the kitchen and deliver the dessert.
With 4:59 remaining and the clock stopped the call was made. Backed up on their own 10 yard line after a penalty, Oakland faced a “second down and Shelbyville” situation. Those that have seen the crafty Creasy in action would normally think a run was in order to keep the clock rolling. The Patriots had made their cake with a nice balanced offense predicated on running the football. A staple of his winning ways, the sixth year Oakland leader believes in the basics.
Lining up in a box stacking formation, Riverdale looked to stuff their rivals, get the ball back and make a real game of it. But wait a minute, the Patriots emptied the backfield in a field spreading formation. Surely the conservative thinking Creasy would not pass in this situation. When you throw it three things can happen and two of them are bad. A pass would go against the “not lose a fourth quarter lead” theory.
This is where Duncan Hines jumped to the forefront. Creasy made a daring call as he was looking to “win” the game. From the spread formation, star running back Jordan James slipped into a wide-open section in the middle of the field and hauled in a perfect strike from quarterback Ian Schlacter. After juking a would-be tackler, James jolted 90 yards to paydirt. Now up three scores with under five minutes to play, the Fat Lady began warming up the pipes.
“The penalty put us in a bad predicament with still a lot of time left,” says Creasy. “People don’t realize Jordan James has some really good hands and our quarterback made a perfect throw in that situation. Of course some bad things could have happened, but we were very fortunate it worked out and Jordan was able to catch it and outrun everybody to the end zone.”
The cake-icing call by Creasy was one of those plays that can make you look like a five star chef. Of course it also can allow all the arm chair cooks to nay say if it does not work. Having the confidence in your team in critical times makes for a champion’s mentality. Having won three state titles at Trousdale County and garnering a fourth at Oakland, the man obviously knows the ingredients to a winning cake. And as Riverdale found out…he knows how to ice it as well.
Oakland will host Maryville in the TSSAA class 6A state semifinals on November 27. Kickoff at Ray Hughes Stadium is slated for 7pm.
When you really think about it, riding in a Thoroughbred race is kind of a leap of faith. Climbing aboard a spirited athlete with twice as many legs and aver 10 times your size certainly takes courage. Not to mention traveling in a pack of other thundering tonnage running thirty five or so miles per hour. There is one jockey in particular that will be a testament of faith when the horses are saddled in the grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs on November 27.
Jumping Joe Talamo has spent the better part of his riding career in Southern California. Born in Louisiana in 1990, the ambitious Cajun crafted himself as a skilled rider at a very young age. After spending the last thirteen years on the Southern California circuit, the winner of some of the Golden State’s biggest stakes races decided to come back East.
The decision to move his young family closer to his birth place was not easy. Having basically grown up at places like Santa Anita and Del Mar, Talamo courageously decided it was time for a change.
“I did a lot of thinking about it and it came down to more opportunity and better purse structure at the tracks east of the Mississippi,” says the 2007 Eclipse award winning apprentice rider. “Some of the races run at Oaklawn Park and Churchill have twice the prize money as the same type of races run out West. My kids are still very young so I didn’t have to uproot them from school and my wife was behind it so here we are.”
Talamo has seemed to find his way just fine during a challenging year. Riding at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he sat atop the jockey standings for much of the meet before finishing second in wins (53) as he acquired a season leading 320 mounts. Among those rides, Talamo finished in the top three 42% of the time. At the Churchill Downs spring meet a ninth place finish in the final rider standings was followed by a tenth place at the short September meet at Churchill. At the current meet beneath the Twin Spires he is fifth in purse earnings and has finished in the money 36% of the time.
Talamo has enjoyed the year thus far in some new surroundings. But the former champion rider at the Fair Grounds (2006) in his home state points to a couple of simple reasons for his success.
“You always have to work as hard as you can in this game to be a winner,” says Talamo. “I have always tried to follow that simple rule. The other thing that has been a big help is being able to get on some really live horses. My agent, Jake Romans, has done an excellent job of putting me on some great horses. He has put me in a position to be successful and that has been huge.”
The leap of faith has paid off thus far for Talamo, but like any top rider, he’s hungry for that next big win. The tradition-rich Clark is currently in the cross-hairs. Run every year since 1875, this mile and an eighth journey over the Churchill Downs dirt will see Talamo getting a leg up on Coastal Defense. Trained by Dale Romans, one of the all-time training icons at the Louisville Oval, the Louisiana native guided this son of Curlin to victory in September at Churchill.
Talamo understands the opportunity now before him as the Clark attracts top talent. One of the “big” year-end races.it is worth $500,000. This give Joe another chance to jump up against the game’s big hitters.
“I think Coastal Defense is a horse on the rise and he seems to be getting better and better,” says Talamo. “He’s versatile and that gives you a better opportunity because you don’t have to be pace dependent to win. Dale is a great guy to ride for and he always does a great job of having his horses ready. I am very excited to have the chance to ride in a prestigious race like the Clark. “
Those opportunities can come along with a leap of faith. The Clark will headline the black Friday card at Churchill Downs on November 27. Some of the horses lining up against Coastal Defense are stable mate Mr Freeze, grade 1 winner Honor Code and graded stakes winner Owendale just to name a few.
Blackman high school baseball phenom Drew Beam signed with the University of Tennessee last week. Featuring a fastball that’s fast and a curveball that curves, Beam has baffled hitters galore during his time on the hill at Blackman. Eager to continue playing the game for the Big Orange, this hard throwing righthanded senior made his commitment to the Volunteers official. Family and friends were present as he inked with Tennessee. Those joining Beam at the signing table were (back row l to r ) coach Greg Jones, father Jason Beam, head coach Barry Vetter, (front row l to r) sister Carlee Beam, Drew Beam, mother Kelli Beam.
by Danny Brewer, Sports Editor
The TSSAA postseason has begun and locals are seeing something very familiar. The Oakland Patriots are once again flexing their muscle in Middle Tennessee.
High school football in this area is certainly a source of pride in the sports community. Having won four state titles (1984,1998, 2008, 2018) and with three runner up finishes (1988, 1989, 2016), Oakland has enjoyed their time at the top over the past four decades. Under the guidance of current coach Kevin Creasy, the Patriots are once again demonstrating the recent dominance of a football rich region.
If any folks wondered where Oakland currently is in the pecking order, the second round contest with Mt. Juliet provided an emphatic answer. A blocked punt early in the first quarter staked the Bears to a 3-0 lead, but that was the last time the rival from Wilson County had any hopes of victory. Over the next two quarters, Oakland went on a 49-0 run and cruised to a 49-17 win.
“I am very proud of our team for answering the way they did,” says Creasy. “I think that’s just the second blocked punt my teams have given up in my coaching career. Mt. Juliet had some early momentum but this bunch responded in a big way and really took control. That was big time”
The first quarter ended with Oakland on top 7-3, but from there it was all about skinning the Bears. Four Patriot trips to paydirt in the second quarter essentially put the game out of reach. Junior running back Jordan James jaunted into the end zone twice during the second quarter as he continued to be one of the main weapons in Oakland’s offensive arsenal.
“Jordan is one of those naturals that really does a lot for our offense,” says Creasy, now in his sixth season at Oakland. “I don’t do much coaching with him.”
Next up the Patriots (13-0) will attempt to make like Arnold Schwarznegger again as they take on rival Riverdale (10-2) in the third round of the TSSAA playoffs. Having whipped the Warriors 30-7 in the regular season means little to Creasy and his crew as they prepare to host their crosstown rival with much more at stake.
“I think all of our kids understand it is a win or go home situation now,” says Creasy. “All these kids have worked hard to get to this point and now we just need to stay focused and play the game.”
Kickoff for the Oakland-Riverdale game is slated for 7 pm on November20 at Ray Hughes Stadium.
by Danny Brewer, Sports Editor
Some of my loyal and not so loyal followers recognize one of the familiar utterances associated with me and Horseracingscoop.com . Both of them have heard me say “back a horse and get paid” on social media and in our produced videos. A trip to the 2020 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland shined a spotlight on that very slogan time and again.
Thoroughbred horse racing is one of the greatest things on earth. The “sport of kings” has so many positive attributes and the Breeders’ Cup is an event that magnifies such. The 2020 edition run at Keeneland on November 6 and 7 was all encompassing when it came to getting paid.
First and foremost we must clarify our payment process. Better than Venmo or PayPal, Thoroughbred racing provides a feeling of euphoric satisfaction. Always a happy place, Keeneland was full of smiles as 22 stakes races were run with 14 being Breeders’ Cup championship events. The competition was immense, so as a participant, being in was a big win in its own right. For those that had no real connection to an entrant, simply seeing this type of competitive display in an athletic arena was most certainly a mark in the left hand column.
Granted, a trip to the winner’s circle with a photo op is the ultimate goal, but as is the case always, time will lend perspective to the importance of just being in the starting gates at an event like this. Case in point for me was Serengeti Empress. Having displayed more heart than a Valentine’s Candy Store since first toeing the track, this fabulously fast female was making her final start of a glorious career. Trainer Tom Amoss wanted to send his Kentucky Oaks champion out a winner as re-payment for the many thrills she had provided his Louisiana-based stable. Fortunate enough to be a part of his posse (or Tomtourage), the pins and needles we were all on leading up to the event was warm and fuzzy…or maybe that was the champagne… Regardless, this was not just me being a casual press observer, it was more than that. A part of an inner circle, this Cup provided a new perspective.
As we expressed earlier, being able to compete at this level is a huge feather in any participant’s cap. Having played, coached, and covered many different sports since the 1970’s (whoa…that makes me sound like an old timer) I have run across those that could handle the pressure and respond with poise and class, and those who couldn’t. A few hours enjoying the company of team Amoss told me exactly why Serengeti Empress was running in the Breeders’ Cup. The Empress and her court represented the passion and dedication that defines success. After she ran a determined second to a track record setting Gamine in the Filly and Mare Sprint, the disappointment was understandable. As the final race of her career, there would be no “we’ll get’em next time”. Like a real winner, Amoss took it all in stride as he is bright enough to know he backed his horse and got paid with lasting memories, but nevertheless he is a competitor, and like lots of others he came to the Cup to win. In the future he and his team will understand they did.
Another that backed his horses and got paid was Brad Cox. In an ever-challenging world, this Louisville native has ducked into a phone booth on Central Avenue and has emerged as one of the super trainers in the game. Those closer to the sport have recognized his rise through the training ranks, but the 2020 Breeders’ Cup told the world he is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. After pulling the late double on Friday (Aunt Pearl in Fillies Juvenile Turf, Essential Quality in Juvenile), the man of steel flexed a different kind of training muscle on Saturday. In winning the Dirt Mile and the Distaff, Cox used a pair of resuscitated runners. Knicks Go was almost on the scrap heap before coming into the Brad Cox barn After 10 consecutive races without a win, the man who has won two of the past three Kentucky Oaks found the light switch. Beginning with two wins in two starts for Cox, this son of Paynter lead every step of the way in establishing a new track record (1:33.85) in the Dirt Mile. Kentucky Oaks heroine Monomoy Girl then rewarded her caring conditioner with a winning performance in the Distaff. Having missed all of 2019, this five-year old daughter of Tapizar completed a perfect four for four campaign with her second win in the Distaff. Others may have given up on these two, but Cox backed a pair and got paid.
The proverbial payouts were huge at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, but so were the monetary ones. In the 22 races run on November 6 and 7 at Keeneland, over $160 million was wagered. The average payout on the 10 cent superfecta (a $2.40 wager picking the top 4 finishers) was a whopping $3107.87. Long shot winners like Fire at Will (30-1 Juvenile Turf), Order of Australia (73-1 Mile), Glass Slippers (10-1 Turf Sprint), and Whitmore (18-1 Sprint) were just some of the reasons for fat cash. Near misses by bombers like Hot Rod Charlie (94-1 Juvenile), Jesus’ Team (64-1 Dirt Mile) and Valiance (18-1 Distaff) were just some of the others that kicked the tickets up another notch. It is understood that any horse entering the starting gates can win on any day, but that is especially true at an event like this.
So to summarize, if you were lucky enough to be at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, or any of the past Cups for that matter, you got paid in one form or another.
SPORTS BY DANNY BREWER
The Breeders’ Cup is the greatest two days in Thoroughbred racing…period. As far as competition is concerned, it is like a heavyweight title tournament. Dempsey, Marciano, Louis, Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Holmes, Tyson, Lewis, Holyfield, and then some. The best of the best from all over the world come together to decide who is tops in their respective division. With $31 million in total purse money the top-flight athletes are plentiful and often times the payouts are as well. Keeneland Race Course in the heart of horse country will host this 37th running. Considering that, let’s provide a brief examination of each race and throw out a bomb or two.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT… With a 14 horse field of geeked up two year olds, this could be a quick one over that Kentucky Bluegrass. Perennial turf titan Wesley Ward has the morning line favorite in Golden Pal (8-5), but the far outside post might present a challenge. Our horse that might muddy the water here is the Mark Casse trained Dirty Dangle at a tidy 20-1
JUVENILE TURF… Run at one mile, this may be as wide open as any race in the entire event. The morning line favorite is Mutasaabeq at 5-1 and this 14 horse field is very balanced. That means the exotics in this one could pay HUGE! A couple to watch could be Ebeko (20-1) and Abarta (12-1)…Cha-Ching!!!
JUVENILE FILLIES… Considered a setup for the road that leads to the 2021 Kentucky Oaks, this field is small comparatively speaking (7 entrants) but is uber talented. Bob Baffert trained Princess Noor (9-5 morning line) is the early favorite but this is certainly not a gimme. The Dale Romans trained Girl Daddy is one fast filly that might just upset the apple cart at 6-1.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF… Another 14 horse field means another potential huge payout. Brad Cox saddles the morning line favorite in Aunt Pearl (3-1) but how about a Chad Brown trained filly, Editor At Large that’s 12-1 on the morning line? Irish import Mother Earth is 20-1 for trainer Aidan O’Brien….hmmmmm.
JUVENILE… Only twice has the winner of this race went on to win the Kentucky Derby (Street Sense 2006, Nyquist 2015) but we stil look at it as an important piece to the Derby puzzle. With 14 freshman lining up it will be a chance to see who is measuring up early. Jackie’s Warrior is a strong 7-5 morning line favorite, but last year Storm the Court shook up the world at odds of 45-1. Some potential earth movers here are King Fury (15-1) and Classier (15-1)
FILLY AND MARE SPRINT… In what could be a real speed duel the youth of Gamine (7-5) is matched against the courage of Serengeti Empress (3-1). Either could lead every step of the 7 furlongs. If the pace is too hot, Sally’s Curlin could come from the clouds at early odds of 20-1.
DIRT MILE… A super loaded 12 horse field sees Complexity as the 2-1 morning line favorite, but Art Collector (6-1), Mr. Freeze (6-1) and Knicks Go (7-2) all have nice wins over this track. Mr. Money (20-1) and Rushie (20-1) are bombers that could easily drop one here. Might be a close your eyes and point race.
MILE… A turf race extraordinaire, this one usually attracts some of the best from across the pond. Ivar is coming in off a win over this turf course and is 4-1 on the morning line but Chad Brown trained female Uni should deservedly vie for favoritism. Irish import Circus Maximus may be worth a look at 12-1.
FILLY AND MARE TURF… With 14 females lining up, this could be a real cat fight. Rushing Fall has been magnificent at Keeneland and is 5-2 on the morning line. Trainer Chad Brown has her along with prime timers Sistercharlie and Nay Lady Nay. Harvey’s Little Goil (20-1) and Lady Prancelot (30-1) are some long shots that could certainly provide a day-making ticket.
TURF… A race that has featured some of the best European horses, this one is no different. Six of the ten entrants are from the old world with Magical as the 5-2 morning line favorite. Any one of the American entrants, Arklow (5-1), United (8-1), Red King (20-1), or Channel Maker (5-1) could slip in and steal the cheese.
TURF SPRINT… These 5 ½ furlong races are some of the most exciting in the sport. This mad dash over the Keeneland grass is packed with 14 speedsters. Fantastic female Got Stormy (7-2) is the morning line favorite, but this one could set up for a shocker. Three time defending champ trainer Peter Miller has Texas Wedge at 30-1 and California based Wildman Jack is 15-1.
SPRINT… This race could feature another photo finish with fourteen runners and plenty of talent. Vekoma is the morning line favorite at 3-1 but CZ Rocket is at 7-2 and coming in with a five race win streak. Old man Whitmore (15-1) might be worth a play and Collusion Illusion (20-1) is another that could be there.
DISTAFF… A race that usually features the top dirt females, Swiss Skydiver (2-1) and Monomoy Girl (8-5) have both earned some major accolades in their careers. This could be a match race but horses like Ollie’s Candy (10-1) and Ce Ce (12-1) may have something to say about that.
CLASSIC… A mile and a quarter over the main track with $6 million on the line.. Bob Baffert has his three amigos poised to strike as Improbable (5-2), Maximum Security (7-2) and Authentic (6-1) are imposing. But don’t forget about Tiz The Law, By My Standards (10-1) and Tom’s d’Etat (6-1). This is a VERY competitive nine horse field.
As the runners line up for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7, Bob Baffert may be doing a Chuck Daly imitation. …How’s that you ask?…It looks like Big Race Bob has assembled a Dream Team for this $6 million event.
For those that don’t recall, the 1992 Summer Olympics featured a United States basketball team like no other. As NBA players were allowed to participate for the first time ever, the USA squad featured eleven players that would become members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan were perhaps the three most recognizable names on a team that brought home the gold, but the stars were plentiful up and down the bench.
The 2020 mile and a quarter Classic at Keeneland race course will see Baffert bring in a formidable line up of stars that might be reminiscent of those legendary hoopsters. His runners may not be as recognizable to the common sports fans as those players from ’92, but their talent level jumps out of the gym.
The shooting guard for the hall of fame conditioner is Maximum Security. Having crossed the finish line first in eleven of thirteen career starts, this son of New Year’s Day is a horse that can flat score. Full of heart and with plenty of speed and stamina, his recent works say he is coming in right. His last race was a second place finish in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on September 26, but Baffert throws that one out.
“We probably shouldn’t have run him in that spot because I don’t think he was ready,” says Baffert. “He didn’t like the track at Santa Anita that day but he seems to be doing great right now.”
The power forward in the lineup is Improbable. Much like Karl “the Mailman” Malone, this athlete has really delivered. Three consecutive grade 1 wins have seen this son of City Zip mature into a real force. A versatile runner, his front-running score in the Whitney at Saratoga was followed by a worst to first romp in the Awesome Again as he blew past stable mate Maximum Security.
“We always thought he was a good horse, now he’s just getting really good,” says Baffert. “We just need him to be really good one more time this year.”
The third member of Baffert’s Classic lineup is the swingman, Authentic. An athlete that has demonstrated outstanding ability in registering five wins and two seconds in seven career starts, this son of Into Mischief is a slasher. He took the highly favored Tiz The Law to the hoop in winning the 2020 Kentucky Derby before just missing in the Preakness on October 4.
“He came out of the Preakness in good shape, he just lost focus,” says the thee-time winner of the Classic (2014, 2015, 2016). “The key for him is to get engaged early and remain focused. He’s very talented and has a lot of speed.”
Does a four-time grade 1 winner (Improbable) and the two horses that crossed the finish line first in the last two Kentucky Derbies (Maximum Security 2019, Authentic 2020) compare to the likes of coach Chuck Daly’s arsenal?… Tip time for the Classic is set as the final race of a spectacular two-day event.
When rivals meet on the gridiron it’s always exciting. When region titles are potentially on the line it means even more. The October 23 showdown at Smyrna was all about first place in more ways than one as the Wolverines and Bulldogs battled for the top spot in region 5.
The long-standing high school football series with LaVergne has presented many challenges for Smyrna over the thirty plus years it has existed. The Wolverines have had plenty of fight, but some how, some way, the Bulldogs have found a way to stand tall in every meeting except one (2000). As every one knows this year has been different in many ways, but the outcome of this backyard brawl saw more of the same for Smyrna.
In a contest that featured many highlights and offered up all the reasons why high school football is fantastic, Smyrna’s 35-28 triumph was another storied chapter in the Bulldog football lore. Big plays when it counted the most allowed the Dogs to dig their way out of a 21-14 halftime deficit. Using all facets of the game, Smyrna rolled up the fur and found a way in the final two quarters.
“I am really proud of our kids for keeping their composure and not panicking when we were down at the half,” says Smyrna head coach Matt Williams. “LaVergne has a good team and Ray Banner is a very talented player. We had a lot of kids step up and display the heart of a Bulldog.”
Ray Banner, the Wolverines outstanding senior running back, struck fear into the Smyrna hearts with a sizzling first half. Scoring two of the three LaVergne touchdowns, one was a scintillating 75-yard scamper that proved this kid can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. His presence and the confidence he brings to the entire squad meant it would take something special for Smyrna to keep their winning streak alive.
True to form, the opening offensive series for Smyrna saw one of those table turning plays. Listed at 5 foot nine and 155 pounds, senior receiver Jamir Eaton is a diminutive Dog with a huge heart. Hauling in a pass from quarterback Landon Miller, Eaton solidified his super hero status as he refused to go down. Breaking tackles like the Incredible Hulk at mid-field, he then transformed into the Flash as he bolted free and ran to paydirt. The 77 yard pass, catch, and run infused life into Smyrna as Dogged determination was in full display.
Following a blocked punt, Smyrna took the lead for good as Miller found the end zone from one yard out. Mid-way through the decisive third quarter LaVergne was dealt a misfortunate blow as Banner left the contest with an ankle injury. Having accumulated 222 yards on 22 carries through two and a half quarters, the Wolverine star would not return.
Capitalizing on a now limited LaVergne offense, Smyrna turned loose their running game. Proving to also be a force on the ground, Sophomore Arion Carter capped a big night (147 yards 14 carries) by racking up yardage during Smyrna’s third scoring drive of the quarter. Now up 35-21, the Bulldogs used the ground game to help shorten the fourth quarter with clock consuming possessions.
“I am very proud of our offensive line and how they found a way to open holes for all of our backs,” says Williams. “Arion Carter is a kid I can’t say enough about and we had a lot of big plays from different players in critical situations.”
The 2020 edition of the rumble in North Rutherford County wound up with a familiar result, but it once again featured outstanding effort from both sides and some sparkling performances. Smyrna (6-3 , 5-0 in region play) now controls their own destiny as they can claim the region title with a win at Stewart’s Creek. For Bulldog leader Matt Williams it marked another notch in his coaching collar as he found a way get his Dogs to measure up.
“We haven’t played LaVergne this late in the year with this much on the line in a long time,” says the Dog leader, now in his 13th season. “No question this is a special win and now we just need to keep moving forward.“
Smyrna closes the regular season on October 30 at Stewart’s Creek Kickoff is slated for 7 pm.
by Danny Brewer
Many things have changed during a tumultuous year and the new normal is often the abnormal. One thing however has not changed. The Oakland Patriots are currently the class of Rutherford County high school football teams.
As the season has unfolded, the Patriots have looked every bit the part of state title contender. Standing at 9-0, Oakland has dominated a reshuffled schedule with a potent offense and stingy defense. Seven contests played on the field has seen the Patriots outscore the opposition 291-62. The other two contests were Covid 19 forfeits.
Blessed with playmakers on both sides of the football, head coach Kevin Creasy has been able to keep his kids healthy and focused. Managing the mental aspect in these trying times has been every coach’s challenge in 2020. The fundamentally based Creasy has been very pleased with his team’s response to that hurdle.
“The thing I am most proud of is the fact these kids really appreciate the opportunity to play football,” says Creasy. “They understand the challenges the world is facing and know it is a privilege to be able to step on the playing field. Being able to play this game means a lot to our group.”
Offensively, Oakland has several weapons that are threats to take it to the house any time they touch the ball. Jordan James, Victor Stephenson, Antonio Patterson, and Isaiah Horton all give the Patriot offense big paydirt threats. These type players give Creasy an expanded opportunity with play calling. Of equal importance, however are the guys surrounding these deadly weapons.
“We are blessed to have some kids that are capable of doing some special things,” says Creasy, now in his sixth season at the Oakland helm. “The special thing about this team is the commitment all of our players have to the team. We have a lot of overachievers on this roster. There are kids that have been asked to play different positions and they embrace their roles with the team always coming first.”
Oakland will host Coffee County for senior night and their final home game of the regular season on October 23. Always trying to emphasize the little things, Creasy is taking things one week at a time.
“We have been blessed with good health to this point and will take things one day at a time,” says Creasy. “These kids seem to be gelling at the right time. I think we are continuing to get better which is what you want. Now we just need to stay healthy and remain focused.”
Kickoff for the game with Coffee County is slated for 7 pm at Ray Hughes Stadium in Murfreesboro. The Patriots complete the regular season on October 30 with a trip to Warren County.
Marc Carpenter (left) and Kyle Burgess are once again champions of the Jimmy Golf League. Played at Cedar Crest Golf Course, the hotly contested season saw the big hitting Burgess consistently score well while the crafty Carpenter carved out solid rounds on a regular basis. This marks the fourth consecutive year this duo has danced past the competition. Considering the nature of this grand old game that is quite a feat. Fantastic play on and around the greens were just one of the highlights for the now four-time defending champs.
Photo credit Chelsea Durand
The relationship between player and coach is often times very special. This is absolutely the case in the game of Thoroughbred racing. Perhaps it is even more so as these four-legged athletes enjoy a special bond with their conditioner in what can be a “who trains who” situation. A classic example will be on display at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup when one trainer in particular hopes to orchestrate a fairy tale ending for his prized pupil.
Tom Amoss has had many horses in his barn since beginning life as a trainer back in 1987. With over 3200 wins in the saddle bags, the native of New Orleans has enjoyed a trip or two to the winner’s circle. There is one runner, however, that holds a very special place in the LSU graduate’s heart.
Serengeti Empress is without question one of the most courageous runners in the game today. Under the expert care of her loving conditioner, the Empress has reigned supreme seven times in eighteen career starts. With more speed than Shirley Muldowney, this four year old daughter of Alternation always provides thrills no matter where she finishes.
“You can’t measure her heart and that is probably her greatest feature,” says Amoss. “Anyone that watches her race and sees what she puts into it can’t help but become a fan. She leaves it all on the track every time.”
The most notable win of her career came in the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. Coming into the race under the radar, the Empress took’em gate to wire in a real showcase of her racehorse qualities. Front end speed and the ability to carry it through the finish put the spotlight on the superior preparation instilled by Amoss. Even though his barn did things basically the same way they had always done, the Oaks triumph cast their racing team in a different light.
“I owe a lot to the Empress because when she won the Kentucky Oaks I suddenly became a better trainer in the eyes of a lot of people,” says Amoss. “We really didn’t change our approach, she’s just a very special athlete that changed our public perception. Her performance that day allowed me entrance into “the club” and believe me being in the club has it’s advantages.”
One of the things that made the Oaks win so special was the uncertainty in the weeks leading up to the world’s most famous race for three-year old fillies. A bleeding issue in the Fairgrounds Oaks on March 23 had cast doubt about her ability to be ready. As Amoss carefully nurtured his prized filly back to health a very special bond was formed. Always putting the health of his horse first, the decision to run in the May 3 showcase was not made until the week before when he knew his Empress was sound physically. She in turn rewarded her coach with a huge effort.
Serengeti Empress has continued to shine the spotlight on her dedicated conditioner in this, her four-year old season. That same heart and effort have produced courageous performances in all but one of her six starts this year. Her win in the mile and a sixteenth Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March was another gate to wire romp. After being unable to score in the Apple Blossom due to an outside post draw and fading in the mile and an eighth Fleur di Lis, Amoss changed the game plan for his star.
Because she has normally been fantastic in the early stages of every race in her career, the cagy conditioner decided it was time to play to her strengths and run shorter distances. The grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on August 8 was the site for Serengeti and her test at seven furlongs in 2020. Amoss looked like Einstein as the Empress displayed one of the most dynamic runs ever over this New York dirt. Simply sizzling opening fractions (21.73 quarter mile, 43.74 half) would have cooked most, but this beautiful girl thrives when the grill gets hot. Her six challengers could not hold up and Amoss’s Empress was crowned.
The next try at this same seven furlong distance was not a win, but her loss by a flaring nostril in the Derby City Distaff on September 5 featured a legendary stretch run. Once again this granddaughter of Bernardini set a blistering pace (21.93 quarter, 43.77 half mile). Refusing to give in when confronted by Bell’s The One, the Empress battled all the way to the wire as she just refused to give in.
Those two fantastic efforts by his fabulously fast female gives Amoss confidence as she prepares for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Contested at seven furlongs, this year’s Cup will be run at Keeneland. A likely lineup that will feature the also freakishly fast Gamine should not alter the game plan for the Empress.
“It’s a little late to change things up,” observes Amoss. “This is going to be the final start of her career and now is not the time to try and change. She wants to be out front and that’s what we want too.”
Preparations for their last dance together have gone well to this point. A recent half mile breeze told Amoss his beauty is ready to run. Now he hopes to fine tune her and provide the sendoff he knows she deserves.
“Winning this race is very important for us,” says Amoss. “Our number one goal is to see her walk off the track healthy. But I also want to reward her by sending her out with a win. I think I owe that to her. As the years go by and we reflect on things Serengeti Empress will always be the first one we talk about. She has been so big for our stable and closing out her days on the track with a Breeders’ Cup victory is what we are hoping for.”
No matter what happens as these two trip the light fantastic one final time, Amoss and his Empress will be winners because they have each other.
The $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is scheduled for November 7.
As the sands move through the hourglass we can all be privy to certain things that have a “Wow” factor. The piece of heaven on earth we call Keeneland Race Course has seen many of those moments over the years. Thanks to one fantastic athlete, another was created on October 9.
Got Stormy is one of those Thoroughbreds that can be referred to as a “real racehorse”. Full of courage and possessing a tremendous turn of foot, this five-year old female has not been perfect in her twenty five-race career, but she has given race fans many memorable moments. Her most recent came in the grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes.
Making her mark in the history books on the turf, this daughter of Get Stormy has turned in some huge efforts. A girl that likes to travel, this Mark Casse trained runner has graced twelve different tracks with her presence. One of the things that makes her “real” in the race horse category is the fact she has displayed her beauty in eight different winner’s circles. That means she is a horse for any course.
A calculating conditioner, Casse made the call to shorten up his star. Normally running in one mile races, Stormy was going to try and strike in the Turf Sprint division. Deciding to experiment at Kentucky Downs in the 6 ½ furlong Ladies Turf Sprint on September 12, Got Stormy made her trainer look like a genius. Powerfully scoring by a widening 3 ½ lengths, this Kentucky-bred added to an already impressive resume’.
Choosing to stay on the Bluegrass, Stormy landed at Keeneland for the Buffalo Trace. Run at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint distance of 5 ½ furlongs, this shorter race would be another challenge for the late-running granddaughter of Malabar Gold. With toes on this historic turf, it was time for the latest test.
A torrid early pace (21.84 opening quarter, 44.94 half mile) saw Got Stormy near the back of a ten-horse field. Sitting sixth at the top of the stretch, it looked as if this heroine would still be in search of a win at Keeneland. Urged by jockey Tyler Gafflione, it was show time for Stormy.
With the wire in sight and front-runners Into Mystic and Jakarta going strong, Casse’s charge was running out of time. Like lightning from the clouds, Got Stormy struck. Closing with ground gobbling strides under Gafflione, she simply refused to lose. The final yards of the race saw this amazing surge from an athlete who only envisioned the thrill of victory. Getting up by a nose, Got Stormy etched her name in the Keeneland history books with a heart-filled effort that epitomizes the finer points of this great game.
The post race analysis from her star-struck trainer was summarized in one word. “Special” says Casse.
Anyone that watches the race will likely concur. Keeneland will play host to the 2020 Breeders’ Cup and will likely see Got Stormy make another run at even more greatness.
Any win is a good win, but let’s be honest, some are just bigger than others. For the Smyrna high football team, the “W” they earned on October 2 was a big notch on the Bulldog collar.
Since the region re-alignment six seasons ago when Smyrna was grouped in with some Davidson County schools, the game with Cane Ridge has been circled. The current class of the Metro Public Schools, the road to the region title has usually run through this South Nashville area school’s vicinity. In 2017, the Ravens finished as class 6A state runner-up and in 2018 enjoyed an unbeaten regular season. Having defeated the Dogs in each of the five previous meetings, Smyrna has been fully aware of the quality of Cane Ridge.
The 2020 season has been a different one for sure as schedules have been juggled time and again. On again, off again, and then back on has created chaos in all programs. But here we were on October 2 with all that forgotten as two prideful programs squared off.
Smyrna came in with their fur rolled up. A 5-2 record had featured a pair of forfeits and less than stellar performances against Pope John Paul and county rival Riverdale. The Bulldogs needed to win the “big” game to answer some of the questions about just how good this group is.
Understanding the importance of getting off to a good start, Smyrna took the opening kickoff and pawed their way to paydirt. Mixing the run and the pass, as they would do all night, the Bulldogs wanted to send a message early that this was a team with conviction. As Cane Ridge answered with a score on their opening drive as well, the Dogs knew they were in for a fight, but most worthwhile things do not come easy.
A first half slugfest saw Smyrna on top 13-12 and most in attendance knew this one was likely going to be a wire job. Big games normally come down to big plays and who can rise to the occasion. Loaded with game-breaking talent, Cane Ridge was their usual formidable self. Question was could the Bulldogs bury the pain of the past and continue to compete at a high level.
The second half was all about an inspired Smyrna squad. Taking a physical approach instilled by head coach Matt Williams, the Dogs dug in with the determination past Smyrna squads have been known for. Posting the only score of the third quarter and opening the fourth with another touchdown, Smyrna built a 27-12 lead. A Cane Ridge comeback was thwarted as Smyrna senior Jamir Eaton intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game’s final play.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of our kids,” says Williams, the dean of Rutherford County high school football coaches. “We stepped up when we had to and had a lot of different kids make some huge plays. That’s a good football team we just played and I couldn’t be happier with how our team stepped up.”
A quick look at some of the numbers also helps define this win as a “big” one for Smyrna. Cane Ridge (538) amassed just over 200 more total yards of offense than Smyrna (336) yet the Dogs prevailed 27-24. The Bulldogs, led by sophomore Arion Carter’s 119 yards, got physical up front and outrushed the Ravens 259 to 210. One of the biggest numbers on the night was a 3. Smyrna’s defense forced 3 turnovers (2 interceptions and a fumble recovery) while the Dog offense possessed the pigskin. Smyrna kicker Kevin Avallos converted 3 PAT’s while the Ravens made nary.
Heroes for Smyrna were numerous in this memorable encounter. The tackles of Jeremiah Bailey, field generalship of Landon Miller, 74 yard touchdown scamper from Joshua Jones, tough running of Arion Carter, and big plays on both sides from Jamir Eaton will all go down in Bulldog lore. Standing behind these courageous young men were the other heroes, head coach Matt Williams and his dedicated staff.
“These are the games that make you get up every morning and work hard,” says Matt Williams. “I am happy for these kids and happy for our program. Now we need to build off this and keep growing.”
by Danny Brewer, Sports Editor
In the business world we often spend time looking for some real Money. In the business of Thoroughbred racing, one conditioner knew he has some real Money and after the Ack-Ack Stakes, everyone else knows it too.
Mr Money is a powerfully running son of Goldencents out of the mare Plenty O’Toole. A brilliantly managed three-year old campaign saw him ascend in the division during 2019. Some slight mishaps took him off the Kentucky Derby trail early and trainer Bret Calhoun decided to take a bit of a different route. After collecting himself, Money cashed in with four straight grade 3 wins (Pat Day Mile, Matt Winn Stakes, Indiana Derby, West Virginia Derby) with two of those coming at his home track, Churchill Downs (Pat Day, Matt Win). He finished the year with a narrow loss in the Pennsylvania Derby and a hard luck seventh place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
The calendar turned to 2020 and most looked for even more Money. With a bigger, stronger Money that had matured, expectations were high in the Calhoun barn. Then things happened and with the entire world turned upside down, Mr. Money’s handler was trying to find good places to spend. Race cancellations and meet alterations made it challenging for sure.
As the year has played out Calhoun found races because his horse needed to run, but it was just one hard-luck event after another. Four starts at four different tracks had yielded two fourth place finishes, a sixth, and a tenth. Continuing to invest in his charge, Calhoun knew we had not seen any real Money this year. He just needed the right spot and a little luck for a big return.
Along came the 28th running of the Ack-Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs on September 26. With three wins in five previous starts out of his own stall, this looked like a great place to cash. This looked like a great time to see some real Money, but with 12 worthy opponents, there were no guaranteed returns.
When the gates opened it was time to see just how real the Money was. Record setting early race fractions (22.61 opening quarter mile, 44.85 half mile) saw Calhoun’s investment stalking under jockey Gabriel Saez. As front-running race favorite Warrior’s Charge began to fade, Mr. Money cashed in on an opening along the rail and shot to the lead at the eighth pole. Digging in with determination under Saez, he finished a length and a quarter ahead of every one else and covered the one mile distance in 1:34.85.
“We are really happy to see him get back on track and prove himself again,” says Calhoun. “It’s been a tough year for him, but we know what kind of a talent he really is.”
Mr. Money returned $14.80 to his backers on a $2 win investment in picking up his sixth win in seventeen lifetime starts. Perhaps a return to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile may be his next start, but for now, his team is just happy they saw some real Money.
by Danny Brewer
For many years now, Rutherford County has been blessed with some of the best high school football in the state of Tennessee. The battles that have taken place within their own borders have been legendary and in fact prepared them for runs through the TSSAA state playoffs. But in reality, how good is the county that has been dubbed “the SEC of Tennessee”?
That moniker was one that Rutherford County earned on the playing field. Riverdale, Oakland, and Smyrna have all won multiple state titles this century while Siegel and Blackman have enjoyed deep runs into the post season. LaVergne has produced division 1 college and pro players in recent times. The question is however, how do they stack up now?
Over the past ten years, Smyrna finished as state runner-up (2010) and Oakland has claimed one title (2018) and finished as runner-up (2016). The addition of high schools (Rockvale, Stewart’s Creek) has allowed the class 6A family to grow, but that has also divided some of the talent.
So why do we ask this question now? Of course 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone on the planet, let alone the high school football teams in Rutherford County. But a quick check of last week’s scoreboard saw both Blackman (Warren County) and Siegel (Coffee County) lost to district rivals that usually are counted as wins on the schedule. Smyrna has been inconsistent, Lavergne has also been up and down while Rockvale and Stewart’s Creek are still building their programs.
Oakland has been the recent flag bearer for the County and that appears to be no different as they are off to a 5-0 start. Riverdale has shown promise with a nice ground attack and they stand at 4-1. It remains to be seen as to how everyone will stack up as the season plays out. Currently at the halfway point, there is still time to right the ship, but the clock is ticking.
As is the case with anything in high school sports, players and coaches come and go. This of course leads to ups and downs as the cycle works. The baton as best has been passed around in Rutherford County since the 1980’s as to who was tops in the area, but the fact was, all were pretty good. The playoff setup usually saw Rutherford County teams knocking each other out of the post-season. Oakland has been at the top of the heap in recent times and head coach Kevin Creasy has done an excellent job of cultivating talent. The rest of the “big” schools have been seemingly on a downward trend.
So what’s the answer to our question?… Winning in high school is about way more than the scoreboard. Growing young people and producing productive members of society is the real goal. Of course, in doing this, usually the scoreboard takes care of itself. The people in Rutherford County are thirsty for success and football may be down a bit right now, but pride and hard work will bring it back to the accustomed level. Until that time, let’s just enjoy the pure aspect the sport of high school football brings to the table of life.
Blessed we are to have another glorious day in the sport of kings. That little country track nestled just north of the Tennessee state line played host to the second richest turf racing day in the nation on September 12. Called “Kentucky Turf Cup Day”, five graded stakes were run over the only European style track in the nation. Here is a brief summary on each.
THE ENGLISH CHANNEL LADIES TURF
Contested at one mile, this grade 3 race was run with a $500,000 purse. Turf titan trainer Chad Brown has decided to throw his hat in the ring at Kentucky Downs in 2020. Having won the Tourist Mile (Flavius) on opening day, the New York based conditioner sent the aptly named Regal Glory to post. Breaking alertly and stalking a solid early pace, jockey Jose Ortiz masterfully guided this daughter of Animal Kingdom into the stretch a head in front. A stubborn Mitchell Road battled to the wire, but in the end, North America’s leading grass trainer enjoyed a little more of the Regal Glory this unique track offers. The late money made Brown’s charge the 9 to 5 favorite as she returned $4.80 on a $2 win wager.
THE REAL SOLUTION LADIES SPRINT
Coming in, this six and a half furlong run adjacent to I-65 was going to be a question and answer race for one of the sport’s most courageous runners. Got Stormy is one of those fabulous females that runs hard EVERY time out. She may have entered the starting gates winless in 2020, but three of her five previous starts had come against the boys at longer distances. Despite some gutsy efforts, there were those that wondered if she had lost a step. Understanding his horse, trainer Mark Casse thought a trip over the fescue in Franklin, Kentucky was exactly what his female needed. About a minute and fifteen seconds after the gates opened, the veteran conditioner and everyone else had their answers. Held in mid-pack by jockey Tyler Gafflione behind some faster early fractions (22.54 opening quarter), Stormy struck the lead at the top of the stretch and never looked back. Beautifully bouncing down the lane, Casse’s queen exuded her class and was much the best. Winning by a widening 3 ¼ lengths Got Stormy proved she is still a runner to be reckoned with.
“Tyler said she wanted to go early but he held her back,” says Casse. “People thought she had lost it, but we just needed to find the right spot for her. I think next we will try the Breeders’ Cup maybe at 5 ½ furlongs at Keeneland. She’s very special to us.”
Got Stormy returned $5.80 on a $2 win investment and gave her caring conditioner exactly the answer he was looking for..
THE BAL A BALI JUVENILE TURF SPRINT
A showcase for the future stars, these six and a half furlongs offered up $500,000 in prize money. Having had a wonderful start to the Kentucky Downs meet, trainer Wesley Ward looked to pad his bankroll with two bright young stars. Outadore and Fauci both broke well while running mid-pack behind a sizzling opening quarter mile (21.79). Moving almost in tandem, Ward’s pair moved to the front with the unbeaten Outadore on the lead. Running through the rain, the Ward tandem dueled through the lane. In the end, the son of Outwork did exactly that to stable mate Fauci as he cleared by a length and a quarter at the wire. Good for the wallet, the 1-2 finish also told us Ward knows how to produce at Kentucky Downs. Outadore provided $5.60 on a $2 win bet and the Ward exacta paid $7.20 on a $1 wager.
THE CALUMET FARM KENTUCKY TURF CUP
The centerpiece of the day, this $1 million race was supposed to bring some things into focus in the turf division…and in fact it did. Zulu Alpha entered the gates as the deserving 4 to 5 favorite. As the race’s defending champ, you knew he could win here and three fantabulous victories in 2020 told us he was perhaps better than ever. This was his chance to move up the divisional ladder. Arklow had won the Turf Cup in 2018 but had been less than stellar this year as he could only manage a runner-up finish in four starts. Adding blinkers, trainer Brad Cox was hoping to jump start his six year old with an equipment change. As ten talented runners went on this mile and a half journey things became much more clear. It was obvious early that Arklow was a different horse with blinkers on. Involved in the race early, Donegal Racing’s prize looked dandy as he ran just off a sensible pace (24.6 quarter, 50.27 half mile). Hitting the gas at the top of the stretch under jockey Florent Geroux, Arklow struck the lead. Moving toward the wire with ground gobbling strides this son of Arch displayed the conviction of the grade 1 winner that he is.
“The blinkers made a huge difference,” said a jubilant Brad Cox after the race. “We wanted to get him involved early and we are very proud of how he responded.”
Winning by a length and a quarter over a game Red Knight, Arklow picked up his seventh career win and increased his earnings to $2,466.116. So here is what came into focus, there are no givens in this game (Zulu Alpha closed to finish third) and sometimes to gain different results you have to try a new strategy. Blinkers helped Arklow find that zone as the runner he had been before. The victor returned $13.60 to his backers on a $2 investment.
THE RUNHAPPY TURF SPRINT
Now in its 22nd year, this race has morphed into one of the most important dates on the calendar for Kentucky Downs. Although the purse is plenty healthy ($700,000) that is not what has raised the value. For the second consecutive year this race provides an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That combined with the money makes for a crowded and talented starting gate. The win and you’re in status has put the track a little more in the spotlight for sure. The turf sprint races are always uber exciting and this one was no different. Eleven runners broke with post time favorite Imprimis getting up by a neck at the end. Biding his time under a masterful ride from Irad Ortiz Jr., this six year old son of Broken Vow timed things perfectly. A quick post-race conversation with one of the winningest jocks on the planet provided some perspective on what makes the sport and Kentucky Downs wonderful. When asked about Kentucky Downs and the big purses, the New York-based rider was quick to come back. “I really like riding here because it’s a little different and provides a new challenge,” says Ortiz. “I am very fortunate that I get to ride a lot of good horses. The money is nice, but I came here because I like the competition and I just love to ride horses.”
Well said Irad. Imprimis returned $8 on a $2 win bet.
The two most popular sports in Kentucky are basketball and of course horse racing. One of California’s top Thoroughbred training minds hopes to incorporate a little of both with one of his rising stable stars at Kentucky Downs on September 12.
The old alley oop play is one of the most exciting in basketball. A strategic positioning of teammates is usually followed by a well-timed pass and a thunderous slam dunk. The lob and perhaps the back pick are key elements as they put the dunker in great position to succeed. Once things are set in motion, a simple execution allows for the slammer to sop up that gravy and put the biscuit through the basket.
Now that we have went through some basketball 101, how does this pertain to Thoroughbred racing at Kentucky Downs?
Like most top trainers in the game, Doug O’Neill calculates the moves of his stable and puts his runners in positions to succeed. Never afraid to ship outside his Southern California base, the two-time Kentucky Derby winning conditioner sees the Runhappy Turf Sprint as an excellent spot for one of his players.
Stubbins is the high flyer that O’Neill is sending to the rim with hopes for a little slamalamdingdong all the way to the winner’s circle. There are several reasons this four-year old son of Morning Line gets his number called by his coach.
A “win and you’re in” race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, this event offers an opportunity for Stubbins to win his way into a race he finished fourth in a year ago at Santa Anita. And of course the $700,000 in purse money is a nice factor as well.
“Our year end goal has always been the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and we feel like this race is a great spot for him,” says O’Neill. “The spacing is good because we think he runs better fresh. He last ran in late June at Belmont Park (Jaipur Stakes 4th place finish) and he would have a nice break until the Breeders’ Cup in early November. And that $700,000 is a pretty motivating factor as well.”
As the only European style turf track in the United States, Kentucky Downs is unique. As is the case with most tracks, some horses like it some do not. Stubbins ran a strong second in the Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes at Kentucky Downs last September and gives his team plenty of reason for optimism as they ready for this six furlong dash over the Kentucky Downs grass.
“We were very encouraged by his performance here last year,” says O’Neill. “It told us he is a horse for this course and the ownership group (McShane Racing LLC) circled this race on the calendar and said this is where we want to be next year. Now next year is here and we are super excited about the opportunity.”
After a fast closing finish behind stable mate Legends of War at these Downs last September, Stubbins exuded brilliance as he pulled off a Darrell Griffith type dunk at Keeneland in his next start. Navigating a very tough field in the grade 2 Woodford Turf Sprint, Stubbins delivered on some of the promise he had shown in practice.
“He’s always showed us signs he has a chance to be something special,” says the Michigan native. “The run at Keeneland was one of those wow races that told us he has a chance to be in the conversation as one of the best turf sprinters in the country.”
While coloring on his clipboard with X’s and O’s, O’Neill aligned another key element in what he hopes will be a crowd-pleasing play. Jockey Joel Rosario will be back in the irons for the Runhappy Turf Sprint. Rosario was the man who rode Stubbins last year at Kentucky Downs and then booted him home at Keeneland in the biggest win of his 13 race career (4-2-3).
Stubbins is coming in fresh to a track he likes with a familiar pilot, but the race outcome is not a forgone conclusion. Eleven other talented runners have their eyes on the prize as well. Defending champ Totally Boss is the morning line favorite at 9-2, but is followed closely by Bound For Nowhere, Kanthaka, and Front Run The Fed all at 5-1. Stubbins is sitting at 6-1 as he hopes to tickle some twine with a well-timed pass from his team.
“There is no doubt this is a very high quality field,” says O’Neill. “Stubbins is a very sure-footed and nimble horse which is important for this track. He has been working like a freight train and we are excited to get him in the gates.”
The Runhappy Turf Sprint is scheduled as race 11 on the biggest day of the Kentucky Downs meet. The last of five Stakes races on the day, expected post time for this grade 3 event is 5:36pm.
Tiz-the-Law, photo Ryan-Thompson
So here we are looking at the first Saturday in September and our topic of discussion is the Kentucky Derby. Of course we are all well aware the best time to think about the Run for the Roses is…anytime!
The altered state we are living in has done one thing for sure by delaying the world’s most famous Thoroughbred race. Moving the Kentucky Derby has elongated that oh so famous affliction we call Derby Fever. More prep races and extended qualifying has had some stricken for 8 months instead of the normal 16 week cycle. Here’s a rundown and thought on this year’s entrants. When you got lemons, make lemonade.
Tiz the Law- Has looked unbeatable in cruising to wins in he Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Travers Stakes. A win here might make him best New York bred ever. A real race horse for sure!
Authentic- Haskell winner likes to get out of the gate and go. Trainer Bob Baffert has been patient with him and has seen improvement. Four wins and a second in five career starts.
Art Collector-Four wins in four starts this year means he is the real deal. An underdog story for sure, he paints a pretty picture as the “feel good” story of Derby 146.
Honor A.P.-Big striding late runner from the West coast that could spell disaster for the favorites. Has the jock in Mike Smith and has worked well coming into the race. Two wins and three seconds in five career starts. Our pick to win.
Ny Traffic- A real battler that has slugged it out with the tops in the division. Ran a strong second at Churchill in Matt Winn Stakes in May and has finished in top three in 4 graded stakes races this year…One win in five starts with three seconds and a third this year.
King Guillermo-Upset the Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 49-1 and came back with a second place in Arkansas Derby. Has the heart to finish in the money. Has not ran since May 2 so he comes in fresh.
Thousand Words-Bob Baffert trained so that means he has a chance for sure. Is certainly a horse on the rise and his gate to wire win in Shared Belief Stakes tells us he has some front end speed.
Max Player-Finished in the money in all five career starts and has been transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen for a run at Derby glory. Last win was in Withers back in February. Unsuccessfully chased Tiz The Law in last two starts.
Enforceable-Trainer Mark Casse won Preakness and Belmont last year and early in 2020 it looked like he had another prime timer with this son of Tapit. Has not won since January but all four starts this year have been graded stakes. Has talent and has been training well enough to be there at the end.
Rushie-An under the radar horse that has finished in the top three in all five starts this year. Last out was a distant third in Bluegrass Stakes, but that was behind Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver. Would be a big reach but this is the Derby after all.
Major Fed-One win and two seconds in five starts this year. Was second last out in Indiana Derby but has an opportunity to get in the Kentucky Derby starting gates so trainer Greg Foley says why not.
Storm the Court-An upset in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2019 was last time he visited the winner’s circle. Has ran in some top races in 2020 with one second and two thirds. Another why not for trainer Peter Eurton and he has proven he can pull the upset.
Attachment Rate- Churchill based trainer Dale Romans has never been afraid to take a shot if his horse is right. A good second in Ellis Park Derby to Art Collector in his last start showed promise. Has only one career win in eight starts but there’s only one way to win and that’s put’em in the gate.
Sole Volante-Sam Davis Stakes winner has been in the money four of five starts this year. Last trip was a sixth place finish in Belmont Stakes in June. Trainer Patrick Bianconne hopes he returns to his form from early in the year.
Finnick the Fierce-Has a second and a third in three lifetime starts at Churchill Downs. Finished third in Arkansas Derby and seventh last out in Bluegrass Stakes.
Winning Impression-This son of Paynter has one lifetime win to his credit but did cross finish line first at Oaklawn Park back in April before being disqualified. Trainer Dallas Stewart has pulled some shockers in the past but this is a big reach.
Necker Island-Does no wins this year and a third place finish in the Indiana and Ellis Park Derby qualify you for the Run for the Roses?…In 2020 it does!
Money Moves-Another Todd Pletcher trainee that has displayed talent while winning two of three lifetime starts. His pappy Candy Ride was a running son of a gun but this will be asking a lot.
Whoa…Time flies when you are having fun…that is fo sho !!!
A quick glance at the calendar tells us this is one of the most glorious weeks of the year. Pacific Classic week has become one of my favorite parts of our revolution around the sun. Hard to believe, but it has been eight years since me and my filly first went West and discovered one of the most fabulous places on earth.
The brainstorm of Bing Crosby, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is way more than where the turf meets the surf. It’s a place where memories are made and dreams are fulfilled. I am kind of mushy about it as for obvious reasons my streak is about to be broken. But alas, hopes are next year is a new beginning.
Here is a quick hitter on each of the past eight Classics. As the biggest race of the summer meet at old Del Mar, we’ll also provide a thought on 2020.
THE ROMANS THUNDER-It was 2012 and the synthetic surface saw three year old Dulahan use a powerful late kick to run down Game On Dude. Rolling like an untracked train, this strapping Dale Romans trainee shipped in and stormed his way into the record books at the Seaside Oval.
THE DUDE HAS HIS DAY-One of the best handicap horses in the Golden State, Game On Dude had been denied his spot on the Clubhouse wall the year before. Not this time. Breaking like a shot and leading at every call, it was Game On for this Dude as he bolted to an 8 ½ length win.
SOME REAL BELIEF-The 2014 edition was supposed to be a coming out party for a spectacular three year old but the break said different. Slow out of the gate, Shared Belief looked to be doomed…until the stretch that is. Unleashing the stride that had made him the heavy favorite, his will never waivered. As his backers had thought, Shared Belief was best.
BEHOLD HER-In a race that really was a thing of beauty, Beholder looked like Ava Gardner in becoming the only female winner of the Pacific Classic. Taking the boys to the woodshed under jockey Gary Stevens, she put’em away with a jaw dropping move on the far turn. Covering the mile and a quarter in pin-up poster time (1:59.77), Beholder’s 8 ½ length win was gorgeous.
BRIGHT AND SHINY- The 2016 Classic saw one of the most dominant performances ever…in any race anywhere. A super talented field and a rail draw were standing between California Chrome and the winner’s circle. Fearlessly piloting him to the lead right out of the gate, jockey Victor Espinoza rode like he had the best horse because…he did. Chrome shined brightly that day as he scored by six lengths.
CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED-Bob Baffert was supposed to win the race…and he did. Super freak Arrogate was looking to get back to his accustomed ways, but somebody forgot to tell that other Baffert trainee, Collected. An old-time rider for the Baffert barn, jockey Martin Garcia stuck with what has made him and this horse dangerous. Hustling his mount out of the gate, they held off a closing stable mate.
NAMESAKE NO DOUBT-In 2018, Accelerate went to post as the biggest favorite in Classic history. Then he ran like it. Displaying the dynamics that made him the best in the game that year, this John Sadler trainee was much the best. Winning by a record 12 ½ lengths, Accelerate hit the gas pedal a quarter mile from home and never looked back.
MUCH NEEDED BY ALL-A life without faith is an empty life, that’s one of my live by axioms. A believer in the omens of horse racing, we all need a little something to believe in, especially today. Higher Power broke well exuded his authority throughout. Running brilliantly under Flavian Prat, this John Sadler trained son of Medaglia d”Oro surged to the lead and held steadfast in heavenly fashion. Higher Power superbly represented the sport in name and performance.
WHAT ABOUT 2020?- We will find out on August 22 if Maximum Security is all that and a bag of chips too…my bet… pass the Pringles please.
AND THEN THE BIG DOG ATE
A little more than two minutes after the gates opened in the 10th race at Del Mar on August 22 the questions were answered. This edition of the Pacific Classic was supposed to tell us about Maximum Security and in fact it did.
Coming into this mile and a quarter test, some wondered about this so-called super horse. With his previous conditioner, Jason Servis, embroiled in an illegal doping scandal there is an understandable stigma surrounding Maximum Security. If he ran dirty while under Servis’ care, which he likely did, were the 9 times he had crossed the finish line first in 10 tries real?
Doping is never cool, but it can’t turn Mr. Ed into Secretariat. There has to be talent to win. The drugs will enhance but cannot create those abilities. Question is, was this son of New Year’s Day a souped up beagle hound or a much larger breed that just happened to be the biggest victim in the scandal?
With one start under current conditioner Bob Baffert under his belt, we knew the determination of a real racehorse was there. Winning by a nose in the San Diego Handicap back on July 25 over a determined Midcourt, the only time he led was at the wire. But that showed his “refuse to lose” mentality.
A master at conditioning and bringing out the best in his runners on the biggest days, Baffert tightened the screws and sent Max to Post. Breaking like a champ, Maximum Security exuded confidence and ran like the best horse in the race…because he was. Leading gate to wire under jockey Abel Cedillo, Max was hounded by Sharp Samurai through the opening mile. Turning for home with authority, he put away the competition with a strong stretch run. Winning by a widening three lengths, the Gary and Mary West owned runner proved without a doubt he is real.
“It’s not his fault what he went through,” said Baffert. after the powerful run. “Today he proved he is a great horse.”
Maximum Security returned $2.80 on a win bet, Sharp Samurai held on for second, Midcourt finished third and defending Classic champ Higher Power was fourth.
So in the end in the 30th running of the Pacific Classic, the Great Dane cleaned his bowl.
Due to Covid-19 social distancing regulations, tickets sold for home football games are limited. Football tickets will need to be purchased prior to game day. No tickets will be sold at the ticket booth on game night until further notice. Since we have a limited number of tickets to sale, please see the details below to ensure that you have an opportunity to purchase your tickets and be included on Friday nights.
*SHS personnel will be monitoring spectator temperatures using a scan digital thermometer, and any fan that has a temperature reading of 100.4 degrees or higher will be refused admission the game and must leave the premises immediately and the tickets will not be refunded.
Pre-Sale details for each home game until further notice:
Smyrna High Fans can go to GoFan.co – High School tickets and get the App to purchase tickets in advance. You must choose Smyrna High School, TN then choose the current game. This will be available starting Tuesday of each week. We will send out a link when available.
A limited number of Student tickets (1 per student) will be sold for $5.00 at school during RTI Wednesday and Thursday and it will be cash only.
SHS Distance Learning Students can purchase student tickets (1 per student) for $5.00 while tickets remain on Wednesday at the SHS Football Ticket booth from 5:00 – 7:00 PM (cash only).
Wednesday – Tickets will be available for anyone to purchase for $7.00 (cash only) until the venue is sold out at the SHS Football ticket booth 12:00 -1:00 PM and 5:00 – 7:00 PM.
Thursday – Anyone may purchase any remaining tickets for $7.00 (cash only) until the venue is sold out at the SHS Football ticket booth 12:00 -1:00 PM.
No matter what the respective score was, football fans everywhere were winners now that the first week of the high school season is in the books. Of course every team wants to be on the long end of the score, but the ability to compete on the actual playing field is hopefully a huge step towards a restoration of normalcy.
Normally a football powerhouse, Rutherford County schools did not fare quite as well as hoped on the gridiron in week one. Oakland continued to maintain their spot on top with a trouncing of Hendersonville and LaVergne got their new coach (Mike Woodward) off to a great start with a win at Rockvale. The rest of the bunch…not what they wanted. Smyrna was paddled by Pope John Paul, Blackman fell hard at Alcoa, Siegel succumbed to Franklin, Riverdale was romped by CPA, and Stewarts Creek drowned at Mount Juliet. On a smaller note, both Middle Tennessee Christian and Eagleville were defeated as well.
With everyone in the same boat as far as preparation time and conditioning, the good news is we will have a week two on Friday, August 28. If things can continue as planned, the regular season and playoff schedule should be normal…did we just say…normal?
Here is hope that word can be used more and more as we move forward. Ticket purchase may vary from school to school as limited numbers are allowed in the gates. Fans are encouraged to check with the host school in advance for details.
But for now, it is on to week two!!!
Keeping pace with the crazy times we live in where difficult decisions are made almost daily, Kentucky Downs has announced fans will not be allowed at the 2020 live racing meet.
The turf racing extravaganza that has enjoyed record-setting days in the past few years is set to begin September 7. The only European style track in the United States will also run September 9, 10, 12, 13, and 16. As the destination spot for more and more race fans, the continued growth of the Franklin, Kentucky facility will not be showcased as was originally planned.
“We apologize for the inconvenience to all the people planning to attend”, says Kentucky Downs Senior Vice-President and General Manager Ted Nicholson. “We waited as long as we could before making a final decision. This is the responsible call to make at this time with the virus spiking and how we can best continue horse racing amid the pandemic.”
The racing is scheduled to continue as planned. Question is how will jockey travel restrictions and other pandemic characteristics affect participation from the horsemen?
With the highest per race payout in the United States, it is likely the big purses will persuade full fields once again. And for those that enjoy the speculation aspect of the sport that equals large payouts. West Coast stalwart Doug O’Neill is planning on sending horses including rising turf sprint star Stubbins. The potpourri of runners from all over is one of the things in recent times that has added even more intrigue when stepping to the mutual clerk window.
Bottom line is you can still enjoy some racing at these Downs, it will just be from your friendly confines instead of theirs.
Normally, this is one of the most glorious weeks on the local sports calendar. The beginning of the high school football regular season is a very celebrated time of year. An institution in these parts, these head knockers are a highlight for many. Things here in Rutherford County are supposed to get started on Friday August 21, unless something changes, and in today’s world, that is highly conceivable.
The on again, off again, back on again society we are engulfed in has taken a toll on everyone. The high school football world has been no different and coaches are currently scrambling to make it happen after being given the go ahead. Conditioning and play familiarity are concerns for all, but the good news is everyone is in the same boat.
Kickoff will take place across the County at 7pm under the Friday night lights, which is a great thing. Fans, however, should be aware of ticket protocol. Limited numbers will be allowed in the gate and tickets must be purchased in advance of game day.
For those wondering what kind of polished product we will see after kickoff… my question is …does it really matter? High school kids will get to participate in one of the great training grounds for real life. Let’s just hope it can go without interruption.
Attached is the press release from Smyrna High School regarding ticket protocol..