Horse Racing and Hockey

May 05, 2008 | Ed Frankovic

Big Brown Cruises to Derby Win; Heads to Preakness

Well I have to admit I was thoroughly impressed with the way Big Brown, ridden by former Maryland jockey Kent Desormeaux, cruised to victory in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. The colt, trained by Hagerstown born Richard Dutrow Jr., overcame two major trends that seemed to be going against him. First, he won starting from post 20 where no horse had won since 1929 and second, he took the Derby with fewer than three starts for the first time since Regret did it in 1915.

Dutrow, who attended Atholton High in Howard County, has announced that Big Brown will be coming to Baltimore for the 133rd running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 17th. Apparently the only Derby challenger that might want to try its luck again against Big Brown will be Recapturetheglory (5th in Derby).

Other potential challengers for Big Brown, who will easily be a less than even money favorite at Pimlico a week from Saturday, are Behindatthebar (Lexington Stakes winner); El Gato Malo (San Rafael winner); Giant Moon (Count Fleet winner); Harlem Rocker (Withers winner); Kentucky Bear (third, Blue Grass); Stevil (fourth, Blue Grass) Tres Borrachos, (third, Arkansas Derby) and Yankee Bravo (California Derby winner).

Entries for the Friday, May 16th Black Eyed Susan Day card close this Friday, May 9th and the final field for the Preakness will be announced on Wednesday, May 14th. For those Bob Baffert fans out there (like me) it appears that the man who trained standout horses Cavonnier, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, and Point Given will not have any horses entered on Friday or Saturday of Preakness week. That is too bad because Baffert has always been a big supporter of Baltimore and the Preakness and like him or not, he is a good promoter of horse racing in an industry that really needs it right now. I was also hoping to get an interview with him to hear his thoughts on synthetic race surfaces and how it is impacting the sport.

NHL Playoffs

The Philadelphia Flyers continue to play excellent hockey and dispatched the Montreal Canadiens in five games last night. Kudos to GM Paul Holmgren, Coach John Stevens, and assistant coaches Terry Murray (one of my favorite coaches), Joe Mullen, Jack Mcllhargey, and Reggie Lemelin for taking the worst team point wise in the league last season to the Eastern Conference Finals this season. The Flyers turnaround can be attributed to the shrewd drafting and development of forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (both taken in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft) as well as the great trade acquisitions Holmgren made during and after last season. Holmgren received defenseman Braydon Coburn for Alexei Zhitnik (what was Thrashers GM Don Waddell smoking?), goalie Martin Biron from the Sabres for a second round draft pick, and defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell from Nashville for a first round pick thanks to the Predator fire sale brought on by an impending ownership change (Nashville GM David Poile still regrets being forced to make that deal).

The Flyers continue to win because they have forwards who go hard to the net and score the ugly goals (see R.J. Umberger, Mike Knuble, Scottie Upshall, Richards, etc). They are also getting great goaltending from Biron.

As for the Canadiens, I was very disappointed in their play and disagreed with some Canadian announcers and radio personnel who thought Montreal carried the play during the series but lost due to goaltending. Montreal did outshoot the Flyers 177-133 in the series but from what I watched Philly beat the Habs to the majority of loose pucks and were stronger on the puck than the boys coached by Guy Charbonneau. In short, they simply outworked the skilled but softer Canadiens. Yes, Biron was way better than Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, but Philadelphia was tougher and grittier throughout the series. I also won’t be so quick to dismiss their chances against their next opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who dispatched Jaromir Jagr and the New York Rangers in five games after a 3-2 OT win today. Pittsburgh-Philadelphia ought to be a great series.

In the Western Conference the Detroit Red Wings swept the depleted Colorado Avalance and await the Dallas-San Jose winner. Dallas jumped to a 3-0 lead in that series but the Sharks have won two in a row to force Game 6 on Sunday night. San Jose has momentum but, as usual, San Jose coach Ron Wilson gave the other team some ammo, as evidenced by the following quote after Friday night’s 3-2 Sharks win in OT in San Jose.

“I think there’s a little bit of doubt in their mind,” Wilson said. “This [comeback] doesn’t happen very often, and then you top it off with this [game]…. We’ve done a lot of things that are great for our character, to show that we have it. At times tonight we showed our nerves and our younger players showed their youth, but we survived. We really took it to them.”

Thanks to good ole’ Ron here is my Sunday Night Game 6 Prediction: Stars 5 Sharks 2 to set up a Detroit-Dallas Western Conference Final Series.

I’ll be previewing both Conference Finals as soon as the matchups are finalized but I can’t help but think that a Pittsburgh-Detroit Stanley Cup Final Series would be great to watch and superb for TV ratings.