Horse Racing News
Mark Suchy, Jason Jubb, and I took in some horse racing at Pimlico this rainy afternoon and had quite a fun time. As you can imagine the track was very sloppy with lots of horses scratched (one race only had 3 horses leave the starting gate). Speed figures were pretty much thrown out the window and a strategy of going with horses that had experience in the slop worked because the mudders seemed to win each race. A horse by the name of Baltimore Raven won the fifth race today, could that be a sign of good things to come for football season? Also, a horse named Ovechkin was supposed to run in that race but was scratched (btw, the real Ovechkin is in Canada playing in the World Hockey Championships for Russia).
As Gary Quill wrote in his blog Friday on wnst.net, there is big news out of Pimlico as the Pimlico Special is back on the card this year on Black Eyed Susan Day (Friday) after a one year hiatus. I remember seeing Mineshaft win this race in 2003 en route to winning Horse of the Year honors. The field has not been finalized yet but there are quite a few decent horses listed as potential entrants including Circular Quay who raced during the 2007 Triple Crown series.
Also, the Preakness field is up to 12 horses and if Harlem Rocker decides to go this race will get really interesting. Harlem Rocker had a 106 Beyer Speed figure in its last race on April 26 in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. The only other two horses with triple digit Beyers are the heavy favorite, Big Brown, and Recapturetheglory who ran a 102 in winning the Illinois Derby back on April 5th. Recapturetheglory was 5th at the Kentucky Derby (only a 92 speed figure in that race). Big Brown’s Derby romp resulted in a 109 Beyer Speed Figure.
Bad news for Flyers fans as number one defenseman Kimmo Timonen is out for the entire Eastern Conference Finals series with a blood clot in his left foot. So for Philadelphia that means 28 minutes of ice time must be filled by others, including Jaroslav Modry, who is now back in the lineup. Friday night in game one from Pittsburgh Timonen’s absence really showed up as the Penguins played sloppily at times but still easily won, 4-2. Evgeni Malkin was the star of the game with two goals and an assist. His shorthanded breakaway tally, a 15 foot slap shot blast by Flyer goalie Martin Biron, put the Pens up 4-2 in the second period. The scary thing for Philadelphia is I think the Penguins can play much better. The Pens skated well but were off with their passing and often over passed when quality shots should have been taken. Their defensemen need to shoot the puck more, especially Sergei Gonchar, who has a very good shot. Game two is Sunday night. With Timonen out I am now picking the Penguins in five games (instead of seven).
In the Western Conference the Detroit Red Wings jumped all over the Dallas Stars in game one of their series on Thursday night. Detroit scored three power play goals and constantly put screens in front of Stars goalie Marty Turco. Johan Franzen netted his 12th goal of the playoffs and Tomas Holmstrom added a goal and an assist. However, I thought Holmstrom’s goal should have been disallowed because he was in the crease. Goaltender interference should have been called as well because he bumped Turco. Detroit still would have won the game but the referees need to crack down more on goaltender interference (Caps fans will be quick to point that out). Game two is on Saturday at 7pm on Versus in HD.
Nice move by Versus making sure Friday’s battle of Pennsylvania hockey game was on the HD channel and not pre-empted by the PGA TPC replay. I like golf as much as the next guy but when there is a live event going you have to put that on as a priority.
It appears that Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell is going to be fired and he sealed his own fate by failing to sign unrestricted forward Marian Hossa, who he subsequently traded to Pittsburgh for three young players and a first round draft choice. Waddell’s biggest blunder was trading “star in the making” Braydon Coburn to the Flyers for “out to pasture” defenseman Alexei Zhitnik during the 2006-07 season. Atlanta would be wise to hire either Craig Button (former Flames GM and former Stars Director of Player Personnel [drafted Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, and Marty Turco among others]) or recently fired Vancouver GM Dave Nonis.
On Friday the Colorado Avalanche parted ways with coach Joel Quennville after three seasons. Quennville made the playoffs two of the three years he coached in Denver and was 2-2 in playoff series. He is a very good coach and I think the Avs made a mistake. Whoever gets the GM job in Atlanta would be wise to hire him. However, given the Toronto Maple Leafs GM job opening and the fact that Leafs coach Paul Maurice was fired as well this week some are saying that Quennville, who played in Toronto during his NHL career, could be hired in the Big Smoke as head coach. Pre-draft and pre-free agency the Leafs are many people’s choice to be the worst team in the NHL next year.
This week the Dallas Stars signed heavily sought after 23 year old Swedish Elite forward Fabian Brunnstrom beating out the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. CBC Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) radio, hosted by Jeff Marek, has been talking about this player quite a bit and new Vancouver GM, Mike Gillis, called him the first ever YouTube hockey star. Brunnstrom’s agent was on the HNIC radio show today and he said they chose Dallas over Detroit because they thought that Brunnstrom had a better opportunity to play in Dallas. I asked an NHL scout what he thought of Brunnstrom and he said he is “ok.” That isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement I thought this guy might get given the amount of press and media attention Brunnstrom has received over the last several weeks. Also, if he is worried about his own playing time because of other players on the team then I don’t think he is a real top notch prospect. But Dallas acquired him for nothing other than what they will have to pay him (terms were not released yet) so I’m sure they think they made a good move. Dallas co-GM Les Jackson is very hockey savvy so I’m sure that Brunnstrom will contribute. Whether he achieves top 6 forward status or not remains to be seen.
I will be in studio with Mark Suchy on “Such on Sports” from 1pm to 230pm on Saturday so feel free to call in and talk horse racing, hockey, Ravens, or anything else on your mind.