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Ben’s Cat: A Wise Breeders’ Cup Investment Or Not?

Posted on 18 October 2011 by Gary Quill

Local training legend King T. Leatherbury has a diamond in the rough, but doesn’t want to pay a gemologist to appraise it. This may be a poor comparison to Leatherbury balking at ponying up the $100k Supplemental Nomination Fee for Ben’s Cat to run in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 5th. The deadline for supplemental entries is Oct. 24th.


Ben's Cat and King T. Leatherbury

Photo credit: Tom LeGro / PBS NewsHour


On September 5th, The Jim Stable’s Ben’s Cat booked a starting berth into the November 5 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs when he rallied late to nail Perfect Officer by a half-length in Parx Racing’s Grade 3, $356,000 Turf Monster Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” Challenge race. But the 5-year-old gelded son of Parker’s Storm Cat was never nominated to the Breeders’ Cup. Hence, in order to run on thoroughbred horse racings biggest stage, Leatherbury who also owns Ben’s Cat would have to supplement him to the tune of $100k.   


King immediately began to sound like Robert Preston’s character, Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” attempting to convince everyone that the only way he could get to the Breeders’ Cup was if an investor put up the $100k. In return, the investor would receive 100% of the purse earned by Ben’s Cat up to the original investment ($100k) plus 50% of any purse money over $100k.


                        Breeders' Cup logo

 Here are the details of the race. There will be 11-14 starters going 5 furlongs on the turf. The winner will earn $600k, the runner-up $200k while $100k goes to the third-place finisher. Those who finish off the board get a check for a couple thousand dollars (i.e. a parting gift).


On the surface it appears to be a pretty risky investment, but consider this… based on the early list of possible starters, Ben’s Cat ranks among the Top 5, maybe even Top 3. The horse he beat on September 5th (Perfect Officer) came back to run second on the Keeneland turf course against a strong group of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint hopefuls. Ben’s Cat recently won the Maryland Million Turf Sprint (October 1st), but over much weaker competition.


My take is that Mr. Leatherbury has forgotten more about horse racing than I have learned in my 40+ years of closely following the sport. He’s a very wise horseman who has trained his fair share of “good ones”. Ben’s Cat is one of them, but must have at least some question marks associated with either his health and/or ability to go against the very best who compete on the grass at a distance of 5/8 of a mile. If not, the supplemental fee check would have been in the mail by now.


Finally, $100k is a big number, but under the enhanced conditions of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, Ben’s Cat will have his $30,000 Turf Sprint entry fee paid for and his connections will receive $10,000 in travel expenses, provided he is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by October 24. So in reality, IF the horse was already BC nominated but hadn’t won the BC Challenge race on September  5th, ownership would be looking at approximately $40k in entry fee and travel expenses, just to get his name into the Post Position Draw and hopefully into the starting gate on November 5th.


Jockey Jeremy Rose would get the mount on Ben’s Cat, who has won 13-of-18 lifetime starts, including seven other ungraded stakes. 

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Important Game on Sunday

Posted on 23 September 2011 by Marty Mossa

The Ravens are 1-1 going into week three.  With only two games remaining before their
bye (October 9
th); it is vital that they win on Sunday.  A loss on Sunday would at the very best assure
them of a 2-2 record going into the bye. 
With the New York Jets invading the Purple Palace next Sunday Night, the
game with the Rams is almost a must win.

A Ravens win on Sunday will set them up nicely at home next
week.  If they lose, they will be in jeopardy
of entering the bye at 1-3.  Let’s face it
going into the bye if we beat the Rams and Jets at 3-1 would give us hope for a
division title.  Going into the bye at
2-2 still gives us plenty of time to regroup to make a playoff run; but going
into the bye at 1-3 will cause all to doubt if this team will even make the
post season.

So Sunday, who will show up? 
Will it be Dr. Jeckle who beat the Steelers 35-7, or will it be Mr. Hyde
who lost to the Titans 26-13?  I hope
they play more inspiring football than they did last Sunday.  And if I may be an arm chair quarterback for
a moment with 12 minutes on the clock and down by 13; why weren’t we in the
hurry up?  It took six minutes to drive
down the field?  And with six minutes
left in the game and down by 13 points, why did we not go for it on 4
down instead of kicking a field goal? 

On an unrelated note, it was no surprise to me that the
idiots at the WORST Mariner Arena couldn’t get the ice right for Tuesday Night’s
exhibition matchup between the Capitals and Predators.  That building is a dump.  It was a dump from the time it opened its
doors in the early 1960s.  They can give
the guy who runs the old barn all the props they want, but it’s a dump, and
doesn’t deserve to host even another exhibition hockey game. 


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The Curse of the Dave

Posted on 30 July 2011 by Marty Mossa

We all know about the “curse” of the Babe.  When the Red Sox dealt Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 it was rumored that Babe Ruth put a curse on the Sox that lasted until 2004 when they finally won their first world series since 1918 some 86 years later.


Then there was the curse of the “Moose”.  When Mike (Moose) Mussina joined the Yankees in 2001, the Bronx Bombers had won three consecutive World Series.  They then proceeded to lose to Arizona in 2001 and Florida in 2003.  When Mussina retired in 2008, the Yankees proceeded to win the Title after the 2009 season.

Davey Johnson managed the Baltimore Orioles during the 1996 and 1997 seasons.  The Birds’ record was 186-138 (.574 )under his leadership.  They made the playoffs as a wildcard team in 1996, and won the Eastern Division in 1997.  Both years they advanced to the American League Championship Series where they lost to New York and Cleveland respectfully.  But Johnson was forced out by Peter Angelos at the conclusion of the 1997 season.  Since Johnson’s departure, the Orioles have had thirteen straight losing seasons with a combined record of 921-1183 (.437).

As July whirls to a close with two months left in the Major League Baseball regular season; one thing is for certain, the Orioles will mark their 14th consecutive losing season.  Since the All Star Break the Orioles have gone a respectable (that is for the Orioles) 6-10.

The Orioles’ record is now 42-62.  With fifty eight games left in the regular season, the birds are playing .403 ball.  In order for them to reach 81 wins and their first non losing season since 1997, the Birds would have to go 39-19.  That is .672 ball.  A team playing .672 ball over the course of 162 games would win 110 games. 

The Orioles have the worst record in the American League, and the second worst (only to Houston) in all of baseball.  How many more losing seasons must the Baltimore faithful endure?  How long will the “curse” of the Dave continue?  Time will only tell.


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O’s fall to Angels 9-3: Is Guthrie done in Baltimore?

Posted on 24 July 2011 by Peter Dilutis

BALTIMORE – On Sunday, the Orioles fell to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 9-3 in what amounted to yet another series loss for the Birds.

Jeremy Guthrie started the game and pitched seven innings in what Buck Showalter called “tough conditions,” likely referring to the heat, lack of defense, and questionable umpiring that Guthrie had to battle through during the game.

Guthrie gave up six hits in his seven innings of work, allowing three earned runs and four walks while striking out one.

After the game, Jeremy Guthrie was very short with reporters, expressing frustration over his most recent outing that went much like numerous others over his 4 1/2 seasons in Birdland.

“My stuff was better than my mound presence, absolutely,” Guthrie said. “I showed a lack of mound presence on the mound; how one reacts, how one responds.”

Guthrie was asked if he was frustrated by the circumstances surrounding his start, especially considering his offense failed to get him a fair amount of runs in yet another decent start by the right-hander.

“I’m just frustrated with my own job,” Guthrie said. “Don’t worry about things you can’t control. The things I can’t control don’t frustrate me as much.”

Of course, the elephant in the O’s clubhouse is the fact that Guthrie may not be making the flight back to Baltimore when the Birds return home on August 5th. When asked if he was thinking that this could be his last start in Baltimore, Guthrie responded with frustration.

“I don’t think so, but if it were, it was kind of a perfect microcosm of my career in Baltimore, if it happened to be that.”

When asked to expand on his comment, Guthrie responded “next question.”

Asked if he’s heard the rumors, Guthrie pointed the finger at the media for bringing them up so often.

“I only hear it because you guys bring it up every 3 1/2 minutes. Most players don’t hear the rumors, most players don’t know. I guess it’s exciting for everyone else to talk about it, so we hear about it through those avenues. They don’t call us players. I never got a call from another GM saying I’m being discussed.”

Guthrie’s teammates were also asked about the possibility of losing their staff ace.

“He’s here right now,” Adam Jones said. “Until he’s gone, or if he even gets dealt, I’ll address that then.”

Matt Wieters also commented on Guthrie’s importance to the Orioles.

“Guthrie’s big for us, we’re not going to think about that,” Wieters said. “We still consider Guthrie a guy that’s going to go out there every five days and give us a good outing. Since I’ve been here, he’s been able to go out there and eat up innings every year, eat up quality innings, and he’s been what the staff has needed.”

As Guthrie quipped as he ended his brief chat with the media…

“Good talk guys.”

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J.J. Hardy Signs Extension

Posted on 17 July 2011 by Derek Halford

J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles signed a 3 year extension for about $22 million. Some thought he might get traded but J.J. wanted to stay an Oriole. He’s expressed his love for the organization and that he’s actually having fun playing unlike when he played for Minnesota and Milwaukee.

J.J.’s early start this year was disappointing as he posted a .200 batting avg. in the month of April. But after he came back from his oblique injury he’s been lights out hitting in the leadoff spot and is now hitting .275 with 13 homers and 33 RBI’s.

The O’s are now glad that they have a short term short stop until Manny Machado comes up to the big leagues in what looks like about 2-3 years, and if Hardy is still producing well at that time we could trade him or put him at second if Brian Roberts is gone.

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Caps Trade Varlamov To Colorado

Posted on 01 July 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals have traded restricted free agent goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2012 1st round draft choice and a second round choice in either 2012 or 2013 (Washington’s choice on year, according to TSN). Varlamov’s agent basically burnt and blew up the bridge with the Caps leaving GM George McPhee with no choice but to try and get something for the former 2006 first round selection (23rd overall), who was threatening to go play in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The Caps now have Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby as #1 and #2 on the goaltending depth chart.

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O’s Giving Away Games on Getaway Days

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O’s Giving Away Games on Getaway Days

Posted on 05 May 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Coincidental or not, the turnaround that the Orioles have made from last year’s pre-Showalter version to the respectable, gritty bunch that has evolved before our very eyes under Buck’s brief stint as manager, so far the results have been enjoyable; especially enjoyable given the backdrop of the last decade plus that has been Orioles baseball and the demise of the old Oriole Way.

As the turnaround came so quickly I was prone to dismiss it, at least in part, as luck. Call it anticipated luck as a matter of fact since the historical ineptitude that this team endured through most of last season didn’t seem commensurate with the talent on the club; modest as that talent may have been, those Orioles didn’t look on paper to be amongst the worst teams of all time. That however was the tune that they played to for most of last season, to some degree a market correction was in order. What’s more, given the rapidity of the O’s reversal of fortunes after Bucks arrival, it seemed that even if Showalter had all of the answers to the problems that had vexed the Orioles to that point, the likelihood that he could impart all of that wisdom on this team so quickly seemed improbable at least.


That said, baseball is a confidence game predicated on luck and timing, but with lots of built in opportunities for players to think themselves and their teams right out of the ballgame. At a certain point, bad teams seem to adapt to the notion that sooner or later things will unravel no matter what. Losing that perception is akin to the “building a winning culture” banter that so often surrounds the Ravens coming of age tale. That said, building a winning culture, and an expectation of success may be even more important in baseball than it is in football or any other sport.


It would seem that through the game calling of Matt Wieters, the Showalter impact showed itself earliest and most readily on the O’s young pitchers. Better pitch selection has seemingly led to better pitching performances, that confidence and success has a way of perpetuating itself when things are going well. Other components have been slower to come around, but are progressing nonetheless. Who knew that straightening out Robert Andino’s hat would straighten out his head along with it?


Wednesday night against the Royals, the Orioles picked up a win that they likely wouldn’t have gotten last year. They did it on the back of a strong pitching performance (those were few and far between last May) and in large part because of the heady decision made by Adam Jones not to field a Mike Aviles hit after it lodged itself under the Kaufman Stadium wall. The skipper’s attention to details that others might be prone to overlook is quickly becoming legendary; the team it seems is following his lead.


With all of that said, I’m sure that Showalter has given at least a little consideration to the significance of Thursday’s game against Kansas City. Not only do the O’s have the opportunity to win or lose the series against the Royals, but also maybe more importantly they have a chance to break a disturbing early trend.


At this early stage of the season, one in which the O’s now have a 14-15 (.482) record despite what has been an arguably daunting April schedule, their record is a disappointing 1-5 (.166) in their final games in any city (getaway days). The Orioles haven’t posted a getaway day win since their opening series in Tampa. They’re also just 2-7 (.222) in the final games of any series. (Those 2 wins both on Sundays by the way, perhaps breaking an old trend – O’s are 2-3 on Sundays this year)


As I started out saying that perhaps some of the perceived impact of Showalter may have been at least somewhat coincidental, I can also certainly concede that such a small sample size as the numbers this season on getaway days and in the last games of series’ also has a good chance of being largely coincidental. But if this is still an under talented team picking up edges wherever they can on the mental side of the game, than a lack of focus on getaway days and the O’s lack of success therein is at least conceivable. Otherwise we may expect a market correction soon anyway.


One thing is certain, those numbers haven’t escaped the vigilant notice of Buck Showalter, and to that end we can expect some type of correction soon, market or otherwise. Again, even if he does have all of the answers…I’d still expect it’ll take some time to dish them all out.

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Caps Lose, 1-0, Will Face Rangers in Playoffs

Posted on 09 April 2011 by Ed Frankovic

It was a major yawner in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday night as the Washington Capitals gave up a late fluky goal to the Panthers to lose, 1-0, in a meaningless contest. Michal Neuvirth started and went the distance making some nice saves along the way. The Caps rested Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm, and Mike Green as they prepare to face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which start on Wednesday. The full schedule will be out Sunday evening.

The best thing to come out of this game is that it appears that the Capitals did not suffer any new injuries. Defenseman Karl Alzner did take a puck to the jaw late in period two but he came back and played a regular shift in the final stanza. The game featured a total lack of hitting and it seemed that both teams were interested in just getting this game overwith without any incidents.

The Rangers, in a must win situation, defeated the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, on Saturday afternoon and then had to go to the television and root for the Tampa Bay Lightning to defeat the Canes. They got their wish as the Bolts pumped in three first period goals on Cam Ward en route to a 6-2 victory. New York was 3-1 against the Capitals in the regualr season, including two blowout wins (7-0 and 6-0). Their other victory was in a shootout, 2-1, just before the All Star Break.

New York is coached by the abrasive John Tortorella, who won the Stanley Cup with Tampa in 2004, and his club plays physical hockey. The Rangers have one of the best goalies in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. This will be a tough series for the Caps to win but they did catch a break this week when New York’s Ryan Callahan fractured his ankle late in Monday night’s win over Boston. Callahan is a super player and always seems to play well against Washington. His loss hurts New York but the Rangers are a resilient group.

I’ll have more on the matchup with New York as the week progresses.

Notes: Neuvirth stopped 22 of 23 shots on Saturday and appears to be Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s choice to start game 1 against the Rangers…Tomas Vokoun stopped all 28 shots he faced to get the win for Florida…the Caps were shut out 11 times in 82 games this year but they were one of the best teams in the league in goals allowed (2.33 GAA, 4th in NHL), unlike in years past.

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Preakness 136 logo

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Preakness Infield Tickets & Bikini Contest – What A Pair!

Posted on 01 February 2011 by Gary Quill

Tickets for the 2011 Preakness (public portion of the) Infield went on sale Tuesday, Feb. 1st. Maryland’s annual premier sporting event will take place Saturday, May 21st at Old Hilltop (aka Pimlico Race Course) for the 136th time.


Preakness 136 logo

 Tickets will be $40 in advance through Ticketmaster or the Preakness Ticket Sales Office through Sunday, May 15th. Procrastinators who wait until Preakness Week (May 16th-20th) will need to shell-out $50. Those interested in The MUG Club package (includes souvenir mug with unlimited refills of beer) will need to part with $60 in advance and $70 during Preakness Week.


Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas stated that the headline music acts and other entertainment that highlights the Preakness InfieldFest experience would be announced later this month. Best Bets to return to the Pimlico Infield in 2011 is the Bikini Contest, Beer Garden, Corn Hole Tournament and Oxygen Bar.


2010 Preakness Bikini Contest winners

 Photo source: picapp.com


If the Infield isn’t your “bag”, seating information and ticket reservations are available at www.preakness.com. Tickets can be bought by calling the Preakness sales office at 410-542-9400 or 877-206-8042, extension 300 or at www.ticketmaster.com.



Preakness preparation time means that the Kentucky Derby prep racing season is upon us. Every Saturday leading up to the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, there is at least one prep race scheduled (with one exception, Apr. 2nd but the Florida Derby is run this year on Sunday Apr. 3rd). Each week my blog will provide selections for all of these races in addition to the release of my annual GQ’s Derby Double Dozen List prior to the publishing of Kentucky Derby Futures Pool #1 (Feb. 18-20).   

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Better than the Monday paper: Ravens draw line in the sand

Posted on 24 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

Last Thursday was an interesting day in the history of the Baltimore Ravens.

It marked the first time the franchise openly told their fan base, “No offense, but WE will run the team if you don’t mind.”

There have, in fact, been occasions over the years – especially under the ownership of Steve Bisciotti – where the club apparently acquiesced to public pressure by making a change in personnel (Billick’s ouster is the most notable) but no such concession is coming this time around.

Cam Cameron isn’t getting fired, much to the chagrin of the Baltimore football community.

Steve Bisciotti made it clear last Thursday.  “The fans…their frustration can’t lead us to offer someone as a sacrifice for what went wrong.”

That’s code word for:  We’ll fire people when we think it’s appropriate to fire people.  The fans aren’t going to fire anyone.

Anyone who listened to me or read my work throughout the latter half of the season and particularly last week knows where I stand with regard to Cam Cameron.  I wouldn’t have retained him.  But I’m not foaming at the mouth the way lots of folks in town are…because I also believe the Ravens have “team dysfunctions” that make finding better PLAYERS more important than finding better COACHES.  I believe that.  I think the Ravens can with a coaching foursome of Harbaugh/Cameron/Pagano/Rosburg…but only if they improve their roster with 6-8 significant players who will add speed and power to both side of the ball.

Now, I’ll be fair to the Ravens for a minute while I dissect one of the major issues with the way the fans behaved in the aftermath of the 31-24 loss to the Steelers a week ago Saturday.

One Ravens executive confessed, “We were disappointed in the reaction once a few days passed and everyone had a chance to digest the season as a whole.  We expected an initial level of frustration, but it seemed to get worse as the week went on.”

I’ll agree with that statement.

On all fronts.

Personally, I thought the overall fan reaction WAS disappointing given the team’s successful season.  And I too assumed it would reach its zenith by Tuesday or so and then everyone would sip a cup of Reality Tea and slowly come back to earth.

I remember seeing John Harbaugh during the bye week – on the heels of that narrow home escape over Buffalo – and saying to him at Owings Mills, “Those people (fans) are crazy, bro.  They’re nuts.”

Turns out I was right about that one.

But I also have a pretty good grasp on why there’s been such an outcry since the meltdown at Heinz Field, and I mentioned this to a Ravens executive last week when we were discussing the fan reaction in Baltimore.

In Baltimore, there’s the Ravens.  And that’s it.

This struck me again last Tuesday night in Philadelphia when I was at the Flyers/Capitals game.  During a time-out, I broke into a discussion

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