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Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Cardinal Couple -- Derby is only three weeks away!


FRIDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

-Kentucky Derby appears to be a wide open affair.

-Lacrosse faces gauntlet weekend road trip

(Random notes written while going through college basketball withdrawal symptoms)

It's hard to believe that the Kentucky Derby is only three weeks away. With all the hoopla and excitement surrounding the Louisville Womens' Basketball team's magical run and Rick Pitino's guys winning the National Championship, I will admit that my handicapping and studying of the potential Kentucky Derby challengers is way behind where it normally is this time of year.

It usually takes John Asher's yearly visit with the Sportsmen's Supper Club to get me up in the irons and going to the whip in my quest for Derby Fever...and he delivered again last night in fine fashion...a rousing 30 minute synopsis of Derby's past and present...portrayed only the way Asher can. If there is a current-day renaissance man in our community by the Ohio, it has to be John.

If the Daily Racing Form were to deliver comments on his speech like they do on horse performmances, his might read:

"Broke alertly and pressed the issue early. Kept a solid pace and was full of energy on the final turn. Finished full of run and was much the best today."  

His talk also usually indicates to me that college basketball is over and done with for the year.

I'm not complaining one bit. What we saw this year was incredible and so thrilling in college basketball. Miracles, drama, excitement and intrigue...one University playing on consecutive nights for the epoch in college hoops. Serve that up to us again next year.

But...I've received a few e-mails about my prognostications...so, here goes. Like they ever do much.

I'm going to toss out six horses to consider. I'll narrow it down in a week or so. Maybe. Hey, everyone loves a six-pack, right?
Whether it's suds or abs...

Goldencents is a Pitino horse!
Sonja, who gives this racing business a sideways glance and still usually does better than me on Oaks and Derby Day, is enamored with Rick Pitino and Doug O' Neill's horse Goldencents. And, it was a stirring ride that Kevin Krigger gave ol' Goldy in the Santa Anita Derby. At 5-1, he wasn't greatly respected on the "Left Coast"...Flashback catching the even money odds. But, down the stretch, Goldencents was the best and the horse does look like the mile and a quarter Derby distance won't be a problem. I'm still not sold on Krigger as the mount on this one, but Animal Kingdom and I'll Have Another, from the past couple of Derbies have shown that anything can and will happen on that first Saturday in May. Goldencents deserves a good, long look.

Still thinking that Itsmyluckyday is a contender
I was quite high on Itsmyluckyday before the Florida Derby. Even though he ran second to Orb (who I'll discuss later) I though he ran too close to the lead and maybe wasn't ready to contest that distance, that day, that close to the front on the Santa Anita track. I still give Itsmyluckyday a shot at finishing first at Churchill Downs and will see how he trains when he gets to 3rd and Central.

Revolutionary just may mow them all down...
Revolutionary narrowly defeated My Lute in the Louisiana Derby but had to go eight wide on the final turn and jockey Javier Castellano pushed all the right buttons to keep him in the lead. This guy is a strong, strapping three year old and if he doesn't have to come from way behind or go so far wide on the first Saturday in May, he may just grab the lead mid-stretch and not get passed. There just might be a price available too on this Todd Pletcher trained runner.

Normandy Invasion ran a very nice closing second in the Wood Memorial to Verrazano and looks like he'll absolutely love the extra distance that he'll have available to him in that long Derby stretch. He's one that lets the pace develop and then comes swooping. Another thoroughbred that might pack a nice payoff at the window.

Orb gained a lot of fans after winning the Florida Derby
Orb was very impressive in winning the Florida Derby. He gobbled up the field in the stretch and was still full of steam when he hit the wire at Gulfstream. A horse that has made big improvements since he turned three, and one that I'll use in any exotics I attempt Derby Day.

Verrazano is still my guy...for now
Verrazano still remains my top pick. Hopefully, John Velasquez will be healthy enough to ride after sustaining an injury a few days back. I loved the way he romped in earlier races at Gulfstream and my only real worry is if the mile and a quarter might just be a bit too long for him. He's one that likes to contest the pace..and that can be brutal in the Derby. I do think that he's the one they have to beat, though (as of April 12th, 2013) and he's still my top pick.

"And as they hit the wire...From Brooklyn to Staten Island...it's Verrazano..." (Great call by Larry Colmes, Gulfstream track announcer.) The venerable, old bridge in New York has withstood a ton of traffic. Let's hope the equine namesake can, too, at the Derby.

-Paulie

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We'll get a true measure of just how much the Louisville Lacrosse team has improved over last season by Sunday...as the "Cross Cards" head out to play the cream of the crop in the BIG EAST.

Louisville starts the challenging weekend with a 6 p.m. Friday square off against #5 Syracuse. The Orange are 7-3 overall and 3-0 in the BIG EAST. After some early season stumbles, they've won five out of their last six...including a defeat of Syracuse. Names that will probably rack up a lot of stats for the New Yorkers include Alyssa Murray, who leads the team in goals and points. Becca Block is the leader of the defense and has caused 21 turnovers so far this year. Kelsey Richardson hangs tough in the net...allowing a scant 8.47 goals a game.

On Sunday the Cards will match up against 9-1 UConn. They're hot lately as well, winning three straight since losing to SU. Girls to watch include do-it-all Lauren Kahn, who leads the Huskies in goals, assists, points, groundballs, draw controls and caused turnovers. She also does the public address call of the game, sells programs and makes popcorn at halftime. Shannon Nee protects in between the pipes and is very efficient...with just 9.55 goals allowed.

(Don't know why...but got this mental image of Coach Young dressed up as Captain Kirk from Star Trek...standing in the middle of the lacrosse field, eyes rasied upwards...yelling "KAHN!!!!!" )



For Louisville, one out of two in the win column this weekend would be very impressive. Sweep them both and Kellie Young deserves Coach of the Year honors. The Cards will need frequent scoring from Nikki Boltja, Kay Morissette, Katie Oliviero and (Cardinal Couple favorite) freshman Cortnee "Dale" Daley. Strong defense from Monica Negron and perfection between the pipes from Ashley Herbst could be the game-decider in each of these.

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