Horse Racing

Luck, Griffin, etc.: Profiles of every first-round pick

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Luck, Griffin, etc.: Profiles of every first-round pick

From Comcast SportsNet
1. Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, qb, 6-4, 234, Stanford: A prototypical NFL QB with superior decision-making abilities, arm strength and mechanics. Father, Oliver, was also an NFL QB. 2. Washington, Robert Griffin III, qb, 6-2, junior, 223, Baylor: A fast runner and polished passer, Griffin could be a game-changer. Smart player with intangibles through the roof. 3. Cleveland Trent Richardson, rb, 5-9, 228, junior, Alabama: Compact, strong and polished downhill runner with excellent vision and acceleration. Good enough skills as a pass catcher to start. Could be best RB to enter draft in years. 4. Minnesota (from Cleveland), Matt Kalil, ot, 6-6, 306, junior, Southern Cal: Two-year starting LT with size and strength to protect blind side in NFL. Good in the run game, but will be tested by the better edge rushers. 5. Jacksonville (from Tampa Bay), Justin Blackmon, wr, 6-1, 207, junior, Oklahoma State: Jumping ability, open-field speed and possession-receiver toughness help cover for lack of elite wiggle and crisp route-running. 6. Dallas (from Washington through St. Louis), Morris Claiborne, db, 5-11, 188, junior, LSU: A talented athlete with a receiver's ball skills. Can velcro himself to WRs as long as he keeps his pads low enough. 7. Tampa Bay (from Jacksonville), Mark Barron, db, 6-1, 213, Alabama: Polished safety who can tackle and cover well. Excellent awareness highlights all his physical skills, which are strong across board. 8. Miami, Ryan Tannehill, qb, 6-4, 221, junior, Texas A&M: Good accuracy and a constant running threat, making him a raw project with promise. Converted from QB to WR and back to QB in college. 9. Carolina, Luke Kuechly, lb, 6-3, 242, junior, Boston College: A ready-made pro at inside linebacker, where he can find ball carriers and cover tight ends. 10. Buffalo, Stephon Gilmore, db, 6-0, 190, junior, South Carolina: Physical player who can disrupt WRs routes, but may struggle with advanced techniques. 11. Kansas City, Dontari Poe, dt, 6-3, 346, junior, Memphis: Big, strong and athletic, but not quite fast or nimble enough to move outside. Definitely an interior space-filler, which is not a negative. 12. Philadelphia (from Seattle), dt, Fletcher Cox, 6-4, 298, junior, Mississippi State: Furiously aggressive player who is strong, but raw. Goes for the big play. 13. Arizona, --Michael Floyd, wr, 6-3, 220, Notre Dame: Big, physical player who is a threat for the deep ball and in red-zone situations. Blocking ability a plus. Had off-field issues at Notre Dame. 14. St. Louis (from Dallas), dt, Michael Brockers, 6-5, 322, junior, LSU: Has come this far on substantial physical and mental gifts, could reach potential anywhere along the line. 15. Seattle (from Philadelphia), Bruce Irvin, de, 6-3, 245, West Virginia: A pure pass-rush play, Irvin was a workout warrior, but demonstrated a deep repertoire of pass-rush moves at WVU. Not a three-down player, but may not need to be. 16. N.Y. Jets, Quinton Coples, de, 6-6, 284, North Carolina: A big, powerful player who can disappear from time to time. 17. Cincinnati (from Oakland), Dre Kirkpatrick, db, 6-1, 186, junior, Alabama: Size may indicate a switch to safety, where his speed would play better, too. Sure tackler, but not great on balls in the air. 18. San Diego, Melvin Ingram, lb, 6-1, 264, South Carolina: A smart, athletic player who could be a hardworking contributor as OLB in some schemes. 19. Chicago, Shea McClellin, de, 6-3, 260, Boise State: Country strong, uses small size to his advantage by gaining leverage on linemen and has sure tackling ability. 20. Tennessee, Kendall Wright, wr, 5-10, 196, Baylor: Savvy and athleticism help him play above his physical limitations. Can space out at times. 21. New England (from Cincinnati), Chandler Jones, de, 6-5, 247, junior, Syracuse: A 4-3 DE whose toughness, big frame and motor show lots of potential. 22. Cleveland (from Atlanta), Brandon Weeden, qb, 6-4, 221, Oklahoma State: A 28-year-old who played minor league baseball before college football, Weeden brings maturity, accuracy and NFL-caliber arm strength and size. He has nice quick release and good touch. Struggles to retain accuracy and decision-making under pass rush. 23. Detroit, Riley Reiff, ot, 6-6, 313, junior, Iowa: Not as strong as Kalil, but nimbler and more technically sound. 24. Pittsburgh, David DeCastro, g, 6-5, 316, junior, Stanford: Three-year starter who can get on linebackers quickly in the running game. Nimble and strong. 25. New England, (from Denver), Dont'a Hightower, lb, Alabama.6-2, 265, junior, Alabama: Can shed blockers well and get to running backs. More instinctual than athletic. Some durability concerns. 26. Houston, Whitney Mercilus, lb, 6-3, 261, junior, Illinois: Fast and sudden in pass rush or against run, he can be a home-run swinger who sometimes strikes out. Long arms, relentless. 27. Cincinnati (from New Orleans through New England), Kevin Zeitler, g, 6-4, 314, Wisconsin: A big ol' road-grader in the run game, he could stand to get a bit faster and lighter. 28. Green Bay, Nick Perry, lb, 6-3, 271, junior, Southern Cal: A defensive end in college whose instincts, athleticism and size probably play better at OLB. 29. Minnesota (from Baltimore), Harrison Smith, db, 6-2, 213, Notre Dame: Has physical and mental attributes to be instant starter in NFL. Good athletic ability, but zone coverage is stronger than man. 30. San Francisco, A.J. Jenkins, wr, 6-0, 192, Illinois: Superior speed and acceleration combine with good body control to make Jenkins an appealing prospect. He's willing to go over the middle, but can't always shake DBs on the jam. 31. Tampa Bay (from New England through Denver), Doug Martin, rb, 5-9, 223, Boise State: Another polished, instinctual prospect, Martin does everything well, with the possible exception of holding onto the ball. More quick than fast, his speed is still a strong asset. 32. N.Y. Giants, David Wilson, rb, Wilson, 5-10, 206, junior, Virginia Tech: Dazzling, raw ability with higher risk and higher reward than a player such as Martin. Has speed and vision, though sometimes the cutback lanes he spies are too small.

There's no rainouts in horse racing

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There's no rainouts in horse racing

It is playoff time here in Chicago. The hometown Cubs are back to their third consecutive NLCS. The Bears have played in gorgeous weather to open their season. The Bulls and Hawks get optimal conditions indoors. In racing, this isn’t always the case and last Saturday was one of those instances. 

After nearly two months of drought conditions in the Chicagoland area, racing at Hawthorne Race Course to close out the summer harness season was optimal. While the sprinklers were used constantly to keep the turf course green, the pond at Hawthorne had nearly dried up.

All of that came to an end last week at Hawthorne as Mother Nature was not quite as generous to open October. With the fall thoroughbred season commencing, the skies opened as well, with rain falling on numerous occasions to kick off the season. That was clearly the case last Saturday, when over five inches of rain came down during the course of the Hawthorne racing card.

In baseball, there would be a rain delay or cancellation. Youth sports teams get the day off. Outdoor attractions closed as flooding was prevalent in numerous locations. Here at Hawthorne…..we race.

At any racetrack, the equine stars are the showcase, but there are so many others necessary to put on the show. The folks brave the conditions and have to be well prepared.

Five stories above the racetrack, Hawthorne track announcer Peter Galassi provides the play-by-play for the racing action. With over 65,000 races called on his career, Peter has seen it all.

“I’ve called races in every weather condition possible and what we raced in Saturday was one of the tougher conditions to call in,” Galassi said. “When I announced races at Balmoral Park, fog would be my biggest concern. Fog was the worst. We had an occasion where myself, and our track stewards had to go from our location on the roof down to trackside for a race because the fog was so bad. We had to get below the fog to get a vantage point. Here at Hawthorne, dealing with the rain, especially at the rate it came down last Saturday, is very tough. Consider the windows of my announcer’s booth being the windshield of a car, but without window wipers. Streaks of water rolling down the panes of glass in your direct view. Add to that the glare of the lights off the glistening racetrack and thoroughbreds and riders covered in mud. It isn’t always the easiest, but what these athletes deal with on the track and in those conditions are far worse than what I am subjected to.”

Moving trackside, the race begins at the Hawthorne starting gate. Veteran assistant starter Bill Fultz and crew are responsible for safely loading the horses into the gate and keeping the horses calm in preparation for a fair start. While the job is complicated and dangerous on a clear day, the focus needed on a day where the weather conditions are menacing only increase.

“When the weather is tough and we are dealing with rain or snow, additional clothing and gear for our crew is needed,” Fultz said. “This is a physically demanding job as we are in the mud, working with horses, making sure they are safe, while also focusing on our safety. Fortunately we have an experienced crew that takes a lot of pride in their job and I feel it shows in the horses’ clean starts and performances.”

On horseback, the jockeys are limited in numerous aspects. On a good day, a rider has to not only worry about maintaining their weight, but also controlling a 1,000 lbs. thoroughbred, racing at 35 MPH, while balancing on a pair of two inch wide metal stirrups. In harsh weather conditions, limited additional clothing is allowed as the jockeys goggles become one of the most important pairs of equipment. Last Saturday was a good day for Hawthorne’s second all-time leading rider Chris Emigh as he won a pair of races in the monsoon.

“I figure you can either go out there and be miserable or go out there and have fun,” said the affable Emigh. “A lot of dirt and water gets thrown back at you and you just have to find a good spot in between the sprays of water and mud. Goggles are the key, a normal race I may have three pairs on, but on Saturday that amount doubles. We are controlling our mount, keeping balance, and trying to flip down to a clean pair of goggles numerous times each race. I get concerned when I come to that last pair and still have a quarter of a mile to go. When that happens, we just focus on what visibility we have and your finger becomes your window wiper.”

As all of the action takes place, cameramen positioned in towers around the track televise the action. Positioned at the finish line are Ryan Thompson and Nicole Thomas, the track photographers for Four Footed Fotos that work tirelessly to capture the Hawthorne action. When others may choose to wait until the last minute to capture to winner on the finish line, Ryan and Nicole take the weather as an opportunity to capture great images.

Predicting Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 5: 'Why not us?'

Predicting Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 5: 'Why not us?'

"NOT IN OUR HOUSE!" a Cubs coach yelled as he walked through the media throng awaiting entry into the clubhouse.

There was Kyle Schwarber standing at his locker, emphatically saying, "we're not gonna go down quietly."

There was Jake Arrieta, already making plans for what he would do to celebrate after the Cubs beat the Dodgers in the NLCS.

What a difference a day makes.

The Cubs looked completely beat and worn down after Game 3 Tuesday night. Kris Bryant echoed the same line — "why not us?" — he delivered last fall when the Cubs were down three games to one in the World Series, but this time, it just didn't feel the same.

Bryant looked shellshocked and admitted the team was drained after the NLDS and traveling across country to get steamrolled by the Dodgers in the first two games of the NLCS.

Wednesday night, things were different.

Even though the offense still hasn't broken out. 

Even though all the Cubs' runs still came off early homers — they have yet to score in this series not off a longball.

Even though Wade Davis is unavailable for Game 5 Thursday — the Cubs haven't won a game this postseason in which Davis did not pitch.

Even though the best pitcher on the planet — Clayton Kershaw — awaited the Cubs Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

The belief was back in the home clubhouse at Wrigley, even if it was just for one day.

But was it just for one day? 

I've been saying it all fall — the only time this Cubs team has played up to their potential is when they've had their backs against the wall. Your back couldn't possibly get more against the wall when down 0-3 in the NLCS, a deficit only one team in baseball history has come back from.

Conceivably, yes, the Cubs can pull this off. They can climb all the way out of this hole and make a second straight World Series.

If any team can do it, it's the group that erased the longest championship drought in American sports history and did it in the most dramatic way imaginable.

Will the Cubs be able to pull it off? 

I have no idea, honestly. I know that's a cop-out, but screw predictions at this point of the postseason. 

There's a very real possibility the Cubs offense finally breaks out and takes one more step toward writing this team's entry into the baseball history books.

There's also a very real possibility Kershaw comes out and slams the door on any talk of Cubs magic and finally pitches his way into the World Series for the first time.

Either way, the build-up to Thurday night around Wrigleyville is gonna be fun as hell.