Bulls

Bob Baffert holding pocket aces heading into Kentucky Derby

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Bob Baffert holding pocket aces heading into Kentucky Derby

With just over two weeks to go until the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert is going into the race as strong as any trainer has in recent history. Two weeks ago it was the Baffert trained Dortmund who dominated the Santa Anita Derby and appeared primed to be the favorite on Derby Day. Maybe not though.

Last weekend at Oaklawn Park we saw an equally dominating performance in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. In that event, the Bob Baffert trained American Pharoah made a mockery of the field. Sitting just off the early pace, jockey Victor Espinoza never had to move on American Pharoah, winning as easily as could be by eight lengths.

When the field is drawn in a couple of weeks for the Kentucky Derby, Dortmund and American Pharoah will be the favorite and second choice, but who will be which? Regardless, we know Bob Baffert will have a pair of major threats on the first Saturday in May. 

Major Player in Illinois Derby?

The field for this Saturday’s Illinois Derby at Hawthorne was drawn on Wednesday morning as Bob Baffert could have another up and coming three-year-old star. Last year Baffert’s Midnight Hawk lost by a whisker to Dynamic Impact in the Illinois Derby after a stretch battle.  This year, Whiskey Ticket could be the horse to beat. A somewhat unknown, Whiskey Ticket comes into the Illinois Derby with just one career start. That race came on March 19 at Santa Anita, a maiden breaker while going one mile.  Whiskey Ticket’s breeding suggests he can run all day and he will likely set the pace in Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 event.

The biggest challenge to Whiskey Ticket in the Illinois Derby could come from Cross the Line from the barn of Jerry Hollendorfer. Cross the Line has a stronger resume than Whiskey Ticket as he has won twice and ran second in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby. His most recent race was a fifth-place effort behind Dortmund in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

The weather looks great for a fine weekend of racing at Hawthorne Race Course. Races will be conducted on the turf as well and the outdoor barbeque will be grilling all day Saturday. First race for the ten race Saturday card is 1:50 PM with the Illinois Derby being run at 5:45 PM.  If you can’t make it out to the track, make sure to place your wagers online at Xpressbet.com.

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.