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Preakness 2018: Justify wins at Pimlico, Triple Crown on the line at Belmont

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USAT

Preakness 2018: Justify wins at Pimlico, Triple Crown on the line at Belmont

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Justify rounded the final turn and hit the top of the stretch winded but with the lead.

The roar from the crowd was delayed, hushed by the thick fog that enveloped the track. When Justify emerged from the haze in view of the grandstand, trainer Bob Baffert could see jockey Mike Smith's white silks and knew his horse had been pushed to his limit with 100 yards left to go.

"I knew he was in for a fight," Baffert said. "I knew this was not going to be easy."

It wasn't easy, but Justify had enough left to hold off several hard-charging challengers and win the Preakness on a sloppy, slippery track Saturday and keep alive the chance for a second Triple Crown champion in four years. After winning the most difficult race of his career, Justify has the chance at the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 9 to accomplish the same rare feat Baffert's American Pharoah did in 2015.

"We'll see how he trains," Baffert said. "Right now, I don't see why not."

Just getting through the Preakness was a test for the Kentucky Derby champion and heavy 2-5 favorite. When Smith looked over his shoulder early and saw Good Magic he thought, "Oh man, it's going to be a match race from this point on," and Justify held up to the challenge down the backstretch and late as Bravazo and Tenfold chased him down.

"They tested his fitness today," Smith said after his second Preakness win and first since 1993. "This is his hardest race that he's had."

With Baffert praying for the wire at Pimlico, Justify won by a half-length after completing the race in 1:55.93. Bravazo edged Tenfold for third, and Good Magic was fourth.

"What I saw of it, I liked it a lot," said veteran D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Bravazo. "I want them to extend it another 50 yards. ... We ran at him. We kept him honest just like we said we would."

Good Magic pressed Justify so much, the Derby runner-up faded near the end of the 1 3/16-mile race and fell out of the money for the first time in his career.

"It just wasn't a good trip," Good Magic trainer Chad Brown said. "I would have liked to see a different scenario, maybe where we're just off the pace a little bit, we weren't getting pressed on the fence the whole way. Disappointing."

That almost happened to Justify. Smith was worried when he saw Good Magic over his shoulder and when Justify slipped early, and he was hoping there was enough left to get to the wire.

Baffert tied Lukas' record with his 14th Triple Crown victory and matched 19th-century trainer R.W. Walden with his seventh Preakness title. Baffert also remained undefeated with Derby winners in the Preakness following Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah.

Justify, who paid $2.80, $2.80 and $2.60 as the deserved favorite and improved to 5-0, showed more evidence of being the same kind of super horse as American Pharoah, and Baffert has repeatedly drawn comparisons between them. Those will only continue assuming Justify is good to go for the Belmont in three weeks.

"He has to come out of the race well, and he's got to be training really well," Baffert said. "I did the same thing with American Pharoah, all my horses that ran the Triple Crown, they have to be 100 percent."

Justify looked every bit of 100 percent after a bruised heel in the Derby caused quite the firestorm. A bigger question now is how the lightly-raced colt who didn't run as a 2-year-old handles a mile and a half.

Had the Preakness been just a tenth of a mile longer, Justify might have been caught, though Smith thought he had plenty of horse left.

"He withstood that, and even though he got tired today, he was also looking around a bit at the end," Smith said. "Although it was a half a length, I certainly could've got after him a whole lot more a little earlier and made him do a little more, as well."

Justify never had to work this hard to win a race, winning his first four starts by a combined 21 1/2 lengths. He didn't blow away the field of three Derby horses and four new challengers, but he showed something else

"These great horses, they just define themselves when they get in that situation," Baffert said. "He just showed not only is he a big, beautiful, gorgeous horse, but he is all racehorse, and that's what it took to win."

11.8.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Alissa Pemberton

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USA TODAY Sports

11.8.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Alissa Pemberton

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

Listen to the full podcast here.

 

-----The United States Supreme Court may have legalized sports betting across the country, but

the debate over daily fantasy sports continues across the country on the state level.

According to the Westchester Journal News, the viability of DFS in New York is up in question

after acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly recent ruled that such companies

“violate the state constitution.” Connolly “ruled in favor of anti-gambling organizations that had

challenged the state law allowing and regulating DFS, deciding the games directly violate

the gambling ban in the state constitution. The state is expected to appeal the ruling, which

would allow companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings to remain operating in New York while

the court proceedings are worked out. A DraftKings lawyer noted that the expected worst-case

scenario for the DFS operator would “involve a referendum so that the state can regulate it.”

While none of Tuesday’s elections directly impact the sports betting legislation, it’s a safe bet

that in some states, newly-elected officials will play a vital role in implementing legal sports

wagering in the next few years.

 

-------The Golden State Warriors are planning to move into their new home in downtown San

Francisco but are still being ordered to pay $40 million for renovations to Oakland’s Oracle

Arena. According to the Associated Press, authorities from Alameda County are in a battle with

the Warriors over debt payments stemming from a $150 million bond that the Oakland-

Alameda County Coliseum Authority took out in 1996 for basketball-centric renovations. The

team “agreed to help finance” the bond with annual payments, contributing $7.5 million per

year to date, but said that its debt obligations “end when they terminate their lease and leave

Oakland for San Francisco and the new Chase Center at the end of the season.” The city and

county still have to repay about $80 million in renovation costs at the Oakland-Alameda County

Coliseum for the Oakland Raiders, who are not obligated to help repay the money, even when

they move to Las Vegas. Next up on the Oakland pro sports agenda: the seemingly never-

ending search for a new home for the MLB Oakland A’s.

 

------Heading into the MLS Playoffs, let’s take a look back at the regular season. According to

SportsBusiness Journal, the 2018 regular season finished with an average attendance of 21,873,

coming as a 1.1% drop from last year’s number. This comes as the first year-over-year drop for

the league in the last five years, though many teams had extremely strong years. Atlanta United

FC dominated attendance figures for the second consecutive year, packing Mercedes-Benz

Stadium with over 53,000 fans per home match, a 10% increase from last year’s recording-

breaking season. The Columbus Crew finished at the bottom of the league in terms of overall

attendance and year-over-year drop-off, bringing in only 12,447 fans per match, a nearly 20%

slide from last season. Despite being “saved” from relocation to Austin, Texas, the club will

need to make some significant changes if it wants to remain in the ever-expanding league;

while MLS has no official relegation like European leagues, if it did, the Crew would be the

first club in line for demotion.

11.2.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Len Komoroski, Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena

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USA TODAY Sports

11.2.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Len Komoroski, Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

1) This year’s World Series and the World Champion Boston Red Sox reveal one thing: money
talks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, both the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are proof
of the “cold reality” that money really does matter in professional baseball. The Red Sox have
reached the “third and highest tier of luxury tax spending, investing more than $237 million in
payroll” this season, while no other team in the league comes even close to that. And despite
reaching the last two but not winning a World Series in over three decades, the Dodgers “have
spent about $1.4 billion in salaries to claim the last six NL West crowns.” The Red Sox, who
bested the Dodgers 4-1 this Series, had the league’s highest payroll, thanks to their iconic
venue, deeply-rooted fan base, and an RSN deal valued at more than $8 billion. The Dodgers
had the third biggest payroll in the majors. Both of these elite clubs epitomize the current
state of MLB; smaller market teams will continue to struggle without the right financial
investments going forward.

2) The World Series just ended, but MLB is already looking toward next season. According to
SportsBusiness Journal, the league will roll out a series of innovative programs aimed at helping
players “who are interested in being out there, interested in marketing themselves, but making
it easy for them to do.” Social media will be a big area of focus in the offseason, according to
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “The trick with players is that things are authentic,” said
Manfred. “What we put on social media through our accounts may be really good but when you
add the players’ input or their take on what has happened on social media, it’s way more
important to our fans.” The league will be providing players with highlights next season by
allowing them to simply grab the content and repost it on their pages. MLB still struggles with
youth engagement and decreasing levels of participation — the social media push is a step in
the right direction to make baseball “cool” again.

3) Midway through the NFL season, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium is working to finalize
most of its Super Bowl details.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Super Bowl LIII on
February 3 will have ultra cheap concessions prices compared to past events and other NFL
games. The stadium’s “much-publicized” food and beverage prices will not change for the Super
Bowl; hot dogs will still cost $2, soft drinks and popcorn will still be refillable, and more.
Stadium officials noted that they "stipulated in Atlanta’s Super Bowl contract that concession
prices would remain the same as at Falcons games and other stadium events.” The league is still
deciding whether or not it would be possible to play the game with the sunflower-shaped roof
open. “Open-or-closed is going to change the dynamics of a few things — some of our halftime
stuff, some of our pregame stuff,” said NFL VP of Event Operations and Production Jon Barker.
“All of that will go into consideration, but…from an NFL standpoint we would love to see it
open.” Just like NFL fans will love to see those cheap food and beer prices come February 3.