(Photo Credit-Vince Guido)
August 1, 2015 -Thursday
American Pharoah & Alysheba Bring Back Memories
Memories of going to a baseball game with your father are embedded in lots of kids and adults today. It's a memory cycle of life that occurs in other sports as well. But not often does a horse race offer a unique experience for an adult man to share with his father. Yet, in 1987 my father and I went to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Racetrack, and we had one of those moments.
By way of background, my father is a retired award winning journalist, news director, and sports reporter, working for decades out of New York City. He was known for his extreme professionalism, and was without reproach, respected among his peers, and by those in public office or private business regardless of where you stood within the institution, or organization. He was known for a gentlemanly quality, in a profession that too often valued crude entertainment.
My father's love for horse racing is rooted in family lore, some relatives were connected to the sport. Not coincidentally, he covered 3-Triple Crown winners in Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978), each one had me on the edge of my seat. While my father's favorite was Ruffian, and for good reason, "she" was unlike any champion thoroughbred, never running second in any of her races always winning; in 1987 we thought all along that Alysheba was special too. We believe to this day that Alysheba should be part of that list of horse racing elite, winner of the Triple Crown. So we made the trip down the Garden State Parkway to see a race horse we both admired and had to see up close and personal, the great Alysheba.
The build-up to the 2015 Haskell Invitational is different from what happened in 1987 at Monmouth Park, when the second favorite, Alysheba faced off against rivals, Bet Twice and Lost Code. That day and race, was captured in an article that I read recently by Veteran Turf writer Steve Haskin. Like most who watched the race, Alysheba deserved a better ride. Almost all of those people I spoke with afterwards, believed without equanimity that Alysheba was a great race horse. So upset by the race, a donny brook nearly started among fans, and some in the media, others were calling for an investigation by the racing commission, and it all had to do with the jockey on Alysheba, Chris McCarron.
Chris McCarron, was one of the true decent people in sports. He started a wonderful riding academy, and became a Hall of Fame jockey, that being said, at the time it seemed like he had a poor habit of over thinking his rides on Alysheba. Prior to the race, my father and I were doubtful of his ability to ride Alysheba. Including but not limited to the Belmont, a race McCarron admits he rode poorly by sitting too far back of the pack, costing Alysheba any chance at a Triple Crown. He also had the bad habit of riding him like he was sitting in a bumper car at an amuzement park. While Alysheba was still a maturing 3-year old, and could be a wee bit erratic, he was more talented than any horse his age or older, and McCarron was still trying to figure out how to ride him. My father and I thought it was a miracle he didn't breakdown in any of the prior races. McCarron tried to time come from behind runs, hesitated in traffic, and never mastered the job of settling Alysheba, and easing into space to pass other horses. It was never more obvious than in the Haskell.
Looking back on it, the jockey made a horrendous mistake coming off the rail in 3rd position, pulling Alysheba to the center of the track to get around two other horses as they were charging down the stretch. After the race my father and I walked from the track to the path (tunnel) under the grandstand that took you to the paddock area, where the jockey room was located. We met with McCarron and other media representatives, to discuss his rationale for consistently running Alysheba from behind or troubled positions. The fans were livid, but so were we, Alysheba had speed to run with the lead or move between horses, his ride had everyone scratching their collective heads. His response to the media that day was startling "the hole was closing faster than I was, and I decided to go around". He didn't take responsibility for failing the horse or the fans. It was clear McCarron made a desperate move because he was out ridden by the winning jockey Craig Perret, who rode Bet Twice. McCarron's decision needed to be questioned, it was the kind of move that made you think the result was straight out of the La Cosa Nostra playbook, some thought the fix was in at the Jersey Shore. Outside the paddocks you could hear the fans yelling that he was going to kill the horse, in fact it was a quiet belief my father and I had before the race. Eventually, trainer Jack Van Berg, a big burly Texan approached the media and deflected the attention from McCarron. The trainer was asked, "why not get someone who can ride the horse, McCarron is going to injure the horse". McCarron was silent, while Van Berg tried his best to ward off the onslaught. He too thought it was a good race and ride. No doubt McCarron felt the vitriol of the fans and media that day.
Oh, that tough question to Van Berg about replacing McCarron, it was the gentlemanly way my father asked that got Van Berg to concede it was a race won by jockey Perret. He didn't criticize McCarron, or blame him for losing the race, that was Van Berg, a Texas gentleman himself, but I believe my father's pressing question and the public's anger, made him more mindful going forward, because at the conclusion of Alysheba's 1988 campaign he became the world's leading money winner of all-time, with a lifetime total of $6,679,242.
American Pharoah has the spotlight at Monmouth Park Racetrack on Sunday, and I'll be there too, with a drink in hand toasting to that fantastic Haskell day in 1987, when my father and I saw a courageous race by a great horse, and some questionable decisions by a jockey, lets hope the race this weekend is decided by the best horse and not the poor decision of a jockey.
Check out the video of the 87' race. Alysheba was the top 40 of all-time. He should be in the top 25.
Staff writer- Mark Hanna
McGregor KO's Mendes UFC 189
Las Vegas - MGM
#1 Chad Mendes looked to quiet down the outspoken irishman #3 Conor McGregor. But it was McGregor's straight left to the chin of Mendes and lights out with 3-seconds of round 2.
Start of the fight, Mendes took control of the fight early with 5:10 minutes to McGregor's 1:40 control. Mendes had + 4 takedown thru nearly 2 rds. before being KO'd.
The much awaited fight arrived with many anticipating the fight of the century in UFC.
They got a stunner and a potential rematch in the making.
Read the entire BREAKDOWN of the match and fight card.
Serena Williams is a Legend
The 2017 Australian Open Champion Serena Williams, showed once again the will to find different competitive levels to rise above when things where not going well. Her game has looked fantastic and then it lagged forcing Serena to find ways to win.
Now it's onto the French Open to continue her quest for a true Grand Slam.
Champions League: Millennium Stadium to host 2017 final.
The match will be played on June 3, 2017 while the Women's Champions League final will be held two days earlier at Cardiff City Stadium.
The 74,500-capacity Millennium Stadium hosted the Olympics where the football games were played in 2012.
Also, the FA Cup final, League Cup final, Community Shield and Football League play-offs from 2001 to 2006.
FIFA Officials Evidence
Some of the evidence that led to arrest of FIFA officials: a voting form for whether to choose Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.
Arrested FIFA Officials
From left to right: Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leos, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin.
Beijing Air quality improved ahead of Olympic vote
Beijing's air quality had to be improved as the vote to decide 2022 Winter Olympics host weighed heavy on them being awarded the games. It was rumored that Beijing was the front runner to win the rights to the games as long they proved the air quality was acceptional. In the aftermath of the major news about poor contimated waters of Rio, Brasil have surfaced new spectulation of how the IOC decides on awarding cities/countries the Olympics. Brasil hosts the summer games in 2016,
The story about Beijing air quality has been a sticking point for many critics for years. The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau (BMEPB) announced that thanks to the capital's continuous air pollution control efforts and favorable weather conditions, Beijing's air quality has been much improved in the last four months, with the average density of PM 2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) dropping by 19 percent compared with the same period last year.
The average densities of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM 10 also dropped by 43.1 percent, 13.7 percent and 12.3 percent respectively.
Read more about it.
Liu Xiang Retires
Liu Xiang gave grateful speech at his farewell ceremony. On the stage, Liu turned around to wipe his tearful eyes before he gave any words. A big screen in the stadium played a video tracking back Liu's splendid, up-and-down career, including his Olympic winning race in Athens and record breaking run in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2006, also disappointing withdrawals from two Olympics.
"Over the years, the track and hurdles have been going side by side with my young days. In my career, I had never shrunk, never evaded reality, but everyone has ups and downs. It's you who make me feel so appreciative and thankful. Thanks a lot for your support, otherwise my life wouldn't be so brilliant," said Liu in his farewell speech.
Read more about his farewell ceremony.
Ahmed Zayat, owner-breeder of American Pharoah, raised the specter that the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown might have competed for the last time.
“I have a huge responsibility,” said Zayat, who along trainer Bob Baffert and jockeyVictor Espinoza met with the media before the winning connections came into the interview area. “I haven’t spoken to my family, and Bob, but you start questioning yourself. Have I pushed the envelope too much? I swear to God, I really wanted it for the sport, and I shouldn’t be apologetic. ... I am a fan. I love this horse. He was happy and he’s special and he is the Triple Crown winner. Then you have to ask yourself, ‘Is the show over? Is it the time?’ ... My gut feeling right now ... is to retire him."
Owner Ahmed Zayat announced Thursday morning that he has decided to keep the sport's first Triple Crown champion in 37 years in training despite the shock of a second-place finish in last weekend's Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
"I have discussed all aspects of American Pharoah's race last Saturday in the Travers -- and his condition since the race -- with our whole team, and have decided American Pharoah deserves another chance, so we are pointing to the Breeders' Cup Classic," Zayat said in a statement release.
After conversations with everyone associated with the colt, Zayat has elected to give his champion a chance at what he called "redemption."
"I am very confident in my decision," Zayat said. "Not a moment has gone by since the race on Saturday when I have not thought about this decision. My initial concern right after the race was about American Pharoah's condition, because he did not run his 'A' race. He has come out of the race in great shape. And after examining all the evidence and talking it over with our team -- [trainer] Bob Baffert, my son Justin [racing manager for Zayat Stables], [assistant trainer] Jimmy Barnes, and [jockey] Victor Espinoza -- I believe there were a combination of factors that prevented American Pharoah from running his absolute best on Saturday. I have every confidence that he can run to his best again, and he deserves the chance to do so."
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Ahmed and his Pharoah
Excitement started to build for the start of the 2015 Haskell Invitational at the Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey, when security began steering fans from the paddock white post and rail fence. People crossing from one side to the other stopped altogether, as track employees, trainers and their teams hovered around each paddock stall like bees in a honeycomb. Long and circular, the paddock fence creates a security barrier from fans, and surrounds a shady grassy interior filled with beverages and food for the owners and exclusive guests to graze on. The people huddled under the trees looked emotionally fragile, unless you’re the comedian Bill Murray, who waved and chatted with fans on each side side of the fence, unbothered by the formal setting or heat.
Perhaps it had something to do with his Egyptian background but Ahmed Zayat, looking debonair in his signature suit, walked out from the shade and over to the rail where I was standing nearest to the horse stalls. He started to sign autographs. It may have been therapeutic for him to do this just minutes before his Triple Crown athlete, American Pharoah, raced. There Mr. Zayat stood, generous with his time, yet increasingly nervous with every camera photo snap or flash, and shouts from the fans for more souvenirs.
I met Mr. Zayat once before – in fact, we may be related. I’m a Zayat on my mother’s side and he and I agreed that it was quite possible we had similar roots, even though my family is from Syria and is Christian. Before I could say hello, some fans started wishing him luck in Arabic and Hebrew. He chuckled and made everyone happy by saying something in both languages. My entrée to an Arabic conversation with him was limited to asking him how he was doing. He looked pensive and then said to the crowd, “For the horse, guys, shush – he doesn’t like too much noise.” He said it more for himself than American Pharoah, who walked towards the racetrack in that California laidback way – relaxed and unmoved by all the attention. American Pharoah seemed thinner from when I saw him last, which made me think Mr. Zayat had good reason to worry.
American Pharoah never seems bothered. Any unwelcome noise gets muffled by large cotton balls that trainer Bob Baffert places in his ears. On the track, the gates opened: Pharoah raced after blistering fractions for the first three quarters. He was then given a little nudge by jockey Victor Espinoza, who accelerated to the lead, and handily eased home first.
Given the success of American Pharoah, the only question that remains is: How great can he become? Older horses, and potentially fresher ones, await him if Mr. Zayat decides to race him two or three more times.
Pharaoh may be relaxed, but Mr. Zayat himself won’t stop worrying – it’s not his personality. But can you blame him? He owns a once-in-a-lifetime race horse.
Global Sports Broadcasting Network
Refugees competed in Olympics
Sepp Blatter's payment to Michel Platini was a "conflict of interest", says the head of Fifa's audit and compliance committee.
Swiss Blatter, 79, and Frenchman Platini, 60, are suspended while Fifa investigates reports that a £1.35m payment was made in 2011 for work Platini did as Blatter's adviser.
Platini claims the deal was an "oral contract" for work done from 1998-2002. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
Scala told the Financial Times that the payment was not recorded in the accounts in 2002 and called that a "serious omission".
Blatter stepped down as president after 17 years, with Fifa confirming on Tuesday that it would elect his successor on 26 February 2016.
Fifa vice-president Platini maintains he still wants to stand for the next presidency, but Fifa says it cannot recognise his candidacy while his ban is in place and he cannot campaign.
"In any normal business, there would be a written contract," said Scala. "Both parties were members of Fifa's executive committee and knowingly approved each year financial statements which were incorrect by 2m Swiss francs (1.35m). That could be seen as falsification of the accounts."
Both men are appealing against their "provisional" 90-day suspensions- put in place while Fifa's ethics committee completes an investigation into two of the game's most powerful figures.
Read more >