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For over 25 years, Bob Matthews has held the title of Rochester's most popular sports writer/commentator. For over 20 years, Bob has hosted WHAM's nightly sports talk program...consistently ranked at the top of his time slot!
From 1978 to 2012, Bob Matthews was a sports columnist for the Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle and a regular "As the Sports World Turns" contributor to the Gannett News Service. He is the only person to be selected Press-Radio Club Sportswriter of the Year (five times) and Sportscaster of the Year, and was a pioneer inductee into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
A Rochester native, Bob graduated from Brighton High School where he played varsity baseball, basketball and served as student council V-P. Bob is also a veteran, serving his country in Vietnam.
Always opinionated and outspoken, Bob's proudest accomplishment is advocating for Frontier Field. His all-time favorite athlete...former Red Wing Luke Easter. One of his sports regrets……not being around for the glory year of the Rochester Royals.
BEST HOPE FOR A TRIPLE CROWN – FEW GREAT HORSES THIS YEAR
MAYWEATHER, WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO PUT TITLES ON LINE...HO-HUM
MINNESOTA’S TWO CLASS-A TEAMS ARE PILING UP THE WINS
AMERKS PLAYOFF FUTILITY CONTINUES...NEED MORE FROM REGIER
The starting gate for Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby will spring open at 6:24 p.m.
There hasn’t been a Triple Crown champion (winner of the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) since Affirmed in 1978. That streak could end this year, mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a deep well of impressive three-year-olds. It wouldn’t take a lot for one the thoroughbreds to step up and dominate.
A full-field of 20 horses will participate in Saturday’s “Run for the Roses.” Many of them would be better suited for a “Run for the Dandelions.”
Here is my annual worst-to-first Derby forecast:
20th – Giant Finish (post position 7)...Don’t count on it...Trainer Tony Dutrow planned to run this colt in an allowance race at Belmont Park this month, but the owner pleaded to enter the Derby, presumably for the thrill of seeing his name in the program and silks in the starting gate. Dutrow wasn’t going to bother saddling the colt but wisely changed his mind.
19th – Falling Sky (p.p. 13)...He’ll give his backers an early thrill but classier speedsters figure to burn him out early...Has never raced two turns...Capable of wiring a field going one mile at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack...Only winning scenario Saturday would be setting a pedestrian slow pace and holding on in the slowest Derby in history.
18th – Black Onyx (p.p. 1)...He isn’t fast enough and hasn’t faced top-quality opposition. His future probably is on the grass. Drew the dreaded No. 1 post position, where horses often get squeezed back in a bulky field as the outside horses drop in to save ground. Only two Derby winners from the No. 1 post in the last 50 years...Hasn’t run since winning the Spiral Stakes March 23...This is Saratoga Joe’s pick. His pick last year hasn’t begun to run yet.
17th -- Golden Soul (p.p. 4)...He rallied wide to finish fourth in the Louisiana Derby. He can handle the 1 ¼ mile distance but probably isn’t fast enough to win this race.
16th – Frac Daddy (p.p. 18)...Has run OK at Churchill Downs before but probably doesn’t belong in this spot. Finished second, beaten 4+ lengths, in a slowly-run Arkansas Derby.
15th – Oxbow (p.p. 2)...Finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby on April 13...Good breeding and top-notch Hall of Fame trainer/rider combination in D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens, who retired with aching knees in 2005 to pursue an acting career and is making a comeback at age 50.
14th – Lines Of Battle (p.p 11)...Won the 1 3/16 UAD Derby in Dubai over a synthetic surface. The distance won’t be a problem. Running on dirt instead of grass could be.
13th – Will Take Charge (p.p. 17)...Hasn’t raced since winning the Rebel Stakes March 16. He’s game but probably not fast enough.
12th –Charming Kitten (p.p. 15)...He rallied for third in the Blue Grass Stakes but his speed figures don’t measure up in this spot...Has never raced on dirt.
11th – Palace Malice (p.p. 10)...He has one win in six career starts....Second in the Blue Grass...Wears blinkers for the first time...Jockey Mike Smith has record 17 Breeders’ Cup wins.
10th -- Mylute. (p.p. 6)...Second on a big effort in the Louisiana Derby March 30...Jockey Rosie Napravnik is a plus...Might not like the distance.
9th -- Revolutionary (p.p. 3)... Won the Louisiana Derby March 30...Won’t mind the No. 3 post position because jockey Calvin Borel specializes in saving ground on the rail and is a master weaving through big fields...Trounced handily by Orb in a maiden race last November and hasn’t faced the best competition since.
8th – Vyjack (p.p. 20)...Third in the Wood Memorial April 6 and then treated for a lung infection...Looks OK now...Jockey Joel Rosario took off to ride Orb in Derby...Only gelding in the field.
7th – Java’s War (p.p. 19)....No early speed. Runs best late...1 1/4 mile no problem. Speed might be...Won Blue Grass Stakes April 13 with huge last-to-first move.
6th – Itsmyluckyday (p.p. 12)...Could be at a price...Five wins in 10 starts...Second to Orb in the Florida Derby... Excellent bloodlines but might not want to go 1 ¼ mile...Chance at a price.
5th – Overanalyze (p.p. 9)...Versatile colt...Won the Arkansas Derby April 13 in a slow time.
4th – Normandy Invasion. (p.p. 5)...My long shot special...Strong late kick. Decent No. 5 post. Solid rider in Javier Castellano...Strong second in the Wood Memorial April 6...Only one win in five career starts.
SHOW – Goldencents (p.p. 8)...Rick Pitino has been on a role lately and he owns 5 percent of this Santa Anita Derby winner...Never runs a poor race...Tactical speed and third race off a layoff...Kevin Krigger would be first African-American jockey to win the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.
PLACE – Verrazano (p. p. 14)...The only undefeated horse in the field (4x4 -- including the Wood Memorial April 6 – by a total of 28 lengths). Tough to fault...Could be a great horse. We’ll find out Saturday...Trying to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby despite not racing as a two-year-old...Speed figures have dropped as his races grew longer – but he wasn’t tested to the max...Jockey John Velazquez had his choice and decided to ride t6his colt in the Derby. Riders have been wrong before but they know more than we do.
WIN – Orb (p.p. 16)...The Derby oddsmaker, Mike Watchmaker, made this colt the morning line favorite over Verrazano because the “buzz on the backstretch” early this week overwhelmingly preferred Orb. That’s good enough for me...Bred to relish the Derby distance...Won the Florida Derby in a relatively slow time...Popular trainer Shug McGaughey goes for his first Derby win...Jockey Joel Rosario currently leads the nation in wins and purse earnings this year.
TWO FIGHTS RAY-RAY WOULD’VE LOVED...HOW ABOUT YOU?
One of our most faithful and entertaining listeners, “Ray Ray” passed away last week. Pro boxing lost a passionate fan and advocate.
Ray Ray talked much more about boxers of the past than the current crop. That was appropriate because the sport used to be far more mainstream than it is now.
There will be two championship bouts on Saturday. Don’t expect upsets.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will put his undefeated record (43-0; 43 KOs) and WBC welterweight title on the line against Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas.
Guerrero is 31-1-1 (18 KOs) but don’t be fooled by that gaudy record. Mayweather has hand-picked his opponents for a long time and he isn’t likely to take on anyone he believes can beat him. He has a new six-fight deal with Showtime and intends to tap that ring gold for as long as possible.
At age 36, Mayweather might have slipped a bit. But until he loses, the “best boxer pound-for-pound” tag fits him better than anyone else.
Here are the odds (courtesy of Bovada) for the pay-per-view (suggested retail price $69.56...it costs a lot to be a big-time boxing fan these days – not a great way to boost the sport’s sagging popularity):
Mayweather bet $700 to win...Guerrero bet $100 to win $450.
Fight to go the distance. Bet $210 to win $100...Won’t go the distance bet $100 to win $200
Mayweather by KO, TKO of DQ bet $100 to win $260
Mayweather by decision bet $200 to win $100
Guerrero by KO, TKO or DQ bet $100 to win $700
Guerrero by decision bet $100 to win $800
Draw bet $100 to win $2,800.
You might not know that there will be a world heavyweight title fight Saturday in Germany.
Wladimir Klitschko almost certainly will successfully defend his IBF, WBO, WBA and Ring titles against unbeaten but outclassed Francisco Pianeta.
Remember when world heavyweight fights were can’t-miss viewing?
This fight won’t even he shown in the United States.
Klitschko is 59-3 with an impressive 80.65 knockout percentage.
Pianeta, the heavyweight champion of Italy, is 28-0-1. He has a 51.72 knockout percentage. Pianeta probably lacks the power to KO the Klitschko, who has never lost a decision.
The odds: Klitschko bet $3,500 to win $100...Pianeta bet $100 to win $1,500.
FORT MYERS AND CEDAR RAPIDS ARE PILING UP THE WINS
After a horrendous 2-11 start, the 2013 Rochester Red Wings are a solid 9-5 since.
That’s not bad, considering that a dozen or so disabled pitchers were in Florida trying to get ready to help somewhere in the organization and the preferred starting outfield for Rochester (Wilkin Ramirez, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia) was playing for the parent Minnesota Twins.
Collectively, Minnesota’s four full-season farm teams are performing very well. As advertised, the majority of the organizations top prospects are at the Single-A level. That’s reflected in the following numbers entering Friday night:
Rochester (AAA International League) – 11-16 record...outscored by opponents 141-101 (-40)
New Britain Rock Cats (AA Eastern League) – 14-13 record...outscored opponents 142-119 (+23)
Fort Myers Miracle (Advanced A Florida State League) – 22-4 record (that’s no typo)...outscored opponents 148-18 (+40)
Cedar Rapids Kernals (A Midwest League) – 18-7...outscored opponents 143-97 (+46).
Overall – 65-40 record (.619)...outscored opponents by 74 runs.
The two Single-A teams are 40-11 (.784) and outscored opponents by 91 runs (304-213).
NOT EVERYONE IMPRESSED BY BUFFALO BILLS DRAFT
USA Today Sports Weekly has Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel on the cover of this week’s draft issue and had some nice things to say about him: “Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s biggest shortcoming was an average arm that allowed cornerbacks to jump his sideline passes. That’s not a worry with Manuel, who has a cannon arm and the size and mobility to run the read-option.”
But the publication wasn’t as kind to the Bills draft in total, issuing a grade of “D”: “Overall, this was a very shaky draft for the Bills. They rolled the dice in the first three rounds with QB EJ Manuel, LB Kiko Alonso and WR Marquise Goodwin. They probably could have gotten Manuel even lower than they did. If two of the three hit, then general manger Buddy Nix and coach Doug Marrone will deserve some applause.”
I don’t agree. Buffalo deserved a higher grade than “D” – maybe a “B”...at least a “C”. And if only the right one (Manuel) of the first three picks “hit” (Manuel), the grade should be revised to at least “A-“.
Eric Bourgeois of letsgoamerks.com reminds us of the recent playoff history of the Rochester Amerks. He calls it “And the Banners Weep”:
No playoff wins in three seasons...no playoff series wins in 8 seasons...no Calder Cup appearance in 13 seasons...no Cup in 17 years...Darcy Regier’s playoff line for Rochester is as bad as fruitless as his recent work with the Buffalo Sabres.
Which crowd was more disappointing Wednesday night? 2,127 for the WNY Flash and Abby Wambach’s home debut...or, 4,565 for the final home game of the season for the Amerks.
Bill Polian, writing for ESPN Insider, this week tabbed the New York Giants picking Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) is “favorite selection” in last week’s NFL draft: “The Giants landed a tremendous asset by taking (Nassib).” He pointed out that Nassib won’t need to be rushed, will learn from Eli Manning, and could be Manning’s successor.” Nassib also could be future trade bait.
Quarterbacks chosen in last week’s NFL draft: EJ Manuel (Florida State) No. 16 overall by Buffalo...Geno Smith (West Virginia) No. 39 by New York Jets...Mike Glennon (North Carolina State) No. 73 by Tampa Bay...Matt Barkley (USC) No. 98 by Philadelphia...Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) No. 110 by New York Giants...Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) No. 112 by Oakland...Landry Jones (Oklahoma) No. 115 by Pittsburgh...Zac Dysert (Miami Ohio) No. 234 by Denver...Sean Renfree (Duke) No. 249 by Atlanta.
The Rochester Knighthawks got even better this week with the signings of veteran guard Jerice Crouch and newcomer forward Mac Koshwal. In his five prior seasons with the Rochester, the, the popular Crouch averaged 13.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. Koshwal, a native of Sudan, made the Big East All-Freshman first team in 2008 and opted for the NBA draft after his junior season. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward, a three-year captain at DePaul, has played in the NBA D-League and Summer League and overseas.
I understand why former NBA star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was happy when a committee of NBA owners this week recommended that the Kings stay in his city rather than move to Seattle, but hailing Sacramento fans as “the best fans in the NBA” was a stretch. Sacramento was 29th in the 30-team league in average home attendance this season (13,749).
When Rochester Knighthawks owner/general manager Curt Styres traded superstar John Grant to the Rochester Mammoth, local lacrosse fans were shocked and disappointed. How could Styres get fair value for one of Rohester’s all-time most popular and most productive pro athletes? Well, it looks like he did. Matt Vinc of the Knighthawks on Thursday became the first three-time National Lacrosse League Goaltender of the Year.