Sports briefs: Feb. 18

February 18, 2013 

Horse racing

Shakin It Up wins San Vicente

There's just no pinning Bob Baffert down on his large contingent of Triple Crown candidates. The Hall of Fame trainer saw what some more of his 3-year-olds could do Sunday, when Shakin It Up won the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes by a length to give Baffert his eighth victory in the sprint at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

Baffert's other two horses, War Academy and 9-5 favorite Belvin, finished fourth and last, respectively, in the six-horse field. His trio made their first starts of the year in front of 11,745.

"I'm so undecided on everything," Baffert said about future plans for any of them. "They'll be nominated to everything in the country. Then we'll jump on a plane."

Ridden by David Flores, Shakin It Up ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.48, rallying in the stretch to separate himself from five rivals in the near-blanket finish. The brown colt is co-owned by Mike Pegram, a longtime friend and client of Baffert.

"He was sort of fresh today," Baffert said. "I didn't really have him super-cranked up for the race, but we've always thought highly of him, so we'll just find something for him. I don't know."

Treasury Bill was second, followed by Caballo Del Cielo.

Flores won for just the third time this year, and was thrilled to be back on Shakin It Up knowing that he has a possible Kentucky Derby horse. "It reminds me of the good ol' days. It brings me back to a time when I was riding these kind of horses," he said.

■ Baffert also has the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes that's scheduled for Monday at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Other horses in the field include Fear the Kitten out of New Orleans and D. Wayne Lukas-trained Will Take Charge.

Royal Delta victorious in prep for Dubai

Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta bobbled at the start but quickly recovered and drew away in the backstretch for a dominating victory in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Ridden by Mike Smith, Royal Delta ran 11⁄16 miles in 1:43.31. All for Thee, who was ridden by Jose Lezcano, finished second, 3½ lengths clear of Grace Hall.

Royal Delta's victory capped a big weekend for trainer Bill Mott, who saddled three winners at Gulfstream on Saturday, including The Very One Stakes winner Starformer.

Royal Delta is scheduled to run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30.


Golf Merrick wins on his home course

John Merrick was a young face in the crowd at Riviera in Los Angeles for so many years, dreaming of one day playing the fabled course on the PGA Tour. On Sunday, he did better than that. He won on it. Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to two pars in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open when Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole.

Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became the ninth player to make this tournament his first PGA Tour victory. It could not have come at a better place. Merrick grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.

"I can't put this into words," he said off the 10th green, his eyes welling with tears. "Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament."

It was a tough finish for Beljan, famous for having an anxiety attack when he won at Disney late last year. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close to force the playoff.

Bernhard Langer's second ACE Group Classic title in three years involved a little more drama than he would have preferred. He two-putted for par from 50 feet on the 18th to finish at 12-under 204, surviving three bogeys and a double bogey to finish one stroke ahead of Jay Don Blake at Naples, Fla. The winner in 2011 and the runner-up last year, Langer earned his 17th victory on the tour.

Jiyai Shin won the Australian Women's Golf Open by two shots, finishing with a 1-under 72 to beat world No. 1 Yani Tseng.


UK Sports

Men's tennis rallies to defeat Georgia

Kentucky's tennis team, ranked seventh nationally, fell behind 2-0 before taking four straight singles matches to defeat No. 6 Georgia 4-2 in a consolation matchup in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's National Indoor Championships at Seattle.

"This was a great, gutsy performance by my boys today," Kentucky Coach Cedric Kauffmann said. "We bounced back really well after the doubles point and I am proud of the heart that they showed in the match."

The clinching match in singles came on court five as junior Grant Roberts, a Tates Creek graduate, came from a set down to beat Garrett Brasseaux 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2).

■ Kentucky's women's tennis team defeated Indiana 4-3 on Sunday at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex. The Cats' second matchup of the day — against Northern Kentucky — will be rescheduled for a future date.


Tennis

Nadal wins first title since his return

Rafael Nadal beat David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the finals of the Brazil Open on Sunday, his first trophy since returning from a seven-month layoff to treat his left knee. While this indoor clay-court tournament is much more low-profile than those he has grown used to winning, Nadal thrust his arms into the air and pumped his fist after Nalbandian sent a shot long to give the Spaniard his 51st singles title.


The last word

When Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins to win the 1988 slam dunk contest, many thought Wilkins would have been the champ if the event had been anywhere but Chicago. Wilkins was one of the NBA's great dunkers, helping make the dunk contest the marquee event of All-Star weekend for many years. Losses to Jordan and teammate Spud Webb were probably more famous than his victories — even if Wilkins wasn't too sure he actually lost some of them:

"I did it five times. Won it four, got credit for two."

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