Awesome Maria wins at Belmont; Unrivaled Belle hurt before race
Awesome Maria took advantage of the absence of Unrivaled Belle to easily win the $245,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap for fillies and mares on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Unrivaled Belle, winner of the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic in November, reared and flipped over in the paddock prior to the race. She sustained a career-ending injury and was retired.
With a key rival unexpectedly removed, Awesome Maria pulled away to a 3-length win over Payton d'Oro. John Velazquez was aboard as the 4-year-old captured a fourth straight stakes, improving to 7-for-12. Besides training the winner, Todd Pletcher also sent out Super Espresso and Life At Ten, the third and fourth-place finishers, respectively.
Unrivaled Belle, the 2-1 morning-line second choice in the race, broke her withers, the ridge between her shoulder blades, during the pre-race incident.
"She didn't come down with a big thud, it was more of a soft landing, but when she got up I knew immediately she had broken her withers," said the 5-year-old's trainer, Bill Mott. "I've had horses come back and win stakes after they break their withers, but she'll be retired and go on to be a broodmare."
■ Blind Luck rallied from last at the top of the stretch to win the $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. Returning to California after a win in the La Troienne May 6 at Churchill Downs, Blind Luck sat sixth in the field of six fillies and mares before roaring back in the stretch and holding off another rally from favorite Switch to win by a half-length.
■ Pants On Fire held off Concealed Identity by 2 lengths in the $200,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Trained by Kelly Breen and ridden by Rosie Napravnik, the 3-year-old colt made the Grade III race his third win in 10 career starts.
■ Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Churchill Downs' leading apprentice jockey, will miss the rest of the Spring Meet after suffering a fracture to his right tibia during a spill aboard Holy Shazaaam in Friday's sixth race. The 18-year-old apprentice, who had nine wins at Churchill Downs this spring, is expected to miss about three weeks.
Barber explains comeback attempt
Tiki Barber said failures off the field after his retirement from football in 2006 led to a yearlong bout with depression. The 36-year-old Barber, the New York Giants' career leading rusher, acknowledged in an HBO report to be aired Tuesday that he now needs football more than it needs him.
Barber has spent the past four months working out in an attempt to make a comeback, although his chances rest on the league and its players reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.
Barber said football represents a necessary anchor in a life turned upside down by the depressive aftermath of scandalous divorce and disintegration of his television career.
"The game never needs you because there's always someone else to come and take your place," he told HBO. "But right now, I need the game. ... I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something. I know I'm going to be successful as a football player. I don't know why. The odds say 'No.' I'm 36 and I haven't played in four years. But I just know."
The report recounts the downward spiral Barber's life took shortly after his retirement. What started as a promising career as an NBC football analyst ended in his firing. His marriage to his college sweetheart collapsed. And his relationship with a 23-year-old NBC intern which continues today soiled a well-honed, family-man image.
Barber said he was unable to deal with losing his $2 million per year job, which started as a football analyst for Football Night in America and progressed to a featured role on the Today show. But his demotion to on-field duties and, eventually, to unemployment, led to depression. "I crafted this career, right?" he said. "And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It's hard to deal with."
College World Series
Florida, Vandy both win openers
Brian Johnson and Bryson Smith drove in two runs apiece, Hudson Randall turned in another strong start and Florida defeated Texas 8-4 at the College World Series on Saturday night in Omaha, Neb. Johnson's two-out double in the seventh broke open a close game. Smith's second RBI single the next inning gave reliever Nick Maronde a four-run cushion going into the ninth. Maronde, a Lexington Catholic graduate, struck out three and gave up no hits in two innings for his third save of the season for the Gators.
Florida (51-17) moves to a Bracket 1 winners' game against Vanderbilt on Monday night.
The Commodores' Connor Harrell hit the first College World Series home run in the new TD Ameritrade Park to break a sixth-inning tie and Vanderbilt (53-10) defeated North Carolina 7-3. Harrell's two-run homer off Patrick Johnson over the left-field bullpen followed Conrad Gregor's tying double off the top of the wall. Johnson (13-2), who had allowed three earned runs in his previous 45 innings, was tagged for four earned — five total — in six innings.
Still time to enter Bluegrass Games
Registration is still ongoing for the 2011 Bluegrass State Games, which starts Friday, July 8, and runs through early August. New events this year include skateboarding, wakeboarding, water skiing and cross country. You can go to www.bgsg.org to sign up.
■ Calbert Cheaney is returning to Indiana to relearn the college game. The Big Ten's career scoring leader was hired Saturday by Coach Tom Crean as the Hoosiers' new director of basketball operations. Crean made the announcement during his father/son basketball camp, ending several days of speculation that one of the best players in school history would be back on campus.
■ The Washington Wizards picked up the third-year options on the rookie contracts of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin.
■ Dario Franchitti won the pole position for the IndyCar race Sunday at the Milwaukee Mile with an average speed of 170.841 mph. Helio Castroneves qualified second, followed by Scott Dixon.
The last word
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, speaking at the Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame inductions, on the popularity of Vols women's basketball coach Pat Summitt:
"If she were running for governor, I wouldn't be standing here."