Derby-winning trainer havingstellar meet at Saratoga
Losing 3-year-old standouts Animal Kingdom and Toby's Corner didn't slow trainer Graham Motion, who is lighting it up at Saratoga Race Course in New York. The transplanted Englishman has won with five of 18 starters, along with three seconds.
Three years ago, John Panagot spent his first post-college graduation summer as a handicapper/writer for the Saratoga Special, a seasonal publication. With no job after Labor Day, he asked Motion for work, and Panagot started at the bottom, walking horses at Keeneland. Now, as stable manager, his horseplayer savvy helps Motion pick the best spots to run his stock.
"We've had a great start to the meet," Panagot said. "We won with our first runner on opening day and just kept going. That's really a relief. When you come up here, you're nervous because it's so competitive."
Upsets this spring by Toby's Corner (Wood Memorial) and Animal Kingdom (Kentucky Derby) proved you no longer could pigeonhole Motion as a turf specialist. Grass still is his best game, though, with four of his five Saratoga victories there. Motion scored last week with two horses born on the other side of the Atlantic. The British-bred filly Humadea ($15.60) cruised Thursday at 13⁄16 miles in her career debut. The next day, the German-bred gelding Sanagas ($13.80) won the John's Call Stakes at 15⁄8 miles.
There aren't many better marathon men than Motion. "Usually when they run 15⁄8-mile races, I'm in them," Panagot said. "And Sanagas is really bred for the distance."
As for Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Toby's Corner, they're recuperating from leg injuries and not projected to return until early next year. Animal Kingdom had surgery for a fractured left hind leg, and Panagot said he's grazing and being hand-walked at Motion's Fair Hill, Md., base. Toby's Corner is at a Pennsylvania farm after going slightly lame the Monday before the Derby.
"They never really figured out exactly what the problem was with Toby's Corner, but the eye doesn't lie, and Graham knew he couldn't run him," Panagot said. "Now he's on the same time schedule as Animal Kingdom."
Paterno 'fine' after practice collision
Joe Paterno was hospitalized and undergoing tests on his right arm and hip after a player ran into the 84-year-old coach during practice in State College, Pa. Paterno was admitted Sunday evening to Mount Nittany Medical Center after he walked away from the collision with a receiver, the school said Monday. Receiver Devon Smith was running a drill when he blindsided the Hall of Fame coach.
"I expect to be back at practice soon," Paterno said in a statement. "I'm doing fine; tell everyone not to worry about me."
Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State director of athletic medicine, said it doesn't appear surgery will be required. The school said Paterno could be released in the next 24 hours.
Paterno conducted Monday morning's coaches meeting by phone from the hospital, according to Penn State. Assistant coaches will be running practice while Paterno is gone.
Ole Miss' QB race could take all August
Mississippi offensive coordinator David Lee said he hopes that sometime over the next three weeks his choice for starting quarterback will be obvious. The three guys competing for the job are making it difficult.
"They all do good things," Lee said. "It's tough to brush a guy aside because they're all making good reads and they'll all have moments when they struggle. There's going to be a lot of practice tape studied in the next few weeks."
Sophomore Barry Brunetti and juniors Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt are locked in a three-man quarterback race that could take most of August to decide. Coach Houston Nutt and Lee have said that Brunetti has a slight advantage.
The 6-foot, 213-pound Brunetti transferred to Ole Miss from West Virginia during the off-season and was cleared to play immediately by the NCAA because of a family hardship. His hometown is Memphis, about an hour away from the Rebels' campus.
Squirrel season to kick off fall hunting
Kentucky's fall squirrel season, a 192-day split season that signals the start of fall hunting, opens on Aug. 20 and continues through Nov. 11. The season opens again Nov. 14 and runs through Feb. 29, 2012. The daily bag limit will be six squirrels.
Ben Robinson, small game biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the outlook for the season is excellent.
"Last fall we had a really good mast (nut) crop, particularly the red and white oak groups, with the hickories close behind," Robinson said. "There was lots of food and females were in good condition going into breeding. There should be lots of young squirrels this fall."
The department's annual mast survey began in 1953 and evaluates the crop of nuts produced by hickory, white and red oak and beech trees. These nuts are the most important foods for Kentucky's forest wildlife — squirrels, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and bear.
LSU's Derenbecker won't return
LSU forward Matt Derenbecker, who started 16 games as a freshman last season, is withdrawing from school for reasons related to his performance in the classroom. His father, John Derenbecker, said his son is academically eligible to continue playing for the Tigers, but he has struggled to meet "personal standards" as it relates to his course work.
"Matt has to become more adept at balancing all of the requirements of being a student-athlete and that begins with the academic side of it," said John Derenbecker, a former Vanderbilt basketball player. "He is eligible, but he can do better in the classroom and that has always been our major emphasis."
Matt Derenbecker received his release from LSU on Monday and now intends to transfer to another school as soon as possible, his father said, but he will take a year off from playing before resuming his college basketball career.
"He's going to have to change some of his study habits," John Derenbecker said. "LSU gave him every opportunity as a basketball player. This really wasn't a basketball move or anything along that front. This was strictly to fulfill his potential as a student."
The 6-foot-7 Matt Derenbecker averaged 6.5 points in 32 games in his freshman season at LSU, with a season-high 19 points against Mississippi.
■ Georgetown center Moses Ayegba has a torn ACL in his right knee and could miss the upcoming season. Ayegba played in six games last year. He averaged 1.7 points and 0.5 rebounds.
Mother of NASCAR's Hendrick dies
Mary Hendrick, mother of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, died Monday. She was 88. Known as "Miss Mary," she was listed as owner of the No. 5 car that Mark Martin drives in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. She was previously listed as owner of the No. 25 Chevrolet from 2005 through 2007.
The last word
They don't call it Hot-Lanta for nothing. On Monday, as most of the players showed up at the Atlanta Athletic Club to begin practicing for the PGA Championship, the conditions were about par for the course this year: the temperature climbed into the mid-90s, and the humidity made it feel like the 100s.
Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champion, wasn't concerned:
"If I'm worried about the heat, then I must not be in very good shape. They give you water on every single tee box. If you're not smart enough to drink it, then you ought to collapse."