Hymn Book wins Donn; Shackleford, Ruler On Ice fade
Hymn Book won the $500,000 Grade I Donn Handicap on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, holding off a field that included Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont champion Ruler On Ice.
Hymn Book ran 11⁄8 miles in 1:49.16 and paid $15, $7.80, and $5.60. Mission Impazible was second and returned $9.20 and $5.80. Redeemed was third, paying, $4.60.
Trickmeister set the pace followed by Shackleford with Hymn Book running well behind for most of the race. The 6-year-old made a push around the far turn racing five wide and then finished strong down the stretch edging Mission Impazible by a nose at the finish.
"It worked out perfect," Hymn Book jockey John Velazquez said. "He broke well enough to save some ground into the first turn, and I was able to kind of give up a little bit at the quarter pole. When I pulled him out, he came running. He put up a good fight down the stretch."
Trickmeister and Shackleford both faded down the stretch finishing sixth and seventh. Ruler On Ice was never a factor and finished eighth.
"This was a good field," Hymn Book trainer Shug McGaughey said. "We were concerned about the post position (10 of 11), and he kind of got caught out there on the first turn but then got a good position down the backstretch. Johnny has always had a lot of confidence in him. He trained great for this race."
It was a surprise to see Shackleford fade the way he did, considering strong past performances, but there was not an immediate reason for his subpar race.
"He came back fine," Shackleford trainer Dale Romans said. "That's all I know right now."
In a Kentucky Derby prep at Gulfstream on Saturday, Thunder Moccasin ($2.40 to win), won the Grade II, $150,000 Hutcheson.
Ever So Lucky was scratched from the race, and trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Saturday that he would look at several options, including the Grade II Swale Stakes on March 10.
Pletcher gets 3,000th victory
Five-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher reached a personal milestone Saturday, sending out his 3,000th career winner at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher, who earned his second straight training title on The New York Racing Association circuit in 2011, reached 2,999 with Seniors Pride in the eighth at Aqueduct on Friday afternoon and hit 3,000 with Spring Hill Farm in the third race at Gulfstream.
"I've been blessed through the years with great horses, great owners, a great staff and wonderful family and friends," Pletcher said by telephone from Florida. "It's a difficult game to take a pause and reflect on the past, but a milestone like this gives you a chance to look back and appreciate how important each victory is."
Of those victories, 484 came at Aqueduct (12th all-time), 537 at Belmont Park (third all-time) and 324 at Saratoga Race Course (first all-time).
■ Reigning juvenile champion Hansen will make his next start in the Grade III, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 3 rather than the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26, part-owner Harvey Diamond said Saturday.
"We felt that the Gotham was a good spot, and the timing was excellent," Diamond said of the Mike Maker-trained colt. "We would love to take a shot at the Big Apple."
Kahne has knee surgery, won't miss Daytona
NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne is expected to be ready for the Daytona 500 next week following knee surgery. Hendrick Motorsports said Saturday that Kahne had torn cartilage in his left knee and underwent surgery Friday at an outpatient facility in Charlotte, N.C. He went to a doctor a day earlier because of swelling. The team said Kahne will not have a backup driver in Daytona. Teams report next week to Daytona International Speedway to begin preparing for the Feb. 26 season-opening race. Kahne had knee-cartilage surgery in 2011 on a Monday and raced that Saturday night at Richmond. He also had surgery on both knees in December 2010 to repair buildup of tissue in his knees.
Ward trying to stick with Steelers
Steelers receiver Hines Ward wants to retire with in Pittsburgh, offering to restructure his contract to do it. Ward posted on his Facebook page Saturday that he's already told the Steelers he's willing to work with them on altering his deal so he can remain with the team. Ward's comments came after NFL.com reported the Steelers are planning to cut the franchise's all-time leading receiver.
"I don't normally like to respond to rumors, but as I've said all along, I want to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers," Ward posted.
The 14-year veteran is scheduled to make $4 million in 2012. He's coming off a season in which he finished with 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns, the lowest totals in each category since he was a rookie in 1998. Ward, who turns 36 next month, became the eighth player in league history to reach 1,000 career receptions in the regular-season finale against Cleveland. He and Jerry Rice are the only players in league history to reach 1,000 receptions and win multiple Super Bowls.
Yet Ward's role within the offense diminished as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders passed him on the depth chart and Mike Wallace became a Pro Bowler. Ward pushed aside speculation he would retire after the Steelers' season ended with a 29-23 overtime loss to Denver in the wild card round.
"No, I'm not even thinking about that," Ward said at the time.
The 2006 Super Bowl MVP did not catch a pass against the Broncos, the first time in Ward's career he was held without a reception in a post-season game. His future is one of several questions that will need to be addressed during what's already been an active off-season for one of the league's most stable franchises.
Fish, Bryan finish off upset of Swiss
The United States swept favored Switzerland out of the Davis Cup on Saturday when Mardy Fish and Mike Bryan beat Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in Fribourg, Switzerland. Teaming for only the second time, Fish and Bryan comfortably handled the 2008 Olympic doubles champions in front of an occasionally hostile Swiss crowd of 7,000.
"This is probably going down as one of the most memorable (wins)," said Bryan, who played on the 2007 winning team.
The doubles victory gave the Americans a 3-0 lead in the best-of-five, first-round series. They advanced to the quarterfinals in April, when they again will be on the road — against France or Canada.
Softball opens season 1-3
The Kentucky softball team's Ginny Carroll and Krystal Smith hit back-to-back homers, but that was all the offense for the Cats as they lost 6-2 to UCLA in the final game of the Stacy Windsberg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles. UK went 1-3 at the season-opening tourney and next plays at the Florida Atlantic Tournament on Friday.
The last word
Ohio State basketball assistant Jeff Boals on center Jared Sullinger's play in the paint:
"Obviously, Jared's got a big butt, and he uses it to his advantage."