Effinex early favorite: Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah this season, will attempt to complete his 3-year-old campaign on a high note when he takes on eight rivals in the $500,000 Clark Handicap on Friday at Churchill Downs.
The field also includes Effinex, who was second to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland; defending Clark winner Hoppertunity; the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Race Day and Protonico; and Frivolous, a 5-year-old mare who will attempt to become the 10th female to win the Clark. Mr. Z, Shotgun Cowboy and Looks to Spare are also entered.
The Dale Romans-trained Keen Ice shocked the racing world in late August when he handed American Pharoah the only loss of his 3-year-old season in a 16-1 upset in Saratoga’s million Travers. The son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin ran fourth to American Pharoah in a rematch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
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Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia installed Keen Ice as the 3-1 second choice in his Clark morning line. Effinex, a New York-bred son of Mineshaft, is the 5-2 morning line favorite for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
▪ Keeper Hill, winner of the 1998 Kentucky Oaks and heroine of the Grade I Spinster at Keeneland the following season, died on Nov. 20 at Mill Ridge Farm, the operation announced Tuesday. The daughter of Deputy Minister was 20. Headley Bell of Mill Ridge said Keeper Hill passed away quietly due to natural causes and was buried on the farm.
▪ Grade I winner and sire Yes It’s True, 19, was euthanized on Monday at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute after he showed signs of colic and was later diagnosed with a perforated intestine, Three Chimneys Farm announced. He was buried at Three Chimneys.
Tigers roll: Deondre McWhorter (Moore) scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Georgetown (8-0) to a 112-59 rout of Morthland. Edson Avila added 16 points and 19 rebounds, and Trent Gilbert (Scott County) had 17 points and five steals.
▪ Frederick Edmond scored 16 points and Justin Johnson (Perry County Central) added 13 to lead Western Kentucky past Central Michigan 88-60. The Hilltoppers (3-2) led by as many as 36 in the second half.
▪ Corban Collins had 15 points and six assists to lead Morehead State (3-1) past visiting Marshall 85-61.
▪ Wayne Langston scored 17, including the game-winning jumper with 53 seconds left, to help Murray State (4-1) beat Pepperdine 59-55 in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.
▪ Darius Jones-Gibson (Tates Creek) scored 23 points in Samford’s 74-72 win at North Texas. Samford improved to 4-1.
▪ Anthony “Cat” Barber scored 20 points and North Carolina State needed overtime to get an 83-72 victory over No. 22 LSU. Tigers star freshman Ben Simmons fouled out had four points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
▪ Former Woodford County star Jay Johnson will transfer to Kentucky Wesleyan from Marshall for his senior season in 2016-17.
▪ Eastern Kentucky’s women defeated host Miami (Ohio) 77-72 in overtime. Shameekia Murray scored 25 points and Michaela Hunter (Rockcastle County) had 22.
Manziel benched: Johnny Manziel partied his way out of the lineup during Cleveland’s bye week. Browns Coach Mike Pettine benched the polarizing quarterback for his off-field behavior. Josh McCown will start Monday night’s game against Baltimore in place of Manziel, who had recently been handed the starting job. Manziel’s benching came in the wake of a video surfacing of him holding a bottle of champagne and rapping profane lyrics last weekend in an Austin, Texas, nightclub. He had promised not to bring any embarrassment to the team during its week off, and did just that. Manziel will not only move back behind McCown, but he’ll also be below Austin Davis on the depth chart.
▪ The Broncos’ Peyton Manning, who has a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, will miss at least the next two weeks after consulting with a foot specialist who put him in a walking boot.
Playoff rankings: Oklahoma moved into third and Iowa was fourth in the new College Football Playoff rankings as Notre Dame slipped to No. 6. Clemson and Alabama remained the top two teams in the third-to-last committee rankings.
▪ Eastern Kentucky junior Noah Spence was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with Eastern Illinois’ Dino Fanti. Spence was also chosen first team All-OVC, along with Colonels tight end Ben Madon (Bell County), offensive tackle Brett Eyckmans (Beechwood), kicker Lucas Williams (Russell County) and punter Keith Wrzuszczak.
The last word
Browns Coach Mike Pettine said much of his displeasure in Johnny Manziel stems in him not understanding that his behavior is a reflection on the team:
“You have a vision of what you want the team to look like, how you want them to handle themselves when they’re out of the building. It’s not just pure football here, it’s truly player development on and off the field. We always say to whom much is given, much is expected, and that’s true for all of our players.”
Wire and staff reports