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Espinoza on a Derby roll with 2nd straight wins, 3 overall
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Victor Espinoza is getting pretty good at winning the Kentucky Derby. The jockey who calls himself the "the luckiest Mexican on Earth" won his second straight Derby and third overall on Saturday, guiding favorite American Pharoah to a one-length victory over Firing Line before a record crowd of 170,513 at Churchill Downs. Espinoza won last year's Derby aboard another favorite, California Chrome, and with War Emblem in 2002. Two of his wins came for trainer Bob Baffert, with American Pharoah and War Emblem. The 42-year-old became the seventh jockey to win three Derbies and the sixth to win in back-to-back years - Calvin Borel being the most recent with Super Saver in 2010 and Mine That Bird in 2009. Winning, Espinoza said, "never gets old." "There's been a lot of great trainers that haven't been able to win it because they just didn't have the horse, but every great jockey wins the Kentucky Derby," Baffert said in praising his jockey. American Pharoah was the 3-1 favorite in the 18-horse field. After winning last year's race, Espinoza said Baffert congratulated him with this message: "You and I, next year." "What were the odds?" Espinoza asked Saturday. "We were just joking around." Espinoza, among the nation's leading riders, describes himself as nervous and hyper, yet was calm throughout the week. Even his wife said he seemed unexpectedly relaxed. It's understandable why Espinoza felt strongly entering the Derby: American Pharoah had won four straight stakes races by 22 1/4 lengths combined. "It's all about confidence," he said. "I went into this race with so much confidence in American Pharoah. The way he was running, the way he was winning." American Pharoah cruised to a dominating eight-length win in the Arkansas Derby on April 11 that made him the horse to beat. The horse and Espinoza now prepare for the trip to Baltimore in two weeks for the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Espinoza won the Preakness after winning his first two Derbys, but fell short in winning the elusive Triple Crown each time in the Belmont Stakes. Just before the race, the wife of American Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat promised she'd make Espinoza dinner if he won. After he held up his end, she told the crowd at the post-race news conference, "I owe you dinner." Espinoza answered, "I hope you know how to make Mexican food." Sun, 03 May 2015 01:57:00 +0000
American Pharoah gives trainer a long-awaited 4th Derby win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Three times in seven years, Bob Baffert left the Kentucky Derby empty-handed. Two seconds and a sixth-place finish by the wagering favorite. After a while, those close calls started taking a toll. Even for a three-time Derby winner. "When you get beat like that, all these seconds, you get to a point in your life, maybe it's not just going to happen for me," said Baffert, 62, who suffered a heart attack in Dubai three years ago. "And then they sent me this horse. And I thought, `Wow, here's my chance. Don't mess it up, Bob."' On this first Saturday in May, Baffert knew he had the best horse in American Pharoah. Still, he needed a dynamic performance and some old-fashioned racing luck. He got it all - and then some - with a horse that even rival trainers suspect could be a threat to win racing's first Triple Crown in 37 years. Sent off as the 5-2 favorite by the record crowd of 170,513, American Pharoah rallied in the stretch to beat Firing Line by a length and deliver Baffert's first Derby since 2002. "There's a certain aura about him, and he has caught everybody's attention," said a joyous Baffert, surrounded by three older sons from a first marriage and his youngest, 10-year-old Bode, who jumped up and down and waved his arms in celebration. Owner Ahmed Zayat grabbed the gold winner's trophy - his first after a trio of second-place finishes in the $2.1 million race. "Finally, no more seconds," he said, laughing. Baffert trained two of Zayat's runners-up: Pioneerof the Nile in 2009, the sire of American Pharoah; and Bodemeister, named for Baffert's son, three years ago. "This is for the Zayats, who have suffered so much running these seconds," Baffert said. "We know what it is to just get punched right in the face." Baffert also saddled third-place Dortmund, the other part of his lethal 1-2 punch in the 141st Derby. Firing Line finished second. "We were ready to rumble," said Baffert, who went 1-3 in 1998, when Real Quiet won and Indian Charlie was third. "I just love what I saw today from both of my boys." Dortmund set a leisurely pace with Firing Line tracking him closely in second. American Pharoah sat comfortably in third down the backstretch. That trio made it a three-horse race in the stretch, with none of the closers able to make up ground. American Pharoah angled outside and fought off a persistent Firing Line as Dortmund tired along the rail, his six-race winning streak about to end. "Coming for home I thought I might get there, but it wasn't to be," said Gary Stevens, who rode Firing Line. Now, the moment of truth. Could American Pharoah justify Baffert's belief that he was an exceptional colt? "I was on pins and needles all week," the white-haired trainer said. "I know I was coming in here with the best horse." American Pharoah proved him right. Still, it was a long road to the winner's circle for the colt with the unusually short tail - having had it chewed off by another horse on the farm - and the misspelled moniker courtesy of a fan contest. American Pharoah missed his first big test last year when he was scratched from the Breeders' Cup with an injury. He returned with two easy wins this year against lesser competition. Dortmund and several other Derby contenders had beaten much tougher fields, raising questions about whether American Pharoah could mix it up in a 20-horse field. Victor Espinoza won his second consecutive Derby a year after being aboard California Chrome, and third overall. He and Baffert teamed to win with War Emblem 18 years ago. "He's been a special horse since I first rode him," Espinoza said. "I feel like the luckiest Mexican on Earth." American Pharoah ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.02. Baffert tied D. Wayne Lukas and Herbert "Derby Dick" Thompson for second on the career win list. American Pharoah paid $7.80, $5.80, $4.20. Firing Line returned $8.40 and $5.40 at 10-1 odds, while Dortmund was another two lengths back in third and paid $4.20 to show. Zayat took a pre-Derby blow Friday, when one of his other horses, El Kabeir, was scratched because of a sore foot. Mr. Z, his third entry, finished 13th. Trainer Todd Pletcher's trio of Materiality, Itsaknockout and Carpe Diem finished sixth, ninth and 10th. Frosted was fourth, followed by Danzig Moon, Materiality, Keen Ice and Mubtaahij. Itsaknockout was ninth on the same day Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fought in Las Vegas. Carpe Diem was 10th, followed by Frammento, Bolo, Mr. Z, Ocho Ocho Ocho, Far Right, War Story, Tencendur and Upstart. Sun, 03 May 2015 01:32:00 +0000
Kreider's early goal leads Rangers over Capitals in Game 2
NEW YORK (AP) Chris Kreider scored 38 seconds after the opening faceoff and the New York Rangers bounced back from a tough, last-second loss and defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 Saturday. The series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Monday at Washington. Dan Boyle and Derick Brassard also scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves in the entertaining game that featured a highlight-reel goal by Alexander Ovechkin that made the final 10 minutes exciting. Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington and Braden Holtby made 32 saves and prevented the Capitals from being blown out early. Game 2 will be remembered for Kreider's early goal and Ovechkin's spectacular tally in the third period, when the NHL's top goal scorer got past top defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and beat Lundqvist with a top-shelf shot as he was falling to the ice. Sat, 02 May 2015 19:19:00 +0000
Jets take Baylor QB Petty in 4th round, acquire Rams' Stacy
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets added another quarterback to the mix, and then acquired a versatile running back on the final day of the NFL draft. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was selected with the Jets' fourth-round pick after the team moved up one spot Saturday in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets gave up the 104th pick and a seventh-rounder (No. 229) to take Petty. "We felt good about Bryce today, in terms of where he fell," general manager Mike Maccagnan said. "We made a little move just to make sure we got him because in our process we did find that there may have been other teams trying to move up to trade for him." The Jets later dealt their final pick - No. 224 - to St. Louis for running back Zac Stacy, who wrote "yikes" on Twitter shortly after the Rams drafted Georgia running back Todd Gurley in the first round Thursday night. The tweet was later deleted, but it was clear Stacy was not happy and wanted a change of scenery - and the Jets were able to acquire a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Stacy, who ran for 293 yards last season and caught 18 passes for 152 yards, joins a backfield that includes Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Stevan Ridley and Daryl Richardson. Stacy had 973 yards rushing as a rookie in 2013, but took a backseat to Tre Mason last season and figured to see even less action with Gurley on the team. "We thought the idea of bringing Zac in with that kind of investment would be very beneficial and increase the competition at that position," Maccagnan said. In the fifth round, New York selected Texas A&M offensive lineman Jarvis Harrison, who played left guard and left tackle in his senior season. With their final pick, No. 223, the Jets took Northwestern State defensive tackle Deon Simon in the seventh round. New York drafted USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams in the first round Thursday, and selected Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith in the second and Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in the third on Friday. Petty, who threw 61 touchdowns the last two seasons, will work with Geno Smith, the starter the last two seasons, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is recovering from a broken leg that cut short his season last year, and Matt Simms. Coach Todd Bowles recently said the Jets hoped to add another quarterback - either in the draft or free agency. "That was the longest 48 hours I've ever had in my life," Petty said during a conference call shortly after he was selected. "To get that call was, honestly, unbelievable." The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Petty has an impressive resume: He was the consensus 2013 Big 12 offensive player of the year, led Baylor to a 21-4 record as a starter and consecutive conference championships, and he holds 31 school records. His 1.18 career interception percentage is an NCAA record after throwing for 62 TDs and just 10 INTs in 845 attempts at Baylor. He was the fifth quarterback taken, but felt he might have been a bit underrated heading into the draft. Petty played in a quarterback-friendly offense that had some scouts wondering if he could adjust to the complexities of an NFL system. "It's all about the person," Petty said. "My desire is to be the best, regardless of what system I'm in. What I was asked to do in college, it was different, but it's not because I couldn't do a pro-style offense or West Coast-offense or whatever. It's what I was told to do, and I did it." Petty will not be rushed or be expected to compete for the starting job this season. Bowles reiterated that Smith will enter training camp getting the majority of the first-team snaps and Fitzpatrick the second-team reps, so Petty can sit and learn offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system and continue to develop. "He has all the parts and pieces we think would make him potentially a good quarterback in the NFL," Maccagnan said, acknowledging that there will be a learning curve for Petty. "Time will tell what level of player he becomes." Petty made a predraft visit to the Jets' facility, and felt comfortable from the moment he walked through the door. "It just kind of felt like home - home away from home, really," said Petty, who's from Midlothian, Texas. He said the Jets went through a little bit of Gailey's spread-style offense during his visit with the team, and saw some similarities to what he ran at Baylor. "As far as being able to relate, being familiar with things, it was great," Petty said. "It's definitely an offense that your guys can have fun with." --- AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Sat, 02 May 2015 23:42:00 +0000
Paul lifts Clippers past Spurs, 111-109 in Game 7
LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Paul banked in a shot over Tim Duncan with a second left to lift the Los Angeles Clippers to a 111-109 victory over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 on Saturday night for a wild finish to an entertaining first-round series. After Duncan made two free throws to tie it with 8.8 seconds left, Paul drove the right side and put up a one-handed shot over the 39-year Spurs star that went in as he was falling away. Matt Barnes knocked away the inbound pass to seal the victory. The Clippers, who faltered at home in Games 2 and 5, move on to face the Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals starting Monday night in Houston. Paul returned from an early hamstring injury to finish with 27 points. Duncan also had 27 points. Sun, 03 May 2015 03:01:00 +0000