Monday, February 28, 2011
- Easy victory for Starluck on Huntingdon chasing bow
- Cards ace Wainwright done for the season
- Everton v Reading FA Cup fifth round preview
- Can the Sens show the Leafs how to rebuild?
Posted: 28 Feb 2011 07:17 AM PST
Alan Fleming surprised plenty of regular racing scribes earlier this month when he announced that his very classy two-mile hurdler Starluck would switch to chasing and might run in the Arkle Chase if successful on his Huntingdon debut. After winning with plenty to spare at the Cambridgeshire track on Thursday, the option of bidding for the two-mile novice chasing crown remains,
Last seen finishing third to Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton having previously run a fine second to Peddlers Cross in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury in November, most people had expected Starluck to take his chance over timber and bid for the Stan James Champion Hurdle itself. Fleming and the grey's owner Andrew Wates appear to have accepted that the chance of their charge beating the likes of Menorah, Binocular, Peddlers Cross and Hurricane Fly is slim, so after schooling the six-year-old they decided to take the bull by the horns and even at this late stage switch to chasing and he will no doubt attract a few Cheltenham 2011 bets.
In the main Starluck jumped soundly under Tony McCoy, only making a couple of slight novicey errors and always travelling far too strongly for his three rivals at Huntingdon. After jumping the last he coasted clear on the bridle to record a facile six-length victory over Pascha Bere and anyone looking to bet on Cheltenham racing should take this into account.
Fleming wouldn't be drawn on whether his stable star will go for the Arkle Chase, insisting he would have to discuss the matter with the owner before declaring his hand. He also suggested that there was a second option of running in a Sandown novice chase on March 5, missing Cheltenham, and instead heading for either or both of the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals in April.
Posted: 28 Feb 2011 05:06 AM PST
The 2011 MLB season has not even finished spring training yet and already the St. Loius Cardinals are in a jam. Last week, those assessing the March madness odds note how the team found out that ace Adam Wainwright will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and miss the entire season.
Those looking ahead to March madness betting should note that Tommy John surgery reconstructs the ulnar collateral ligament, replacing it with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The procedure requires months of recovery.
Wainwright, who won 20 games last year and was runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award, felt arm stiffness after a throwing session. He had also experienced soreness toward the end of last season and did not pitch during the entire month of September.
This is a huge blow for the Cardinals who are always a contender in the NL Central.
His loss leaves the team with a big hole in a starting rotation that for now includes Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook.
Now it is up to manager Tony La Russa to find someone to fill the void of Wainwright. La Russa has six or seven pitchers in camp who will have the opportunity to join the rotation. That list is headed by reliever Kyle McClellan and includes P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, Adam Ottavino, Ian Snell, Brian Tallet and Brandon Dickson.
Wainwright went 20-11 with a 2.42 earned-run average last season, finishing behind Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in Cy Young balloting while making his first all-star team. His 2.93 ERA since 2007 trails only Halladay, and no NL pitcher threw more than Wainwright's 463 1-3 innings during the past two seasons.
Clearly this is a huge loss for the Cardinals as they try to make it back into the postseason and take a run at another World Series crown.
The Cardinals will also be without Nick Punto to start the 2011 campaign. Punto was lost for between eight and 12 weeks after having surgery to repair a tear in his lower abdomen. Punto was to have seen time mostly at third base.
The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball. Now with Wainwright lost, more pressure will be put on Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and newly signed Lance Berkman.
Can La Russa pull off some of his magic once again and have the Cards in contention for the 2011 World Series? Only time will tell.
Posted: 28 Feb 2011 04:25 AM PST
These clubs have very long but very different FA Cup histories. Reading have gone no further than the semi finals, a feat they achieved in 1926/27, whilst Everton have won the competition five times and been losing finalists on eight occasions.
No team has fallen at the final hurdle more times than the Toffees, so Everton fans perhaps have a bittersweet association with the cup. They lost out to Chelsea in the final two years ago and know they have an excellent opportunity to salvage a disappointing season as only one of the 'big four' will be in the semi finals and the FA Cup odds reflect this.
Only Reading and Leyton Orient can prevent an all-Premier League quarter final line-up and the Royals have nothing to lose against a team whose expectations were raised by putting out holders Chelsea in round four.
Reading should be encouraged by a shaky Everton defence that goes into Saturday's match against Sunderland with just two clean sheets in its last 21 matches, with the in-form hitman Shane Long a major threat.
Everton have been inconsistent all season but will hope the excellent performance at Stamford Bridge acts a springboard in both league and cup. Relegation is still a threat with FA Cup glory the only chance of securing league football at Goodison Park next season.
Reading have been hard to beat all season, maintaining their decent away form of last season, so an upset is perhaps more likely at Goodison than it is in a prospective replay. The Toffees are unlikely to make this one easy for themselves but should progress after being level at half-time.
Posted: 28 Feb 2011 03:47 AM PST
The Ottawa Senators have certainly not displayed the level of performance that they have achieved in recent years to date this season, but they are certainly a side that is well aware of the difficulties in building or rebuilding a hockey franchise so that it is capable of competing to a high enough level to at least stay in contention for the play-offs.
At the moment, the Sens are so far seeing very little of any quality from their players on the ice, but they are very sensibly rebuilding their side off the ice and are doing something that shows they have a very firm understanding not only of the development of rookies and prospects, but also of where you need to start when beginning to rebuild a side by focusing every effort on defence and those who place ice hockey bets will know this.
With the Sens likely to have Spezza and Alfredsson with the franchise for at least the next year or two, GM Bryan Murray will know all too well that he is likely to be granted some time to get his offence settled and strong enough to compete with the very best in the NHL. With this in mind, the Sens now have a stellar opportunity to look at free agents and use up the $20 million that they have not used so far in their salary cap.
However, although the offence is the headline-grabbing part of a hockey team more often than not, it is the defence that takes time to get right. Once the defence is settled and firing on all cylinders, though, it can be crucial if a franchise wishes to have a realistic chance of ending up winning the magnificent Stanley Cup. For this reason, Senators fans must be delighted with the fact that the franchise has already started to find out exactly how best to draft and cultivate the defence so that it can start to consistently provide a firm foundation upon which future success can be achieved.
If they can do this in the space of the next two years, then the Senators will really have shown the long-suffering and misled Toronto Maple Leafs precisely how you rebuild a franchise.
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