Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Three Tampa Bay Downs grads in Kentucky Derby

OLDSMAR — For Jamie Ness and the other trainers at Tampa Bay Downs, it is time to look ahead. Time to clear out the stalls. Time to try different venues.

It is moving weekend at the Downs, which ends its 87th season of thoroughbred racing Sunday. The Downs season officially won't end until June 30, when it will hold one extra day of racing.

"Everybody is in the same deal," Ness said. "They've got an addiction for the horses. You're always glad to get here from another meet. Then when the meet is over, you're ready to get to another one. It's more of a gypsy lifestyle, and it breaks up the long year."

Sunday is Fan Appreciation Day. But today is a special one for the Downs. For the first time, the top three finishers in the Tampa Bay Derby — undefeated Verrazano, Java's War and Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky — will start in a Kentucky Derby.

The first jewel of the Triple Crown will be simulcast from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to the Oldsmar oval, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Greyhound Track. All three area sites open at 10 this morning. The Run for the Roses is Race 11 at 6:24 p.m.

Ness said it will "be cool" to see the Tampa Bay Derby trio in the Kentucky Derby, but he doubts any of them will become the third Oldsmar graduate to win the 1¼-mile classic. "I really like Orb," Ness said. "He seems like a horse that is getting better every time he runs. He's bred for longer distances, and all I hear in the backstretch is how good that horse is and how good he's coming into this race. I think Verrazano is going to be a little bit short."

Ness, 38, will leave the Downs with his seventh consecutive training championship (he shared it twice, with Gerald Bennett and Kathleen O'Connell). He didn't overpower his rivals the way he did in 2011-12, when he set a track record for victories with 79 (47 percent win rate). Ness leads with 46 wins from 134 starts, 13 ahead of Jorge Navarro. The Odessa resident leads in purse earnings at $490,397.

"I didn't even have a clue (it was seven titles in a row)," Ness said. "It seems like yesterday when we got our first one. We had another solid, consistent year, and it worked out. It was just a grind. We won two, three or four races every week."

Some of the horses Ness usually runs at the Downs competed this year at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, where the Heron, S.D., native won 11 races. Ness, who captured his first national wins crown in 2012, will consolidate his operation this summer. He will have 75 horses at Delaware Park in Stanton and 25 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Ness' client, Midwest Thoroughbreds, will be the Downs' leading owner for the fourth straight season.

DERBY LANE DOGS: Venus Espinosa of Patriot kennel goes for his 60th career win today in Race 6 (1:54 p.m.). … The $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes begins tonight in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10.

Comments
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frien...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Cabreras win Father-Son Challenge in Orlando

ORLANDO — Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory Sunday in their debut at the Father-Son Challenge. "This is certainly my best week of the year," said Cabrera, 48, who has one of the best nicknames on tou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Avalanche

Could tell just how much Ryan Callahan meant in the Lightning dressing room by hearing teammates talk about his latest injury. Steven Stamkos said he was "sick to my stomach." Brayden Point called him a "heart and soul player." Teammates all saw how ...
Published: 12/16/17
Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

The good news for the Lightning is that GM Steve Yzerman is hopeful RW Ryan Callahan will be ready to go in 3-4 weeks when his upper body injury is re-evaluated. The hard part, however, is finding someone to replace the veteran wing. "I don’t know if...
Published: 12/16/17
Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Thunder 111-96 Saturday night for their fourth straight victory. Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 ...
Published: 12/16/17
Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

BOSTON — Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal 1:56 into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday. Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller also scored for the Rangers, who won for the ninth time in 13 games (9-3-1) overall...
Published: 12/16/17

Sports in brief

MLBTRADE SENDS KEMP BACK TO L.A.OF Matt Kemp was reacquired by the Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Braves. The Dodgers sent 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Charlie Culberson and cash to Atla...
Published: 12/16/17