CALIFORNIA CHROME HASN’T SCARED OFF THE COMPETITION

 

As many as a dozen -- but probably closer to 10 -- rivals are expected to attempt to foil California Chrome’s bid to become the 12th winner of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown Saturday, June 7, in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes.

 

If California Chrome gets the job done – and it wouldn’t be easy – he’d likely face the most rivals any of the 11 Triple Crown champions had to take on in the Belmont Stakes.

 

The connections of two prospective challengers – Intense Holiday and Danza – have decided  to skip the race. Trainer Todd Pletcher tossed Matterhorn into the mix over the weekend.

 

Here are the 11 Triple Crown champions, with the size of the field, margin of victory, w inning time and win odds or payoffs:

 

Sir Barton (1919) – Faced 2 horses…won by 5 lengths...2 minutes, 17 2/5 seconds (the race was 1 3/8 miles; the Belmont Stakes was 1 ½ miles for the 10 subsequent Triple Crown winners)…2-to-5 odds

 

Gallant Fox (1930) – Faced 3 horses…won by 3 lengths…2:31 2/5…8-to-5 odds (Whichone was favored at 4-to-5)

 

Omaha (1935) – Faced 4 horses…won by 1 ½ lengths…2:30 3/5…4-to-5 odds (entry with Sir Beverley: finished fifth)

 

War Admiral (1937) – Faced 7 horses…won by 3 lengths…2:28 3/5; new track record…4-to-5 odds

 

Whirlaway (1941) – Faced 3 horses…won by 2 ½ lengths…2:31…paid $2.50 for a $2 win bet

 

Count Fleet (1943) – Faced 2 horses…won by 25 lengths…2:28 1/5…paid $2.10 for a $2 win bet

 

Assault (1946) – Faced 6 horses…won by 3 lengths…2:30 4/5…paid $4.80 for a $2 win bet as the second-favorite to Lord Boswell: finished fifth at 1.35-to-1.

 

Citation (1948 – Faced 7 horses…won by 8 lengths…2:28 1/5…paid $2.40 for a $2 win bet

 

Secretariat (1973) – Faced 4 horses…won by 31 lengths…2:24 (world record)…paid $2.20 for a $2 win bet

 

Seattle Slew (1977) – Faced 7 horses…won by 3 ½ lengths…2:29 3/5 in the mud…paid $2.80 for a $2 win bet

 

Affirmed (1978) – Faced 4 horses…won by a head over Alydar…2:26 4/5…paid $3.20 for a $2 win bet.

 

The current 35-year Triple Crown gap is by far the longest. The other gaps between Triple Crown champions were 11 years to 5 years to 2 years to 4 years to 2 years to 3 years to 2 years to 25 years to 4 years to 1 year.

 

KNIGHTHAWKS STILL SHOULD BE FAVORED TO THREE-PEAT

 

The 2014 Champion’s Cup will be decided Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial as the Rochester Knighthawks will attempt to become the first team to win three consecutive National Lacrosse League championships.

 

The Calgary Roughnecks beat Rochester 10-7 last Saturday night in the first game of the series. The series will end Saturday night – in regulation if Calgary sweeps, or in a 10-minute overtime or subsequent sudden-death overtime if the Knighthawks win Game 2.

 

Calgary is a terrific team but if Las Vegas took bets on the Champion’s Cup – and it doesn’t – I believe Rochester would be a slight favorite. A few reasons why:

 

Rochester had the better regular-season record (14-4 to Calgary’s 13-5) and Rochester has won nine straight home playoff games.

 

The Knighthawks obviously missed second-leading scorer and savvy leader Dan Dawson (chest injury) in the loss in Calgary. In fairness, the Roughnecks missed veteran Geoff Snider, who led the NLL in faceoff winning percentage and loose balls this season.

 

The impressive crowd (16,541) in Calgary undoubtedly helped the Roughnecks. Blue Cross Arena can’t hold that many people, but when the crowd is 10,000-plus, it can be as loud as any arena. This will be another valid test of Greater Rochester as a pro sports community.

 

CHRIS COLABELLO HAS LOTS TO PLAY FOR

 

Chris Colabello, the 2013 Rochester Red Wings star slugger  and International League MVP and Rookie of the Year at the ripe old age of 29, is  back with Rochester.

 

Colabello was one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball for the first month of this season and one of the best sports stories of the spring.

 

Unfortunately, Colabello was one of the coldest hitters in the majors in May:

 

March/April – 24 games; .295 batting average (28-for-95); 11 runs; 8 doubles; 3 HRs; 27 RBI; 6 walks; 24 strikeouts; .337 on-base percentage; .473 slugging percentage; .809 OPS.

 

May – 16 games; .125 batting average (7-for-56); 1 double; 1 HR; 3 RBI; 3 walks; 24 strikeouts; .169 on-base percentage; .196 slugging percentage; .366 OPS.

 

When Minnesota recalled Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham from Rochester on Sunday,  there were several candidates to be assigned to the Red Wings. Chris Herrman and Colabello got the bad news.

 

Rochester fans need not worry about Colabello moping around. He’s a gamer every time he puts on a uniform. He loves the game as much as any baseball player anywhere. He was a very confident hitter for the Twins in April and a confused hitter in May. He was in a 0-for-23 slump when he was demoted.  He didn’t play in six of his last seven games with Minnesota. But when he packed his bags for Rochester, he still was leading the Twins with 30 RBI and was tied for 12th in the American League.

 

I don’t know how many other players have been demoted in the last week of May despite leading their teams in RBI. It probably happened before but I can’t tell you when.

 

Colabello might not be part of Minnesota’s long-term plans, but he figures to get more playing time in the majors this season—with the Twins or another team -- if he devours IL pitching the way he did with Rochester last season: 89 games;  .352 batting average (119-for-338); 58 runs; 25 doubles; 24 HRs; 76 RBI; .427 on-base percentage; .639 slugging percentage; 1.066 OPS.

 

BIG CROWD FOR A HOT TEAM

 

Thumbs up to Naomi Silver, Dan Mason, Gary Larder and all of the Rochester Community Baseball family for offering such a terrific deal on Memorial Day afternoon.

 

Most holiday Red Wings games haven’t been huge draws here in recent seasons, but Monday’s deal was tough to pass up: $5 tickets for all seats and 50-cent hot dogs. On a beautiful day for baseball, the families poured through the gates.

 

The International League’s hottest team came through with another impressive team effort in the 10-5 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs.

 

The season-best crowd of 10,169 helped to make Frontier a place-to-be on this Memorial Day. RCB couldn’t afford to offer $5 seats and 50-cent hot dogs for every game, but if this was an experiment, it worked out splendidly.

 

A few impressive stats on the Red Wings: 27-22 record includes International League-best 17-7 at home…outscoring opponents 200-174 (+26)…Best ERA in all of Triple-A (3.26); only 370 hits allowed in 421 2/3 innings; second-most strikeouts in IL (396) and sixth-fewest walks (167)…Rank last in IL in home runs (26) but have surrendered only 27…38 stolen bases (seventh in IL) and only 12 caught stealing.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

Pittsford’s Steve Bartlett, the former Rochester Americans stick boy and trainer, who has become one of the top player agents in the NHL, was the subject of a page 1 feature by John Vogl in Sunday’s The Buffalo News. Bartlett’s clients include 25-to-30 in the NHL, 30 more in the minors and Europe, plus prospects. He negotiated the most recent contracts for Thomas Vanek, Ryan Callahan and Brian Gionta for a combined $87 million. He’ll be working on new contracts for them this summer.

 

Willie Monroe Jr., born in Rochester and residing in Ithaca, figures to get a few nice paydays after his upset victory in the eight-man Boxino middleweight championship on ESPN. He had three wins in a 12-week span, including a unanimous decision over tourney favorite Vitaly Kopylenko. Boxing insiders say the 27-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr.-style defense-first Monroe will soon take on a top-10 ranked middleweight or junior middleweight. His record is 18-1 (6 knockouts). His only loss was a split decision to Darnell Boone in March 2011. He’s 8-0 in Rochester (6-0 at Main Street Armory, 1-0 at Frontier Field and 1-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium).

 

The Rochester Rhinos host Reading United AC Wednesday night at Sahlen’s Stadium in a third round U.S. Open Cup match. A victory would set up a fourth-round match against D.C. United of the MSL on June 17 at Sahlen’s Stadium. That might be the attraction the Rhinos could use to wake up potential paying customers. Coach Bob Lilley’s team has a decent record (3-2-4 in USL PRO) and has allowed only 7 goals in the nine games (that’s good). But the Rhinos have scored only 8 goals in those nine games (that’s not so good in terms of satisfying most fans). Soccer purists mainly care about results. The casual or curious sports fans want to see some goals.

 

A top contender  for MVP of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs is Toronto Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre.  The former disappointing Rochester Amerk (8-12-0-2; 3.19 goals-against average; .899 saves percentage in the 2011-12 season), entered Monday night with this sparkling playoffs line: 8-0 record, 1.49 GAA and .955 save percentage. Texas won 6-3 at home Monday night despite 46 saves by MacIntryre. The series is tied 1-1 with the next three games in Toronto.

 

Blast from the past: The last Rochester Red Wing with a 100-RBI season was Willis Otanez, way back in 1998. In 124 games. He batted .285, with exactly 100 RBI and 27 HRs. At age 41, he’s still going strong for Rieleros de Aguascalientes in the Triple-A Mexican League. In 42 games at first base, he’s hitting .346, with 13 HRs and a league-leading 48 RBI. His home production is ridiculous: .475 batting average (38-for-80), with 11 HRs and 41 RBI in 21 games.

 

Early projected 2014 AFC East standings by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders: New England 10-6, Miami 7-9, Buffalo 7-9, New York Jets 6-10. Of the Bills, Schatz wrote: “Buffalo and Miami are Buffalo and Miami, and will continue to be Buffalo and Miami. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see either EJ Manuel or Ryan Tannehill take a big step forward and get his respective team into the playoffs, but otherwise these teams seem to be mediocre year after year and offer no indication that they’re ready to break that trend.”