Daniel Tran

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

kentucky derby
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Without Alcaraz, Spain beats Serbia 3-0 in Davis Cup Finals

davis cup final
Oscar J. Barroso/Getty Images
5 Comments

No Carlos Alcaraz, no problem for Spain.

In front of a partisan home crown at Valencia, Spain cruised to a 3-0 win over Serbia in the Davis Cup Finals to move top of its group.

The top-ranked Alcaraz had arrived in Valencia the previous day but skipped the opening round, which was taking place only three days after the Spanish teenager won the U.S. Open. He did appear during the national anthems, much to the crowd’s delight.

Sunday’s victory over Casper Ruud saw the 19-year-old Alcaraz become the youngest man to lead the ATP computerized rankings since they began in 1973.

But Albert Ramos Vinolas rallied to beat Laslo Dere 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the opening rubber that lasted just under three hours. And Roberto Bautista Agut prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) over Miomir Kecmanovic to secure victory.

The crowd roared in delight and Bautista Agut sunk to his knees after placing a backhand out of Kecmanovic’s reach after 2 hours, 15 minutes.

“The best experiences of my life playing tennis have been in this competition,” Bautista Agut said. “Today I really enjoyed playing in front of the Spanish crowd in Valencia, next to my home town.

“I’m exhausted because it was a tough match and we have a lot of work to do this week.”

Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez beat Nikola Cacic and Dusan Lajovic 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles to complete the whitewash of Serbia, which is without Novak Djokovic.

Granollers and Bautista Agut were part of Spain’s victorious Davis Cup team in 2019.

Three other venues – Bologna in Italy, Hamburg, Germany and Glasgow, Scotland – are hosting group-stage matches ahead of the single-venue quarterfinals that will be played in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.

In Group D, in Glasgow, Andy Murray had a disappointing return to Davis Cup action as the United States won a tight contest against Britain.

Tommy Paul gave the Americans the early lead when he beat Dan Evans 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The tie appeared to be heading the Americans’ way when Cameron Norrie lost the opening set of the second singles in 45 minutes, but Norris recovered to beat Taylor Fritz 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5.

Murray teamed in the doubles with Joe Salisbury for only his second Davis Cup appearance since 2016 but the duo were beaten 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 by Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram in a match that ended at 1 a.m.

“We were playing against one of the biggest legends of the game, playing in his home county,” Sock told the BBC. “It was an electric atmosphere. We stuck it out and got the win.”

The Americans play Kazakhstan in their next match on Thursday while Britain takes on the Netherlands.

“It’s tough, it’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday and we’ve got to go again in 13 hours,” U.S. stand-in captain Bob Bryan said. “Kazakhstan won’t be any easier.”

In Group C in Hamburg, a home crowd helped propel Germany to its first win over France since 1938.

Jan-Lennard Struff put Germany in front with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Benjamin Bonzi, after the Frenchman failed to convert two match points. But Adrian Mannarino evened the tie with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Oscar Otte.

However, Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz maintained their perfect Davis Cup record as a pairing by defeating Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (1) to end a run of eight straight defeats for Germany against France.

The hosts also won in Group A, in Bologna, as Italy beat top-ranked Croatia 3-0.

Lorenzo Mussetti eased past Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-2 before Matteo Berrettini rallied to beat Borna Coric 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli also had to recover from a set down to see off Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3).

Gojo, Mektic and Pavic were all part of the Croatia team that lost to Russia in last year’s final. Croatia also won the Davis Cup in 2018.

Russia will not be able to defend its title from last year after being banned from international team competitions because of the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Horse bred by Queen Elizabeth II wins race at Pimlico

1 Comment

BALTIMORE — A horse bred by Queen Elizabeth II won a race at Pimlico on Saturday, two days after the British monarch died following seven decades on the throne.

West Newton, a 6-year-old gelding, rallied from sixth place to win by a half-length at the track in Baltimore. He ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:52.12 in the $36,000 race. The gelding was ridden by Forest Boyce and trained by Richard Hendriks.

West Newton is out of the mare Queen’s Prize, also bred by the late monarch.

The victory was worth $21,000 for owner Upland Flats Racing. West Newton paid $16.20 to win on a $2 bet.

The gelding began his career in England. West Newton had most recently competed over hurdles. It was his fourth win in 19 career starts.

The queen died Thursday at age 96.