USC Will Be Without Anthony Sarao For Spring

USC LB Anthony Sarao with a pick-six against UCLA in 2014 (Harry How/Getty Images North America)
USC LB Anthony Sarao with a pick-six against UCLA in 2014 (Harry How/Getty Images North America)

 USC Will Be Without Anthony Sarao For Spring

Starting USC linebacker Anthony Sarao will be out for spring practice due to an injury to his foot. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed the news on Thursday.

USC’s Twitter account confirmed the news and said it was due to a “small crack in his foot.” The timeframe for recovery is six to eight weeks. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2015 season.

Sarao has been a starter at linebacker for the past season and a half. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Sarao posted 40 tackles and 4 tackles-for-loss while appearing in all 13 games. In 2013, Sarao was made a permanent starter midway through the season while starting the final 7 games. He recorded 44 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and recovered a fumble.

In 2014, he had 74 tackles as a starter in all 13 games. He deflected 3 passes, recorded a sack, and intercepted 2 passes including one for a touchdown against arch-rival UCLA (pictured above).

Sarao will be a redshirt senior in 2015. Taking his reps this spring will be senior Lamar Dawson, junior Michael Hutchings, and sophomore Olajuwan Tucker.

Dominique Alexander Out For Spring Practice

Dominque Alexander (#1 on the left) will miss all of spring practice (David Purdy/Getty Images North America)
Dominique Alexander (#1 on the left) will miss all of spring practice (David Purdy/Getty Images North America)

Dominique Alexander Out For Spring Practice

Oklahoma starting linebacker Dominique Alexander will miss all of spring practice due to wrist surgery. The surgery was performed last week.

According to head coach Bob Stoops, the wrist injury has been lingering. “It had healed up, looked like it was going to be ok,” Stoops said. “Through the winter with all the different working out, the different everything they have to do with their wrist, it wore down. Doctors didn’t anticipate that. It happened.”

Alexander had an excellent 2014, which culminated in being named to the All Big 12 Second Team. He started all 13 games recording 107 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks.

Taking Alexander’s snaps will be freshman Tay Evans and Curtis Bolton. Both players are redshirt freshman.

Bob Stoops also announced several other news items. Defensive tackle Courtney Garnett will miss spring practice due to a torn ACL he suffered during workouts. Guard Nila Kasitati and wide receiver Sterling Shepard will both miss some time or slowly be brought back in spring practice.

In addition, defensive back Cortez Johnson is no longer on the team after. Johnson played in 10 games, starting 2, en route to recording 16 tackles and one pass break up in 2013. His playing time dropped dramatically in 2014 with only 2 games played and no stats recorded.

The final piece of news for the Sooners is that highly touted running back Joe Mixon will participate in all of the spring practices, but will not play in Oklahoma’s spring game on April 11.

2015 San Felipe Stakes Preview

2015 San Felipe Stakes Preview

The final Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race on Saturday, March 7 will take place at Santa Anita. A quality field of 10 three-year olds will run in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at one mile and one sixteenth on the main track.

The San Felipe carries a purse of $400,000 and 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard for the winner of the race. Second place will receive 20 points, third place will receive 10 points, and fourth place will receive 5 points.

Post time for the San Felipe is 6 PM Eastern Time and is the seventh race on the program. Free past performances for the race can be found here.

1. Lord Nelson (4-1 Morning Line) – He started his career at Del Mar with a half length victory before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Front Runner. A turn back to a sprint resulted in a six and three-quarters lengths victory in the Speakeasy Stakes. Another try around 2 turns resulted in another off the board finish. Last time out he ran in the Grade 2 San Vincente winning by a neck going 7 furlongs. He has not hit the board in both of his route races and appears to be a sprinter.

2. Ocho Ocho Ocho (4-1 ML) – He started his career with a one length win before winning the off the turf Juvenile Turf Sprint again at Santa Anita. His last race was the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot where he fought to the wire with Mr. Z, winning by a nose. He certainly has a chance to rate and pounce in the stretch.

3. Dortmund (8-5 ML) – We come to the heavy morning line favorite who enters this race 4-4 in his career. He won the first two races easily before taking the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity by a head over firing. The same duo came to the same result in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis. He will undoubtedly be there at the finish.

4. The Gomper (15-1 ML) – This three year old son of Sky Mesa broke his maiden first time out. He followed that up with a second place finish by 2 1/4 lengths. Last time out he finished fourth by 6 3/4 lengths in a loss to fellow entrant Prospect Park. The competition gets far more difficult in this spot.

5. Kenjisstorm (50-1 ML) – By far the longest shot in the race, he has yet to break his maiden. Further more, he has yet to hit the board in any of his 5 races. He is changing trainers from Tim Yakteen to George Papaprodromou, but that will not help his chances much.

6. Prospect Park (4-1 ML) – It took him four starts to break his maiden, but he did so by a neck going a mile and a sixteenth. He followed that maiden win up with a dominating 5 1/4 length win in an optional claimer $80,000. He is another horse that has a chance to win here.

7. Bolo (6-1 ML) – He has run in three consecutive turf races to start his career. He was fifth by 2 1/4 lengths in this first start before breaking his maiden in his second start by 2 3/4 lengths. In his last effort, he won the Eddie Logan by 4 1/2 lengths, but has been off for over two months. He is an intriguing horse given that he never has run on dirt.

8. Pulmarack (20-1 ML) – This California bred son of Lucky Pulpit has faced only fellow California bred horses in his 5 career starts. He broke his maiden in his third start, which was his first on traditional dirt and first around 2 turns. That was a win by 4 1/4 lengths before back-to-back state bred California races. He finished second in both of those, which led him to being placed here. He will need to be even better than his previous races if he is to contend.

9. Sir Samson (12-1 ML) – His career started off with a thud when he was pulled up and walked off in his debut. He finished 75 lengths behind Dortmund, while the two return to meet again today. His second start was much better, a win by half a length before running in the Grade 2 San Vicente. In that race he held the lead in the stretch, but was run down by Lord Nelson. The blinkers are coming off for this race, but he will need to step up to compete here.

10. Pain and Misery (15-1 ML) – He started at Del Mar with a third place finish by a length and a quarter. He then went to Zia Park for his next 2 races with back-to-back wins including in the Governors’ Cup. After a 4 month break, he came to Santa Anita and tried turf for the first time. It was a success, as he finished second by a neck in a listed stakes race. He has never raced at a route distance, but he improve second time off the 4 month layoff.

 

Selections

This race runs through #3 Dortmund, who is the horse to beat here. He will have stiff competition from #2 Ocho Ocho Ocho and #6 Prospect Park. Long shot possibilities underneath include #7 Bolo, #9 Sir Samson, and #10 Pain and Misery.

1. Dortmund

2. Ocho Ocho Ocho

3. Prospect Park

4. Pain and Misery

 

Check back on Saturday evening to see the recap of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

2015 Tampa Bay Derby Preview

2015 Tampa Bay Derby Preview

The second Road to the Kentucky Derby race on Saturday, March 7 is the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Nine horses will compete in the one mile and one sixteenth race on the main track. The Tampa Bay Derby is the eleventh race of the day.

The winner of the race will received 50 points, second place will receive 20 points, third place will receive 10 points, and fourth place will receive 5 points. The points will go towards the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, which is how the 20 starters for the Kentucky Derby are determined.

The purse for the Tampa Bay Derby is $350,000 with post time scheduled for 5:23 PM Eastern Time. Free past performances can be found here.

1. Divining Rod (6-1 Morning Line) – He started his career with a win at Laurel by 2 3/4 lengths before coming down to Tampa in his first turf start. He was third by 2 1/2 lengths and was then entered in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis here at Tampa on January 31. He just missed that win by a neck in a loss to Ocean Knight (the horse to his outside). That was his first start on lasix and he will have a chance to get excellent position, if not take the lead, from this rail post. He has a chance here.

2. Ocean Knight (2-1 ML) – The aforementioned Ocean Knight is a surprise inclusion here in the Tampa Bay Derby. His connections were going to run in the Gotham Stakes, but decided to keep him in Florida. He broke his maiden in his first try by 4 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct going 6 furlongs. He was shipped down to Florida for a start in the Grad 3 Sam F. Davis where he got up to win by a neck over his foe to the inside. He should have a great position in this race just behind the leaders and is the one to beat.

3. Carpe Diem (8-5 ML) – The morning line favorite hails from the barn of Todd Pletcher, but has not been seen in action for four months. He broke his maiden at Saratoga in his debut before stretching out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. That proved to be no problem, as he won by 6 1/4 lengths. His next, and latest, start was in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he went off as the 9-5 favorite. He made a big move entering the stretch, but was no match for Texas Red finishing second by 6 1/2 lengths. He will take some action, but he may not be 100% cranked up for this race. Still, he deserves to get a serious look on all tickets.

4. Ami’s Flatter (15-1 ML) – Another horse exiting the Sam F. Davis, he was fourth beaten 6 1/2 lengths in that race. He broke his maiden going 7 furlongs at Woodbine in his debut on November 9, 2014. A little break and he came back for the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park where he was second by 1 3/4 lengths. The blinkers and lasix are being add for this race and he is an intriguing long shot possibility if he can rate properly.

5. My Johnny Be Good (15-1 ML) – He was the third place finisher in the Sam F. Davis. He started his career at Arlington Park with a third place finish before breaking his maiden second time out at 7 furlongs. He then went to Keeneland and finished second in an allowance before winning by 14 lengths here at Tampa Bay at the end of 2014. He tried pressuring the pace in the Sam F. Davis, but weakened and finished third. He has never missed the board in his career and always gives his best, but will that be enough here?

6. Souper Colossal (6-1 ML) – He started his career at Monmouth Park going three for three including 2 stakes victories. His fourth start was in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he failed to make an impact finishing 7th by 12 lengths. After a 3 month break, he went to the turf and won the Texas Glitter going 5 furlongs at Gulfstream. The concern here is whether his class level is up to the par of Ocean Knight or Carpe Diem.

7. Great Stuff (20-1 ML) – This guy is still a maiden having finished third in his first two starts and second last time out in his third start. He has come well off the pace in all three starts and missed by a head in his latest race. He will need to up his game considerably to challenge here.

8. Moonlight Bandit (30-1 ML) – After a poor debut at Keeneland (7th by 9 1/4 lengths), he went to Churchill and broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths. A try in the Grade 2 Remsen provided no answers to his ability as he struggled to an 11th place finish 26 lengths behind the winner. A try on grass last time out provided a third place finish, but it appears he has not found his niche yet. Pass on his chances.

9. Danzig Moon (12-1 ML) – This highly touted son of Malibu Moon broke his maiden last out at Gulfstream going a mile. He patiently waited until the stretch and drew off to a 4 3/4 length win. He will try to save ground and obtain a good position from this outside post and he can certainly provided some value to the exotics.

 

Selections

#2 Ocean Knight is the horse to beat given his affinity for running on this surface and his running style. #3 Carpe Diem looks like he will be a handful, but has not raced in four months and may need this race. #4 Ami’s Flatter, #5 My Johnny Be Good, and #9 Danzig Moon are all good options to add value underneath while #1 Divining Rod has a chance to pull the upset.

1. Ocean Knight

2. My Johnny Be Good

3. Divining Rod

4. Carpe Diem

 

Check back on Saturday evening for a recap of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.

2015 Gotham Stakes Preview

2015 Gotham Stakes Preview

Saturday, March 7 features a total of three races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The first race of the three is the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

A total of 10 three-year olds will go a mile and a sixteenth on the inner dirt track. The purse is $400,000 with the top four finishers receiving 50, 20, 10, and 5 points respectively. The points for the winner will practically solidify a spot in the Kentucky Derby via the Points Leaderboard.

Post time for the Gotham Stakes is at 4:50 PM Eastern Time and is carded as the ninth race of the day. Free past performances can be found here.

1. Dontbetwithbruno (5-1 Morning Line) – The first of a trio for Todd Pletcher, he broke his maiden last time out in his third start. Prior to that he was second in his second race and fourth in his debut. He will break from post two in this race and he will get perfect position to stalk from behind the leaders. He is dangerous in this race.

1A. Uninfluenced (5-1 ML) – The second horse of the Pletcher trio, he will be breaking from post 8. He is still a maiden after finishing fourth by 5 lengths in his debut. Last time out, he was second by a neck at a mile on the inner dirt here at Aqueduct. He will need to step up to be a factor in this race. You would get better odds on him if he were not coupled.

1X. Blame Jim (5-1 ML) – The final Pletcher entrant will be breaking from post 10. He debuted in July 2014 at Saratoga where he went gate-to-wire and won by 3 lengths. After nearly 7 months on the bench, he came back on February 8 at Gulfstream and finished second by a length and a half. He clearly needed that last race, but he has not raced beyond six furlongs. He will probably be near the lead in this race and with his fellow entrants he has a chance to make some noise.

2. Combat Diver (12-1 ML) – He started his career on turf at Belmont where he finished tenth by 13 lengths. He moved to dirt in his second and won by a nose. He stepped up into Graded stakes competition in the Remsen where he was tenth by 19 lengths. Last time out he missed out on the win by a nose in the listed Miracle Wood at Laurel Park. He tends to make one run in his races and with several speed horse signed on, he could make a stretch run. He will be breaking from the rail here.

3. Classy Class (7-2 ML) – He broke his maiden at Belmont in October by 4 lengths before finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen in his first try around two turns. After a little break, he returned in the Grade 3 Withers and tried to take the field gate-to-wire. He finished third by 2 3/4 lengths. He should be tighter on Saturday for this race, but there are quite a few speed horses in this race.

4. El Kabeir (8-5 ML) – The most experienced runner in this field is also the classiest. He has run in 5 consecutive graded stakes finishing first or second in four of them. In his last race, the Grade 3 Withers, he tried to duel three wide, but was run down by Far From Over in the last eighth of a mile to finish second by 1 3/4 lengths. The worry here is that he may get caught in another speed duel, but he should be close at the wire.

5. Lieutenant Colonel (5-1 ML) – He has only one start to his credit and it was at one mile at Gulfstream Park. He pressed the lead and then took over while holding on for the victory by a head. Now he makes the trek up north to Aqueduct where he faces other speed horses. He has a chance if he shows the ability to rate in his second start.

6. Tiz Shea D (15-1 ML) – Another horse who broke his maiden last time out, which was also in his first start. He won by 4 lengths at Parx under the care of trainer Jason Servis going 5.5 furlongs by sitting off the pace and taking over in the stretch. He has been switched to the barn of Bill Mott since his debut and his pedigree suggests the stretch out to 8.5 furlongs should not be an issue. The waters get deeper here, but the abundance of speed in combination with his rating ability makes him an intriguing long shot.

7. Toasting Master (20-1 ML) – The longest shot in the field based on the morning line makes his way from Florida. He began his career at Churchill Downs finishing second in his debut. Nearly 2 months later he came back at Churchill to break his maiden in his second race before winning the next race as well. He went to Gulfstream to try the Spectacular Bid field, but found it too tough finishing sixth by 14 lengths. His latest race was at a mile and a sixteenth at the Ocala Training Center. He finished fourth by 3 lengths when he prompted the pace. He has shown to be a need the lead type of horse and that severely compromises his chances here.

8. Tencendur (8-1 ML) – He will be breaking from post 9 and is also exiting the Grade 3 Withers. He finished fourth that day 5 lengths behind the leader while running evenly throughout. He has trained well for this race and there should be enough pace for him to close into while stalking the leaders. A worry for him breaking from the ninth post and trying to get a good spot behind the front runners. He is putting blinkers on, but overall is a tough horse to handicap in this race.

 

Selections

#4 El Kabeir is clearly the one to beat. He struggled last time to beat a mediocre field in the Grade 3 Withers and the worry here is that he will be caught in a speed duel. The entry of Todd Pletcher’s horses will be tough, especially #1 Dontbetwithbruno from post 2. He will get great position from that spot and have first run on the leaders. #6 Tiz Shea D is an interesting long shot making his route and stakes debut, but should have a good trip. #5 Lieutenant Colonel is also an interesting horse with his backers hoping he takes back and does not end up in the speed duel. #3 Classy Class should do better than last race of the break, but may end up with a lot of company on the lead that will hurt his chances.

1. Dontbetwithbruno (Pletcher entry of 1, 1A, and 1X)

2. El Kabeir

3. Tiz Shea D

4. Lieutenant Colonel

Check back on Saturday evening for a recap of the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes.