Last week was a good week for Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens and Point Given. It was also a good week for readers of GamingToday as followers of this space really got "News You Can Bet On" as follows: "Take the rubber band off your bankroll and lay it in on Point Given to win this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes."
We pointed out the race’s distance of 1Â½ miles was inconsequential and that Point Given would win simply because he was the fastest horse in the race. And that’s exactly what happened. Point Given’s running time of 2:36 3/5 was exceptional and compares favorably to Secretariat’s record of 2:24. In 1973, when Secretariat ran, the track was manicured to the extent that a bunch of track records were set that year.
It was a good week for Jennifer Capriati. A tennis prodigy at age 14, she subsequently became bogged down in a swamp of alcohol and drugs and was considered washed up. But she overcame her personal demons and now at age 25 is a champion. Adding the French Open to her previously won Australian Open has triggered the possibility of a Grand Slam. I hope she makes it.
Conversely, it was a bad week at the French Open for Venus and Serena Williams and Pete Sampras, all of whom were ousted in early rounds, and also a disappointment for Andre Agassi. The Williams sisters are good but not as good as their hype, Sampras once again demonstrated that he is helpless when playing on a clay court and Agassi remains a subject for what might have been.
It was a good week for Patrick Roy. He was the key to the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup and was rightfully chosen as the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, emblematic of being the NHL postseason MVP. Roy is the first to win the Conn Smythe three times.
It was a good week for the Chicago Cubs. By sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in a three-game series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs established themselves as clearly a formidable factor in the National League. And anyone who thinks the team’s current surge is merely an aberration, had better think again. The Cubs are winning because they have the essential ingredient to baseball - quality pitching. Their staff, paced by starters Kerry Wood, Kevin Tapani and Jon Lieber, and their relief corps, headed by Jeff Fassero and Tom Gordon, is at the very least the equal in depth to anyone else’s in the league.
On the flip side, the Cardinals’ failure to take control of the N.L. Central as they were predicted to do in the pre-season prognostications, has engendered criticism from the usually tolerant St. Louis press. Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, the most influential member of the St. Louis media, has unleashed a torrent of barbs at manager Tony LaRussa for his handling of pitchers, his unsettling line-up changes and his clumsy attempt to dictate to the media the way the Cardinals should be covered.
It was a good week for Barry Bonds who continued to hit home runs at an astonishing rate. But please, people, lay off the projections about his breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season record of 70 round-trippers. It’s much too early for that. Let’s wait until August or September and see where Bonds stands. Regardless of whether or not he breaks the record, we still can enjoy the spectacle of a great player, a future Hall of Famer, having a great year. My hunch is that the only record Bonds will break this year is that of most intentional bases on balls. Opposing teams simply are not going to pitch to him in any meaningful situations.
Nothing’s been signed as yet but it appears that the 2002 Breeders’ Cup will be run at Arlington Park. That would mark a return of big-time horse racing to the Chicago area. Incidentally, this year’s Breeders’ Cup is slated for October 27 at Belmont Park and if the way the New York Racing Association and NBC handled the Belmont Stakes is any indication, it should be a roaring success. The Belmont attracted a crowd of 73, 847, proving that if you give New Yorkers a quality event and do a good promotional job, they’ll come.