Is this finally the year?

767834.png

Is this finally the year?

By John Eisenberg
CSNwashington.com

OK, quick quiz: Who resided in the White House the last time a horse won racings Triple Crown?

Hint: You have to go back father than you think.

The correct answer is Jimmy Carter, who was president when Affirmed captured the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1978.

Its been 34 years since racing witnessed a Triple Crown winner, and after capturing the Preakness with a dramatic stretch run Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, Ill Have Another will get a chance to break the drought in the Belmont early next month.

We're thinking Triple Crown, baby, said Doug O'Neill, who trains Ill Have Another. He's a special horse. We'll see how he comes out of (the Preakness), and if he comes out of it in good shape, we're heading to New York, baby.

The chances of him not taking a shot in New York are virtually nil. The entire sport of horse racing wants to see him make history and generate some headlines.

Even the trainers and jockeys who lost to Ill Have Another Saturday were excited to see him win.

It was an amazing race. Good to see a Triple Crown on the line. Thats good for the sport, said trainer Dale Romans, whose horse, Cozzetti, finished seventh Saturday.

Im happy for the winner and a chance for the Triple Crown, said trainer Ignacio Correas, whose horse, Tiger Walk, finished eighth.

Since Affirmed won in 1978, 10 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and taken a run at the Triple Crown in the Belmont. Theyve all fallen short, in a variety of fashions. Spectacular Bid stepped on a pin in his stall and didnt run his usual race in 1979. Silver Charm lost at the wire in 1997. Smarty Jones ran out of gas down the stretch in 2004. Big Brown appeared ed utterly disinterested in 2008.

Now its Ill Have Anothers turn.

The buildup will be New York-style big, and several serious challengers will likely be lying in wait for him, led by Dullahan, the horse that finished third in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Union Rags, another talented horse that ran seventh in the Derby but had bad luck during the race, is also expected to enter.

There are a lot of horses that have been in this position in the last 15 years, and it didnt happen for them, said J. Paul raddam, who owns Ill Have Another. So were only two-thirds there, right? So weve got to be cool, and try to block everything out. When we get to the Belmont, just ride the race, and if it happens, it happens.

Quick Links

Nats' Joe Ross to begin minor league rehab assignment on Sunday

Nats' Joe Ross to begin minor league rehab assignment on Sunday

Okay, let's try this again.

Nearly a month after Joe Ross' initial minor league rehab assignment was halted due to a setback in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation, the Nationals' starter will now go on another rehab stint beginning Sunday with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He will face the Pawtucket Red Sox in Syracuse.

This is a major step for the Nats' right-hander, who hasn't appeared in a big league game since July 2. Ross threw two bullpen sessions this week, one on Tuesday in Baltimore and another on Thursday in Washington. It was an encouraging series of days for Ross, who last pitched in a game on July 30 with Syracuse. He also pitched for Syracuse on July 24.

Ross is now well on his way to returning, but whether he can build his innings up to come back as a starter is still hard to tell. The minor league regular season only runs through the first week of September, so it's still possible Ross will need to return to the Nats as a relief pitcher.

Manager Dusty Baker shared the latest on that situation before Saturday's game:

"I don't know. That's a question that we're trying to answer now. If not, then hopefully in the playoffs he can be on the team and help us out of the bullpen. Usually, you're only carrying three starters on the team anyways during the playoffs. If he was number four and whoever else or whatever, that makes for a better bullpen. I have hopes that he can at least make it back to that point," he said.

That is all, of course, pending this second minor league rehab stint goes well. Last time Ross felt discomfort and didn't have his velocity quite where he wanted it to be.

Ross starting for Syracuse may give some hints as to who will start for the Nationals on Sunday against the Rockies. Lucas Giolito was lined up to pitch Sunday for the Chiefs and already was a likely candidate to be called up to the Nats. Now that theory has even more legs to it.

[RELATED: Max Scherzer digs down deep to help Nats, shut up Orioles fans]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

Quick Links

Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Toronto Raptors

Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Toronto Raptors

No. 3 Toronto Raptors

2015-16: Finished 56-26 for second place but was eliminated in the conference finals in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Best additions: C Jakob Poeltl, PF Pascal Siakam, C-F Jared Sullinger. The first two are products of the draft and could take time to determine just how good they can be. Sullinger is versatile but often is out of shape and frustrating because he can be better.

Biggest change: The Raptors’ greatest weakness was the lack of a PF with an ability to stretch the floor. They had Luis Scola last year, an unathletic, non-three-point shooter who was past his physical prime. They were one of the few teams to play with two traditional bigs in the starting lineup.

Question marks: Defense minus F/C Bismack Biyombo. He was central to their emergence even when C Jonas Valanciunas went down. Now he’s with the Orlando Magic. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can be elite and then disappear without notice. Usually a better, more consistent regular-season team than in the playoffs.

2016-17 NBA Team Previews:

Brooklyn Nets

New York Knicks

Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers

Quick Links

A.J. Cole faces Rockies as Nats look for third straight win

A.J. Cole faces Rockies as Nats look for third straight win

Nats (75-53) at Rockies (60-68) at Nationals Park

It's a quick turnaround for the Nationals and Rockies, who pick back up for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch on Saturday afternoon. Rookie A.J. Cole gets the start following his seven-inning, four-run outing against the Orioles on Aug. 22, his 2016 season debut. Cole will once again see a tough lineup, this time with a bunch of lefties including Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra.

Pitching for Colorado will be Jorge De La Rosa (8-7, 5.07). The veteran lefty faced the Nats just two starts ago and gave up four runs in six innings at Coors Field.

Wilson Ramos is back in the Nats' lineup after missing two games. He's hitting sixth behind Anthony Rendon.

First pitch: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - A.J. Cole vs. Rockies - Jorge De La Rosa

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP A.J. Cole

ROCKIES

CF Charlie Blackmon
2B D.J. LeMahieu
RF Carlos Gonzalez
3B Nolan Arenado
LF David Dahl
1B Gerardo Parra
C Nick Hundley
SS Daniel Descalso
LHP Jorge De La Rosa

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES