I'll Have Another is a big favorite to win the Triple Crown

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I'll Have Another is a big favorite to win the Triple Crown

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- I'll Have Another went into lockdown on Wednesday, moving into a secured barn shortly after the colt was made the early 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes in his quest to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first in 34 years. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was the last of the 12 Belmont horses to arrive at the detention barn, showing up four minutes past the noon check-in deadline. The chestnut colt calmly walked a few hundred yards down a dirt path from where he had been stabled since arriving May 20 and stepped into the barn with a horde of media tracking his every move. "No complaints, no hurdles," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He's being good." Whether he's good enough to end the 34-year drought of Triple Crown winners will be decided Saturday, when I'll Have Another breaks from the No. 11 post under Mario Gutierrez. He'll have to contend with 11 rivals. "We're going to see how the pace sets up," O'Neill said. "If they're crawling, hopefully we'll be leading the crawl and if they're flying, hopefully we'll be sitting in behind the horses flying." Just two Belmont winners have come out of the No. 11 post since 1905. The last was Sarava, a 70-1 shot who ended War Emblem's Triple Crown bid in 2002. I'll Have Another bucked history in the Derby as the first horse to win from the 19th post. Dullahan was the 5-1 second choice and drew post No. 5. The colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby and sat out the Preakness. "Five is as good as any," trainer Dale Romans said. "It doesn't matter going a mile and a half with my horse. I didn't want to be down on the rail or way outside." Union Rags arrived from his training base in Maryland shortly after 11 a.m. and settled into the security barn, which will be monitored around the clock leading up to the Belmont. Anyone interacting with the horses, including trainers, veterinarians, exercise riders and owners, will have to be logged in and out. The barn was set up as part of last-minute changes to ensure a fair running of the race. Union Rags was the third betting choice at 6-1 and will break from post No. 3 under new jockey John Velazquez. The colt got bumped at the start by Dullahan in the Derby and rallied from 17th to finish seventh. He also skipped the Preakness to prepare for the 1 1-2-mile Belmont. "If I had my choice I would have picked a little further out," trainer Michael Matz said. "I think the horse has enough speed to be in a decent position." Paynter is the fourth betting choice at 8-1 and drew the No. 9 post for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. I'll Have Another chased down Bodemeister in the closing strides of both the Derby and Preakness. But Baffert sent him back to the West Coast and called in a fresh Paynter to challenge the favorite. "I always thought Bodemeister is a very nice colt," said Ahmed Zayat, who owns both Bodemeister and Paynter. "Bob, from day one, thought Paynter was the better horse." I'll Have Another went for his usual gallop earlier Wednesday morning, and O'Neill was pleased. "He's continued to gallop good, his energy's been good, his appetite's been strong, and he's handled this whole journey as good as you could possibly ask a horse," he said. "He hasn't lost a bit of his flesh at all, his coat continues to shine and look great, so we couldn't ask for him to be coming in to this any better." D. Wayne Lukas was back at the track a day after being kicked in the forehead by one of his horses. The 76-year-old Hall of Fame trainer sported an ugly gash that had been stitched up. He will saddle Optimizer in a race he's won four times, but not since 2000. "There's better horses in the race but the times that I have won it, there were better horses in the race then, too," he said. Trainer Ken McPeek has two 30-1 shots in Atigun and Unstoppable U. "These horses admittedly are not of the class level of I'll Have Another, Dullahan, Union Rags," he said. "They haven't proven it at that level. So I really kind of need to run both of them to have a real shot." In 2002, his horse Sarava spoiled War Emblem's Triple Crown, winning at 70-1 odds. "Nobody threw any stones at me on the way out," McPeek said. Nineteen horses have been tripped up in their Triple tries, including 11 since Affirmed was the last to win in 1978. ------ The field, from the rail out: Street Life (Jose Lezcano, 12-1); Unstoppable U (Junior Alvarado, 30-1); Union Rags (John Velazquez, 6-1); Atigun (Julien Leparoux, 30-1); Dullahan (Javier Castellano, 5-1); Ravelo's Boy (Alex Solis, 50-1); Five Sixteen (Rosie Napravnik, 50-1); Guyana Star Dweej (Kent Desormeaux, 50-1); Paynter (Mike Smith, 8-1); Optimizer (Corey Nakatani, 20-1); I'll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez, 4-5); My Adonis (Ramon Dominguez, 20-1).

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Caps put some distance between them and divisional foes in pivotal win

Caps put some distance between them and divisional foes in pivotal win

While the Caps established themselves as the top team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to keep pace with them leading to a three-team race for supremacy of the division. On Thursday, the Caps managed to give themselves a little breathing room.

Washington defeated Columbus 2-1 in a shootout. While it was not the "four-point" game the Caps perhaps had hoped, it still extended their lead over the Blue Jackets by a point.

The Ottawa Senators also did Washington a favor on Thursday by downing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ironically enough, the score of that game was also 2-1 in a shootout.

RELATED: Caps win goalie duel in shootout

While all three Metropolitan leaders did manage to get points on the night, Washingotn was the only one to get two, meaning they extended their lead over both teams by one. It also means neither Columbus or Pittsburgh registered a regulation or overtime win (ROW). ROW is the first tiebreaker in the standings which could prove critical in such a tight race.

After Thursday's games, here is what the top three of the Metropolitan looks like:

1. Washington: 48-17-8, 104 points, 46 ROW
2. Pittsburgh: 46-17-10, 102 points, 43 ROW
3. Columbus: 47-19-7, 101 points, 45 ROW

With eight games remaining, that's not much breathing room for the Caps. Considering, however, that Washington could have left Thursday tied for second in the division, they certainly will take Thursday's result.

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals are trying to get their game to an elite level

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Braden Holtby leads Caps to shootout win in goalie duel with Columbus

Braden Holtby leads Caps to shootout win in goalie duel with Columbus

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (SO)

How it happened: Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky held both teams scoreless through two periods, but Seth Jones put the Jackets on the board just 41 seconds into the third period. Dmitry Orlov responded just six minutes later, however, with a huge slap shot to tie the game at one. That forced the game to overtime. After no winner through five minutes, the game went to a shootout where T.J. Oshie scored on Washington's first attempt and Holtby turned aside all three shots he faced for the win.

What it means: With the win, the Caps maintain first place in the Metropolitan Division. They now lead the Columbus Blue Jackets by three points. The win also ties a franchise record for most home wins in a season (30). The Caps improved to 2-5 in shootouts on the season. This was their first home shootout win of the season.

Goals

Blue Jackets goal: Seth Jones from Brandon Dubinsky at 0:41 in the 3rd period. A Dubinsky shot from in close hit off the post and out to the top of the face off circle. Jones stepped up and fired it into the net past Holtby, who had not yet recovered from the initial shot off the post. Caps 0, Blue Jackets 1

Caps goal: Dmitry Orlov from Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams at 6:39 in the 3rd. Johansson held the puck behind the red line in the offensive zone, but saw Olrov open at the blue line. He found him with the pass and Orlov unleashed the monster slap shot to beat Bobrovsky. Caps 1, Blue Jackets 1

3 stars

1. Sergei Bobrovsky: The Caps really poured it on Bobrovsky in this one with 45 shots on goal, but he turned aside 44 of them in a brilliant effort. 

2. Braden Holtby:  Columbus didn't manage as many shots on net as the Caps did, but that shouldn't take away from the performance Holtby had. Per usual, he was strong in net, especially in overtime, matching Bobrovsky as the two teams battled into a goalie duel.

3. Dmitry Orlov: It seems fitting that Orlov would score the game-tying goal on Russian Heritage night for his first goal since March 4.

Look ahead: Washington wraps up its three-game home stand on Saturday against Arizona. They then hit the road for a five-game road trip that will see them go to Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Columbus and Toronto.

Tell us what you think: The Caps won, but the Blue Jackets and Penguins remain hot on the Caps' heels. Given Thursday's results, who would you say is in the driver's seat to win the Metro?