I'll Have Another could face strong Belmont field

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I'll Have Another could face strong Belmont field

By Richard Rosenblatt
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- I'll Have Another will face several familiar foes in his attempt to win the Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years.

Among the 3-year-olds trying to play spoiler in the June 9 Belmont are Dullahan and Union Rags, the third- and seventh-place finishers in the Derby who both skipped the Preakness.

I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill mentioned Union Rags and Dullahan as tough rivals, saying "they have fresh legs and are ready to go."

So is his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, who arrived at Belmont Park on Sunday after a five-plus hour ride in a horse van from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

"We're ready to go, too," he said outside his barn at Pimlico before leaving for California. "Our horse came out of this race in great shape and as long as he stays injury free we've got a big, big chance."

Others Belmont probables are Rousing Sermon, eighth in the Derby; Optimizer, 11th in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness; Peter Pan winner Mark Valeski; and Paynter, trained by Bob Baffert. Among others set for their first Triple Crown race are Antigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Street Life and Unstoppable U.

Bodemeister, who finished second in the Derby and Preakness, isn't running in the Belmont. O'Neill is not sad.

"Anytime you can dodge an amazing horse like that, it's a good thing," O'Neill said.

Union Rags won the Champagne at Belmont as a 2-year-old, and was the 5-1 second favorite in the Derby.

Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan closed with a rush and finished less than two lengths behind I'll Have Another at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dale Romans elected to pass on the Preakness and train his colt for the 1-mile Belmont.

If Optimizer runs, it will be trainer D. Wayne Lukas' 22nd Belmont horse. The Hall of Fame trainer has won the race four times, most recently with Commendable in 2000.

Mark Valeski finished second in the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby, but skipped the Derby and Preakness. He came back and won the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 12.

Paynter finished fourth behind I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby, and won an allowance race on the Preakness undercard.

Alpha, the Withers winner who finished 12th in the Derby, is a possible. He worked four furlongs in 49.17 seconds Saturday at Belmont, and assistant trainer Art Magnuson said "We're not deciding anything yet, we're just going to watch things and let the horse tell us."

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Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 25, one day before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 16
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 28
—Training camp starts (7/27) 92
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 137

Wrapping up the Redskins pre-draft presser

We’ve looked at a some of what Redskins college scouting director Scott Campbell said during his pre-draft press conference on Monday, covering possible trades, who makes the final call on those trades, and how the organization handles character issues. Here are a few more bullet points from Campbell’s presser:

—Asked if the Redskins would draft to fill needs or take the best available player, Campbell gave the stock answer. “I guess as you asked the question, you kind of framed it and the way I’m going to frame the answer, and the age-old answer of ‘I’m going to take the best player available,’” he said “And if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus.” So, there you go. That said, don’t be surprised if the best players as defined by the Redskins in the first few also happen have the “bonus” of filling one the team’s top two or three needs.

—The needs could line up well because the strength of the draft as Campbell sees it coincides with side of the ball where the Redskins need the most help. “Well, I’m excited because I think it’s one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ve told the guys upstairs I’m excited because we’re going to get better . . . And several different positions – sometimes it’s just maybe defensive line or outside backers or corners. Across the board on defense, I’m really excited about the class and the guys we’re going to bring in are going to help us.”

—The draft board is still used after the draft ends and the scramble for undrafted free agents starts up. “There’s going to be guys left on the bottom of that board that didn’t get drafted that we had rated as draftable,” said Campbell. “So that’s our No. 1 targets. I assign a scout to all the coaches, and really the coaches talk to the players – once the draft ends, let me be clear, it’s after the draft ends when we start making calls – the scouts are on the phone with the agent finding out what our competition is, how much.” Campbell said that money isn’t much of a factor in recruiting the undrafted players; selling opportunity is the key.

—The draft board was influenced by former GM Scot McCloughan but adjustments have been made since he was fired in early March. “Well, he certainly had influence on it because we all met as we always did the last couple of years and every team does. You meet right after the all-star games before you go to the combine and kind of get an initial ranking of how you like the guys. Of course Scot hadn’t been here since, so just like when he was here before, there’s adjustments being made to the board with the new information.”

—The 2016 draft class did not contribute a lot but does not mean that there is more pressure on the organization to do better this year. The pressure is always there regardless. “Always pressure. Every year’s pressure,” said Campbell. “I grew up in an NFL household. My dad was a coach and a player for 40 years. Pressure every year to perform, that’s what the NFL is. You’ve got to perform every year.” His father was Marion Campbell who played in the NFL for eight years and then coached for 21 seasons including stints as the head coach of the Eagles and Falcons.

—Campbell also asked for a little patience with the 2016 draft class, citing a group from a few years ago. “It takes a couple of years to develop a class,” said Campbell. “People are saying the ‘14 class had some success. Well, if I read articles and see what happened and what was said right after that draft, our grades in the mock drafts were not very good. It takes time. Morgan Moses didn’t start his first year, you know, but he’s come on to be one of the best right tackles in the league. That’s my opinion anyway. It takes time to develop. I still think with time, that class [2016] will be just fine.” I guess I buried the lede here—Campbell reads draft grades.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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