Triple Crown won't be easy for I'll Have Another

768570.jpg

Triple Crown won't be easy for I'll Have Another

From Comcast SportsNet
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."

Quick Links

It doesn't sound like the Mavs will let Nerlens Noel hit NBA free agency

It doesn't sound like the Mavs will let Nerlens Noel hit NBA free agency

NBA teams hoping to acquire a power forward in next month's free agency may be left with one less option, as the Dallas Mavericks appear determined to re-sign Nerlens Noel, a restricted free agent.

That's according to Marc Stein of ESPN:

Noel, 23, was traded to Dallas from the Sixers back in February for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and two second round picks. He played 22 games for the Mavs, who did not qualify for the playoffs.

Trading for Noel represented a risk, given he does not have a contract for next season. But Dallas should have the opportunity to match whatever offer he gets in free agency if he indeed makes it that far.

Noel, though, could be expensive. He's very young and holds averages of 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per game through three NBA seasons. Durability is a concern, as he only played in 51 games last season due to a surgery he had in October. But he played in 67 games the season before and 71 the year before that.

Noel was the sixth overall pick in 2013, the same year the Wizards took Otto Porter third overall.

[RELATED: Winners, losers, sleepers from 2017 NBA draft]

Quick Links

Capitals lineup projection: How do the Caps replace Nate Schmidt?

Capitals lineup projection: How do the Caps replace Nate Schmidt?

Both the expansion draft and the entry draft have come and gone as have the flurry of trades that come with them. Through it all, the Caps find themselves short a top-four defenseman with the loss of Nate Schmidt to Vegas. Schmidt’s departure obviously changes the team’s plans for next season.

In May, I gave a projection of what the Caps’ opening night roster may look like next season. Obviously, things have changed, but just how much?

Here's an updated post drafts lineup projection.

Forward lines

Andre Burakovsky – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Marcus Johansson
Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson
Riley Barber – Jay Beagle – Brett Connolly
Extra: Chandler Stephenson

RELATED: Caps continue to strengthen defense in draft

Nothing new here. Whether Oshie would return next season was the biggest question mark. The team answered that question with his new contract that will keep him in Washington for the next eight years.

The question now is how to best organize that lineup?

Connolly’s skillset does not suit the fourth line very well, but Wilson’s strong postseason clearly made an impression. The Caps traded for Tyler Graovac in order to protect an extra forward from the expansion draft because they did not want to leave either Wilson or Eller exposed. That likely means they envision a larger role for Wilson going forward.

The big takeaway from this is that the team has more skilled players than spots in the top nine. Someone is going to get pushed down to the fourth line or perhaps be offered as part of a trade to another team.

Defensive pairs

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
(Philipp Grubauer trade) – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Madison Bowey
Extra: Taylor Chorney

The loss of Schmidt is a significant one as there is no clear replacement for him on the roster. Prospects Bowey and Christian Djoos will get their shots at training camp, but they are both rookies with no NHL experience. To put both in the lineup and one in the top-four would not be an ideal situation for a team still looking to make the playoffs. The team’s cap constraints, as well as a weak free agent market in terms of defensemen, makes it unlikely the team will sign someone this summer. That makes the most likely scenario a trade.

The expansion draft forced teams to evaluate who on their roster was expendable. Grubauer is the current backup and is not considered to be the team's future starter because of prospect Ilya Samsonov. Grubauer is a trade asset the team could afford to trade away for a top-four blue liner.

But this is a deal that the team needs to pull off sooner rather than later as the number of teams in the market for a goalie is quickly dwindling.

Goalies

Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley

If Grubauer is gone, that would put Copley in line to take over the backup role next season. The clock is ticking for the Caps, however, given that he will soon be an unrestricted free agent and could sign with another team.

MORE CAPITALS: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for Caps