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Tiz the Law could turn a Kentucky Derby to forget into one to remember

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Sept. 5 (UPI) — The 146th Kentucky Derby certainly is the strangest ever and, in many respects, one to forget. But if the overwhelming favorite, Tiz the Law, runs to his notices early Saturday evening, he will make the race one to remember.

In a “normal” year, Derby Day is the biggest day of the year, not just for Churchill Downs, but for the city of Louisville and the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky. Not 2020.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a four-months delay and canceled most of the week-long civic revelry normally surrounding the Run for the Roses.

Then track officials tried every which way to get approval to allow even a small fraction of the usual 150,000 fans to attend the race. All those efforts came to naught.

A brand-new, specially built 20-stall starting gate was delivered early this year to eliminate the need for an awkward auxiliary gate. But as contenders fell by the wayside, it became clear there wouldn’t be 20 3-year-olds to put into the apparatus on race day, anyway.

The latest to defect was a one-eyed gelding named Finnick the Fierce — withdrawn Friday because of veterinary concerns, even though his trainer said the horse is just fine.

Reports of planned demonstrations by Black Lives Matter activists concerned some owners and trainers. And questions were raised even about the century-old tradition of playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses take the track for the Run for the Roses.

But for all that, the show must go on. And as it does, the spotlight is firmly on Tiz the Law, a New York-bred colt by Constitution. He is owned by Sackatoga Stable, which campaigned Funny Cide to victory in the 2003 Derby and is trained by 82-year-old Barclay Tagg.

Tiz the Law has won six of his seven starts. In his last outing, he was an easy winner in the Belmont Stakes. A victory Saturday would position him to vie for the Triple Crown in next month’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Normally, the Triple Crown series starts with the Derby, progresses through the Preakness and ends with the Belmont. Not in this pandemic-scrambled year.

Still, a Triple Crown is a Triple Crown, no matter how its jewels are arranged. And a sweep of those races would set up Tiz the Law for a so-called “Grand Slam” if he could add the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

Only American Pharoah in 2015 has swept those four races and he completed the task at Keeneland.

Tagg fretted early in Derby week as a rain-soaked track prevented him from giving Tiz the Law the kind of maintenance work he wanted. The skies cleared by Thursday, and Friday morning’s gallop was more to the trainer’s liking.

“He had a very nice gallop,” Tagg said. “Right speed. Everything was comfortable. He pulled up nicely and came back nicely. We’re all good.”

Tiz the Law drew post position No. 17 — a number that has never won the Derby. Because the field is not full, Churchill Downs officials will leave the inside gate and the three outside gates open, so Tiz the Law actually will start from the 16th stall.

Despite the wide draw, Tagg said he hopes jockey Manny Franco can get Tiz the Law going quickly the first time down the backstretch.

“I’d like for us to be laying third all the way around until we get down for business,” Tagg said. “I’m very confident in our horse. He’s a very nice colt. I hope he wins it. He’s a good horse. Good horses do good things.”

The second and third favorites on the Derby morning line, Honor A.P. and Authentic, also visited the track early Friday.

Authentic’s trainer, Bob Baffert, is looking for a record-tying sixth Derby win and said jockey John Velazquez will have to keep busy on the colt, who almost blew a big lead in winning the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park in his last start.

“He’s the kind of horse where he looks around, like, in the stretch,” Baffert said of Authentic. “I told Johnny if we’re lucky and we turn for home and he’s right there, you have to keep him busy because he does check things out.”

Honor A.P., the Santa Anita Derby winner, was the first of the Derby contenders to take the track Friday, emerging about 5:15 a.m., and trainer John Shirreffs said he was happy with his colt’s look.

But, he added, “When you get to this level, they all look good.”

Jockey John Velazquez, riding Authentic, leads the field as they round the first turn in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on September 5, 2020, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo



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Ex-Falcons RB Devonta Freeman signing 1-year deal with Giants

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Sept. 22 (UPI) — The New York Giants are signing former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman to a short-term contract after losing Saquon Barkley to a season-ending knee injury.

League sources told ESPN and NFL Media on Tuesday that Freeman agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million with the Giants. According to ESPN, the two-time Pro Bowl tailback is expected to officially sign the pact Wednesday morning and could play as soon as Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

“Devonta turned down more money from other teams because he likes the opportunity with the Giants best,” Freeman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN.

Barkley tore the ACL in his right knee during Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. In his absence, veteran running back Dion Lewis saw a larger workload in the game.

Freeman, 28, will become the top candidate to replace Barkley on early downs, with Lewis serving as a pass-catching back. The Giants also have Wayne Gallman on the active roster, and veteran Rod Smith is on the practice squad.

The Falcons selected Freeman in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State. He spent his first six seasons with the Falcons before the team let him walk in free agency this past off-season in favor of All-Pro tailback Todd Gurley.

In 77 career games with the Falcons, Freeman recorded 3,977 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on 950 carries. He added 257 receptions for 2,015 yards and 11 receiving scores on 323 targets.

Earlier Tuesday, the Giants placed Barkley on injured reserve. Cornerback Ryan Lewis was added to the active roster in his place.

This week in the National Football League

The Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff celebrates after a first down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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Washington owner Dan Snyder in quarantine after friend tests positive for COVID-19

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Washington Football Team running back J.D. McKissic (L) celebrates with Logan Thomas after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17, in Landover, Md., on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo



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Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis channels Kobe with game-winner vs. Denver Nuggets

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Sept. 21 (UPI) — Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis channeled the late Kobe Bryant with a buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets Sunday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers now lead the series 2-0 after the 105-103 triumph in Orlando, Fla. Davis scored a game-high 31 points and had nine rebounds.

“It was a special one for me,” Davis told reporters. “Special one for my teammates. … Right before the [season] hiatus, I missed a shot against the Brooklyn Nets in the same spot [during a] slightly different play. I was upset with myself. And [LeBron James] said, ‘Man, we’re gonna live or die with you shooting that shot.’

“I got the same opportunity tonight. [I was] ready to make it.”

Davis and the Lakers trailed 103-102 after Nikola Jokic hit a hook shot for the Nuggets with 20.8 seconds remaining. Alex Caruso missed a 3-pointer with about seven seconds left in regulation, but the Lakers got an offensive rebound after the attempt.

Rajon Rondo found Davis on the right wing with the inbound bounce pass. Davis caught it and elevated before firing the 3-point shot over Jokic’s outstretched arm. The buzzer sounded just before the shot went through the net to give the Lakers a two-point win.

Davis sprinted up the sideline and yelled “Kobe” as he celebrated with teammates. The Lakers also wore special “Black Mamba” edition jerseys during the game.

“We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, [Davis] coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a ‘Mamba’ shot.”

The Lakers led by as many as 16 points in the game, which featured eight lead changes and was tied four times.

James paced the Lakers with 12 points in the first quarter for an early 29-21 lead and the team outscored the Nuggets 31-29 in the second quarter to earn a 60-50 edge at halftime.

In the third, the Lakers used a 10-2 run to push the lead to 16 points with 8:12 remaining. The Nuggets chipped away at the lead, outscored the Lakers 28-22 and tied the score at 82-82 with 9:58 in the game.

Denver and Los Angeles then exchanged the lead multiple times before Jokic hit his late hook shot for a one-point edge. The Lakers fought for two key rebounds down the stretch before Rondo hit Davis for the decisive shot.

“You’re not going to make them all, but the belief to just take it and live with the results is what it’s all about,” James said.

“[Sunday] was his moment. It was his moment to find a space, hunt the ball down and one of our top 10 assists leaders, Rondo, found him and he knocked it down. A big-time play.”

James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the win. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 11 points apiece for the Lakers and Rondo had three points and nine assists off the bench.

Jokic scored 30 points and had nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray had 25 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, Anthony Davis hits a big three to win the game at the buzzer. We’ll watch the film, see what happened on that last play.

“The message is we’re down 2-0. Let’s go out and win Game 3.”

The Nuggets, however, might have the Lakers right where they want them. Denver came back from a 3-1 series deficit in their first two playoff series against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the only team in NBA history to do it twice in the same postseason.

Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

Moments from LeBron James’ career

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo



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