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The latest to defect was a one-eyed gelding named Finnick the Fierce — withdrawn Friday because of veterinary concerns, even though his trainer said the horse is just fine.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

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Nov. 26 (UPI) — The Sacramento Kings have agreed to a one-year contact with veteran center Hassan Whiteside.

Sources informed ESPN, The Athletic and the Sacramento Bee of the pact Wednesday. Whiteside spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers after he was traded from the Miami Heat before his 2019-2020 campaign.

The 7-foot, 265-pound center averaged 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and a league-best 2.9 blocks per game in 67 appearances last season. Whiteside has averaged 13.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for his career.

He led the NBA with 14.1 rebounds per game in 2016-2017 and posted a league-best 3.7 blocks per game in 2015-2016.

Whiteside entered the league as a second-round pick by the Kings in the 2010 NBA Draft. He was released in 2012 before he spent the 2014-2015 season with the Heat. Whiteside emerged as a dominant defender before he signed a four-year, $98.4 million contract extension with Miami.

The Heat traded Whiteside to Portland as part of a four-team deal on July 6, 2019.



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Coach Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool ‘deserved’ Champions League loss

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Nov. 26 (UPI) — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said the Reds “deserved” their shutout loss to Italian Serie A foe Atalanta in the group stage of the 2020-2021 UEFA Champions League.

Atalanta beat Liverpool 2-0 on Wednesday at Anfield in Liverpool, England. The Reds must now beat Ajax in their next Champions League match to advance to the knockout stages.

“Rhythm, we didn’t have rhythm,” Klopp told reporters. “We made five changes and that obviously gives you a few problems with rhythm, but we usually get through a game.

“Atalanta was good — Atalanta fought, Atalanta defended well. That’s why we didn’t have a shot on target. My defense was completely fine apart from two situations. That’s how it is. Atalanta did well in those moments and we have to admit [that].

“It is a deserved defeat. I have said that a couple of times. It doesn’t sound nice, but it’s the truth. So congratulations to Atalanta.”

The Reds and Atalanta played a scoreless first half in the Group D match up before striker Josip Ilicic drew first blood in the 60th minute. Fellow striker Alejandro Gomez collected a pass on the left flank to spark the sequence.

The Atalanta forward then curled a pass toward the far post. The feed dropped down onto the foot of Illic, who darted through the box before he tapped a shot past Reds keeper Alisson.

Gomez also helped set up the final goal about five minutes later. The Atalanta striker received a pass at the top of the Liverpool box at the start of that play. He eyed the defense before he chipped a ball toward the far post.

Atalanta’s Hans Hateboer then put his head on the ball to send a pass to fellow winger Robin Gosens, who smacked a left-footed shot into the left side of the net to beat Alisson.

Liverpool battles Brighton in a Premier League game at 7:30 a.m. EST on Saturday in Brighton, England. The Reds then host Ajax in the Champions League group stage at 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday at Anfield.

“With all the challenges we face in this country on top of the normal challenges already, my concern and what I think about in the moment is not Ajax, sorry,” Klopp said.

“We go in a few hours to Brighton and play there. That’s the first thing we have to think about and when this game is over, then we start thinking about Ajax.”



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Fantasy football: Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce lead Week 12 tight end rankings

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Nov. 26 (UPI) — Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson and Evan Engram lead my Week 12 fantasy football tight end rankings for 2020.

Rob Gronkowski, Eric Ebron, Austin Hooper, Mark Andrews and Jonnu Smith round out my Top 10 options at the position. Robert Tonyan and Trey Burton are among my favorite sleepers this week.

Monitor the status for each of your players’ games this week as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the NFL schedule and player availability. No teams have Week 12 byes, so you should have more options when it comes to finding good defensive matchups for tight ends.

Check out my weekly waiver wire article for candidates to add to your roster before your Week 12 matchup.

Here are some of my favorite players in this week’s Top 20 rankings:

TOP SHELF

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry has scored in two consecutive games as he heads into a Week 12 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. He is my top option at the position.

The Bills have allowed a league-high 642 yards and the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Start Henry in your league, even if you aren’t required to start the position.

Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders has scored in two of his last three games and has five scores on the season. He is my No. 3 tight end for Week 12 as he heads into a matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. Start Waller in all leagues in Week 12.

SNEAKY PLAYS

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram lands at No. 5 in my Week 12 rankings. He should be started in all leagues that require starting a tight end.

The Giants pass catcher has just one score on the season, but has been targeted 32 times over his last four games. I expect Engram to continue to get looks in Week 12, when the Giants face a Cincinnati Bengals defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

I expect Engram to pull in at least six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in Cincinnati.

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper is my No. 8 option for Week 12. Hooper pulled in just three catches for 33 yards in Week 11, but I expect him to have much more impact this week.

He heads into a matchup against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

Start Hooper in leagues that require starting a tight end and have at least 12 teams.

LONGSHOTS

Robert Tonyan of the Green Bay Packers scored his sixth touchdown of the season in Week 11 and has a great chance to reach the end zone again in Week 12.

The Packers face a Chicago Bears defense that is tied for allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends on Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. I expect Tonyan — my No. 11 option — to snag at least five catches for 50 yards and a score.

Indianapolis Colts tight end Trey Burton only has two scores this season, but I expect him to draw more red zone looks down the stretch.

Burton and the Colts face the Tennessee Titans in an import AFC South divisional matchup in Week 12. The Titans have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

Burton has a great shot to secure at least three catches for 30 yards on Sunday in Indianapolis. He could end up as a Top 5 play if he gets into the end zone. Burton is my No. 15 option for Week 12 and can be used as a streamer in leagues that require starting tight ends.

Week 12 fantasy football tight end rankings

1. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers at BUF

2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs at TB

3. Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders at ATL

4. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions vs. HOU

5. Evan Engram, New York Giants at CIN

6. Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. KC

7. Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. BAL

8. Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns at JAX

9. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens at PIT

10. Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans at IND

11. Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers vs. CHI

12. Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons vs. LV

13. Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears at GB

14. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins at NYJ

15. Trey Burton, Indianapolis Colts vs. TEN

16. Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys vs. WAS

17. Noah Fant, Denver Broncos vs. NO

18. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints at DEN

19. Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team at DAL

20. Irv Smith Jr. Minnesota Vikings vs. CAR

This week in the National Football League

Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry (C) breaks away from Baltimore Ravens’ Patrick Queen (L) on a 29-yard touchdown run to win the game 30-24 during overtime in Baltimore on Sunday. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo



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