Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 7 2015, Page 22

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 7, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE B7 winnipegfreepress. com SPORTS WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 2015 B 7 OAKLAND, Calif. — The NBA Finals hyped as LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry now seems like James against the Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers are down another important player, with Kyrie Irving having surgery Saturday in Cleveland to repair his fractured left kneecap. And with what was an already shorthanded Cavs team down 1- 0 heading into Game 2 tonight, a best- of- seven series that just started has the feel of one that could end quickly. “( I) understand that we were the underdog coming into the series and with Kyrie being out people are writing us off,” James said. “ So, I mean, that’s fine. That’s fine. I’m motivated to get our guys ready to go ( today) and we will be ready.” James seemed more downcast as he spoke then a day earlier, before the Cavaliers had revealed the severity of Irving’s injury following an MRI exam. Irving had been hurt previously in the post- season and Cleveland had won without him, but this time was different. “ Obviously, we’ve been in this situation, but we always knew at some point he’ll come back,” James said. “ Knowing that he’s out for the rest of the finals and out for a period of a long time... first of all, it sucks for him personally. It’s a huge blow for our team, especially at this stage.” The Warriors were already the favourites to win the championship after leading the NBA with 67 victories during the regular season. Now, with Irving joining Kevin Love on the sideline, the Warriors were trying to brush away the suggestions that not only should they win, but do it easily. “ No series is unlosable,” centre Andrew Bogut said. “ Stranger things have happened and they’re still a great team with arguably the best player in the world. Obviously they’re going to have other guys that have to step up to help him get wins, but we can’t take this team lightly.” Curry said the mood in the Warriors’ locker- room was no different than it was going into the series. “ There is no pressure or added pressure, I don’t think, because our goal stays the same,” Curry said. “ We’re not really listening to any outside noise or predictions, or who is favoured to do what, because we control what we control. When we go out there and play, we’ve got to play better than we did in Game 1, and that is really our only focus.” Both teams noted how closely the Cavs were to winning Game 1, and in fact the series nearly had a decidedly different feel. James and Iman Shumpert both missed jumpers on the final possession of regulation. Had either gone in, the Cavs would be the team with the 1- 0 lead and would’ve avoided the overtime period that featured Irving’s injury, which coach David Blatt said came when the all- star point guard was kneed in his knee. Blatt acknowledged the difficulty of losses like Game 1, saying “ they cost you some hours of sleep.” But he said the Cavs had moved forward from it. “ You’d love to see us at full strength, obviously, for the finals,” he said. “ The situation as it is, is what it is, and we are going to come out and play and play to win. Request no quarter and no sympathy. We’ve got to come out and play, and play to win. That’s it.” — The Associated Press LeBron not so cavalier about chances any more By Brian Mahoney BEN MARGOT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Looks like overworked superstar LeBron James will have to do it all by himself. JULIO CORTEZ / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Victor Espinoza is tall in the saddle crossing the finish line with American Pharoah to win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes, and the Triple Crown, at Belmont Park Saturday. N EW YORK — Finally, a Triple Crown winner, and after 37 years of waiting, this one was never in doubt. American Pharoah led all the way to win the Belmont Stakes by 5 ½ lengths Saturday, becoming the first horse since 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — one of the sporting world’s rarest feats. “ Wow! Wow!” jockey Victor Espinoza said moments after crossing the finish line. “ I can only tell you it just an amazing thing.” The bay colt with the unusually short tail easily defeated seven rivals in the grueling 1 ½ - mile race, covering the distance in 2: 26.65 — sixth- fastest in Belmont history — to end the longest stretch without a Triple Crown champion in history. “ That little horse, he deserved it,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “ He’s the one that did it. We were basically just passengers.” American Pharoah is the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win three races on different tracks at varying distances over a five- week span. He won the Derby by one length May 2 and then romped to a seven- length victory in the rainy Preakness two weeks later before demolishing his rivals Saturday. “ I still can’t believe it happened,” said Baffert, at 62 the second- oldest trainer of a Triple Crown winner. Baffert and Espinoza ended their own frustrating histories in the Triple Crown. Baffert finally won on his record fourth Triple try, having lost in 1997, 1998 ( by a nose) and in 2002. Espinoza got it done with his record third shot after failing to win in 2002 and last year on California Chrome. “ I was prepared for somebody coming, because I’ve been through this so many times,” Baffert said. Nobody did. Espinoza hustled American Pharoah to the lead leaving the No. 5 post and quickly got him over to the rail. Materiality was on his outside in second, but never applied any serious pressure, travelling on the backstretch before falling away on the second turn. American Pharoah started kicking away heading into the stretch turn. He opened up on the field as he powered down the stretch, displaying his fluid, springloaded stride in which he appears to float over the ground. “ It’s just an amazing feeling that you have when you’re 20 yards from the wire,” Espinoza said. “ And then at the wire I was like, ‘ I cannot believe I did it.’ ” American Pharoah ran the final quarter- mile — a stretch that has dashed numerous Triple Crown dreams — in 24.32 seconds, faster than Secretariat’s time of 25 seconds in winning the 1973 Belmont. After making his way back, Espinoza took American Pharoah nearly the length of the sprawling grandstand so fans could pay their respects to the champion. As the horses were heading to the starting gate, owner Ahmed Zayat was overflowing with confidence and turned to his wife. “ I told her, ‘ Get ready to be the owner of the 12th Triple Crown winner,’ ” he said. Sent off as the overwhelming 3- 5 favourite, American Pharoah paid $ 3.50, $ 2.80 and $ 2.50. Frosted returned $ 3.50 and $ 2.90, while Keen Ice was another two lengths back in third and paid $ 4.60 to show. Mubtaahij was fourth, followed by Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality. American Pharoah delivered a victory for the Egyptian- born Zayat, who bred the colt and put him up for sale before buying him back for US$ 300,000. His name came courtesy of the family’s online contest, in which a woman from Missouri submitted the winning moniker, but the misspelling — it should be pharaoh — wasn’t noticed until the name was already official. “ I can’t believe it happened,” said Justin Zayat, racing manager for his father’s stable. American Pharoah joined the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners Sir Barton ( 1919), Gallant Fox ( 1930), Omaha ( 1935), War Admiral ( 1937), Whirlaway ( 1941), Count Fleet ( 1943), Assault ( 1946), Citation ( 1948), Secretariat ( 1973), Seattle Slew ( 1977) and Affirmed. — The Associated Press Triple Crown drought broken American Pharoah first horse in 37 years to achieve rare feat By Beth Harris SCOTT SERIO / CAL SPORT MEDIA / ZUMA PRESS / TNS Trainer Bob Baffert, wife Jill and son Bode celebrate the momentous victory. B_ 07_ Jun- 07- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B7 6/ 6/ 15 9: 52: 48 PM

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