Pat Forde

  • American Pharoah's brilliant final workout inflates Triple Crown hopes

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 21 hrs ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As American Pharoah glided across the Churchill Downs track in the rain Monday morning, Neil Howard kept clicking his stopwatch at every furlong marker.

    And kept exclaiming.

    "Damn!" the trainer said.



    Understand, Howard has been around the racetrack for 46 years and operated his own stable since 1979. He won the Preakness Stakes with Summer Squall in 1990 and had the American Horse of the Year in 2003 with Mineshaft.

    If Neil Howard is impressed by what a horse is doing in the morning, you should be, too.

    "So effortless," he said after American Pharoah had flown through five furlongs in 1 minute and galloped out strongly after that, in the colt's final major workout before being shipped to New York on Tuesday for the Belmont Stakes and a shot at the excruciatingly elusive Triple Crown. "He is something else."

    In the clocker's stand, you could almost feel optimism swell as American Pharoah showed his extraordinary stride in full flight.

    This could be The One.

    Here – on the cusp – is where unbridled hope crashes into the unforgiving wall of experience.

    Zayat interjected: "Bring it on."

  • Katie Ledecky set to chase Olympic history

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    BETHESDA, Md. – The workout was a grinder – a succession of freestyle efforts with scant rest in between, taxing the lungs, muscles and mind. And the competition only made it tougher.

    Over the course of the two-hour practice, Nation’s Capital Swim Club’s elite group would churn out 7,525 yards – about 4 ¼ miles. In the 56-minute crucible that comprised the main set, they cranked through 4,000 of those yards. The swims descended in distance (200 yards, then 150, then 100) but increased in pace – and stress.

    Andrew Gemmell, a 2012 Olympian and the son of NCAP head coach Bruce Gemmell, led the way in Lane Six. Toiling (and sometimes failing) to keep pace in Lane Seven was Matthew Hirschberger, who two months earlier broke the national 15-16 age-group record in the 1,000 freestyle. And then there was the swimmer in Lane Five – on Andrew Gemmell’s hip every stroke of the afternoon, like an aquatic stalker.

    That swimmer’s pattern between sprints never varied: touch the wall, gasp for a couple seconds, modulate the breathing to inhale through the nose, tug down determinedly on the front of the cap, stoically look at the pace clock and go again.

    “Come on, you know,” she said shyly.

  • UNC basketball’s biggest threat to title hopes could be postseason ban

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    North Carolina is expected to be a prime contender for the 2016 men’s basketball national championship. Some outlets have the Tar Heels ranked No. 1 in their early Top 25s.

    But after the school received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA on Friday, the question becomes this:

    Will the Heels even get a postseason chance to show how good they are?

    The speed (or lack thereof) with which the wheels of NCAA justice turn could have a profound impact on North Carolina’s 2015-16 season – and, by extension, on the college basketball season as a whole. If a postseason ban is a possible penalty in the school’s sprawling academic fraud case, when could it be delivered and administered? In time for next season or not?

    As with most things NCAA-related, the answer is complicated. But if North Carolina goes through a full extension of the process, the NCAA and school will be on a tight deadline to resolve this early enough in 2016 to affect the Tar Heels’ postseason.

    But as we all know, no two NCAA cases are the same. And there are other factors to consider.

  • Why Everett Golson's transfer to Florida State shouldn't be an issue

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    We should all be fine with it. Well, maybe Clemson and Georgia Tech and Louisville aren’t fine with it – they’re the teams chasing the Seminoles in the Atlantic Coast Conference – but there should be no new outcry about this form of free agency.

    The former Notre Dame quarterback became a Notre Dame graduate on Sunday, and a Florida State Seminole on Tuesday. This immediate transfer eligibility is the way it can work if you perform what the NCAA says is the most important task assigned to its student-athletes – earn a degree.

    Power to the player. At least the player with a bachelor’s degree. He can actually enjoy the same ability to change schools as a coach has.

    [ThePostGame: College football's grad transfer QB market yields mixed bag at best]

    There is the rule requiring athletes to sit out a year of competition after transferring. That’s a valid one, or else we’d have mass migration every time a player gets benched.

  • American Pharoah settles frayed nerves in a resounding Preakness romp

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 16 days ago

    BALTIMORE — The first rain drops fell innocently upon Pimlico Race Course at 5:52 p.m. Post time in the Preakness Stakes was 26 minutes away.

    Nobody knew what was about to be unleashed, by Mother Nature and by American Pharoah. In torrential tandem, they took Baltimore by storm.

    With lightning flashing, thunder rumbling and sheets of blowing rain soaking a Pimlico record crowd of 131,600, the Kentucky Derby champion danced through a Biblical deluge to win the Preakness by seven emphatic lengths. Provided he comes out of this race OK, the dazzling colt owned by Ahmed Zayat, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza will be the latest in a long and futile line to attempt to end thoroughbred racing's 37-year Triple Crown drought June 6 at the Belmont.

    That quest will be the dominant storyline going forward – but this surreal second leg of the Triple Crown deserves its own soggy moment.

    The end result of the Preakness was easy – a splash in the park, really. But getting there was harrowing.

    "That was pretty cool, huh?" Bob said to his son when they reached the indoor paddock.

  • College basketball just got better

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    College basketball became a better game Friday. Rejoice and be glad in it.

    The NCAA men's basketball rules committee took a big swing at fixing what ails the sport, announcing an array of proposed alterations to the way the game is played. This no longer is a sport that seems terrified of change.

    Pending expected approval from the men's basketball oversight committee, the key changes are these:

    • Reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30.

    • Reducing the number of second-half timeouts by one for each team; eliminating coaches calling live-ball timeouts; reducing the amount of time to replace a player who has fouled out; and adjusting media timeout procedures.

    • Expanding the restricted arc under the basket from three feet to four feet.

    • Penalties for faking fouls (i.e., flopping).

    • Most importantly, a renewed enforcement of rules that limit physical play.

    That's a lot. And it's all needed. Badly needed.

    At long last, the current command structure had the guts to do something about it. Vice president of men's basketball championships Dan Gavitt was a terrific addition to the NCAA in 2012, and he has the people around him now to enact change.


  • Great debate: Did Victor Espinoza whip American Pharoah too many times?

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    BALTIMORE — Is Victor Espinoza the new whipping boy for animal rights activists?

    The jockey who rode American Pharoah to victory in the Kentucky Derby tattooed the winner somewhere between 29 to 33 times with his whip in the race – a very high number. (Watch here) By my estimation, the horses American Pharoah passed in the stretch, Firing Line and Dortmund, were whipped nine and 11 times, respectively, by jockeys Gary Stevens and Martin Garcia. Six years ago, jockey Calvin Borel was criticized in some quarters for whipping super filly Rachel Alexandra about 20 times in the Woodward Stakes.

    So 30 or more pops of the crop stand out. Especially in the Kentucky Derby.

    That led to some backlash from those who believe Espinoza's whip use was excessive, and that in turn led to defense of the jockey from some members of the racing community. In the current climate, vigorously whipping a horse in the only race many Americans watch all year is bound to create criticism.

  • American Pharoah the Preakness favorite, but will Todd Pletcher sabotage his Triple Crown bid?

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    BALTIMORE — Now that trainer Todd Pletcher has done what he does best – lose the Kentucky Derby, then take his ball and go back to New York – we can begin a serious appraisal of the Preakness Stakes.

    That appraisal starts and ends the same way the Derby started and ended: with American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund dominating the picture. They ran 1-2-3 almost the entire 1¼ miles two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, and could do it again Saturday at Pimilico Race Course.

    The horses with the best chance to break up the Big Three all officially bypassed Baltimore Tuesday, when Timid Todd dissed the Preakness one more time. A man with four contenders – Materiality, Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge and Stanford – will race none of them. They'll instead point toward the big races in New York this summer – including the Belmont Stakes – which further entrenches Pletcher's position as America's foremost Triple Crown hater.

    He doesn't like running in the second leg, and he loves ambushing the third leg. Should American Pharoah win Saturday, Pletcher figures to have multiple rested, capable horses waiting for him at Belmont.


  • Florida hires Louisiana Tech's Michael White as men's basketball coach

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 25 days ago

    Florida completed a swift and stealthy search to replace Billy Donovan by announcing Thursday night that it had hired Louisiana Tech's Michael White as its next basketball coach.

    Yahoo Sports first reported earlier Thursday that White had emerged as the leading candidate for the Gators' job. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley flew out of Gainesville Thursday morning and met with White during the day to finalize a deal that will pay the 38-year-old an average of $2 million a year over six years.

    White does not bring a splashy résumé to the job – but neither did Donovan when he arrived from Marshall 19 years ago.

    White has been the coach at Louisiana Tech for four seasons, compiling a record of 101-40 and a conference mark of 50-16 in two seasons with Conference USA and two with the Western Athletic Conference. In the past three years, Tech has won at least 27 games every year and at least 13 in league play. White was the WAC Coach of the Year in 2013.

    Tennessee sought White for its coaching position last year after Cuonzo Martin left for California. White chose to stay at Louisiana Tech, receiving an enhanced, six-year contract extension.

  • NCAA, officials show more concern for themselves than student-athletes ... again

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 27 days ago

    You may have noticed that the latest red-alert, all-wonks-on-deck, DefCon 1 crisis in college athletics involves graduate transfers.

    NCAA officials, college administrators and other power brokers are scandalized by the fact that student-athletes who fulfill the student part of the equation by earning bachelor's degrees are actually exercising full freedom of transfer movement in record numbers. Immediate eligibility – kind of like coaches switching jobs – seems to be a strong attraction to players who fulfill the NCAA's stated goal of graduating. And it seems to be bringing out the inner control freak in the folks who run College Sports Inc.

    New NCAA vice president for governance Kevin Lennon said in late April that possibly amending the graduate transfer rule is near the top of the list of issues facing college sports. And last week in Irving, Texas, for the College Football Playoff management committee meetings, there was additional tut-tutting about the scourge of empowered college graduates moving freely from one school to the next.

    "I don't think it fits the core values of intercollegiate athletics," said Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.