Month: October 2019

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It’s Halloween week, so what better time could there be to issue an estimate of the cost of “Medicare for all” that will scare the hell out of American taxpayers?

Perhaps that’s what the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is thinking. On Monday, it issued a gruesome analysis of what it would take for the federal government to finance a universal healthcare program on a scale contemplated by some Democratic candidates for president (think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren).

The headline horrors to select from, according to the CRFB’s “preliminary” analysis, include these: a payroll tax increase of 32%, an income tax surtax of 25%, a 42% value-added tax (similar to a sales tax), a mandatory premium of $7,500 per person, a doubling of the national debt as a share of gross domestic product, or “impossibly high taxes on high earners, corporations, and the financial sector.” Or some combination of the above.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Yet, just as the frights perpetrated at your neighborhood haunted house often turn out to be not so scary after all, that’s the case with this analysis. After putting its most alarming estimates front and center, the committee acknowledges that, depending on its details, Medicare for all might even reduce total national health spending.

The committee says its main goal is to help policymakers weigh the “economic, distributional, and other consequences” of Medicare for all “relative to each other and against the effects of eliminating all premiums and out-of-pocket spending and providing comprehensive, universal health coverage through the federal government.” Among its arguments is that shifting healthcare costs from individuals and employers to government could produce headwinds for economic growth.

Patrick Newton, a committee spokesman, told me by email that “as our paper illustrates, the decision of what financing mechanism is used to replace this spending has considerable implications for the distribution of income, economic output, and the country’s tax capacity with regards to marginal rates.”

Yes, that’s important. The question is whether the committee didn’t smother that point by launching its analysis with projections of huge increases in the payroll tax and “impossibly high taxes” on corporations and the wealthy.

Before getting to the details, a few words about the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. It’s one of our most outspoken gaggles of fiscal hawks and was long associated with the billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who died in 2018. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation reported contributing $2.2 million to the committee April 2017- March 2018, the latest period for which a foundation disclosure is on record.

Peterson’s concerns about the federal deficit and government debt levels made him a critic of spending on “entitlement” programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. To be fair, however, the committee is an equal-opportunity budget scold. Among its targets has been the 2017 tax cut, which went chiefly to corporations and the wealthy; just last week CRFB President Maya MacGuineas issued a full-scale denunciation of the tax cut’s drafting and fiscal consequences.

Back to Medicare for all. Conservatives sometimes have had a hard time explaining why converting America’s patchwork of profit-seeking healthcare providers and financial middlemen into a single government-supervised system would necessarily be bad. On occasion they’ve stepped on their own rake.

That happened in 2018, when the libertarian fiscal analyst Charles Blahous issued a study purporting to show that Sanders’ Medicare for all plan would result in a massive increase in federal spending.

As we pointed out, Blahous’ calculations showed that Sanders’ program would reduce national health expenditures by $2 trillion over 10 years, despite offering more Americans more healthcare services. Blahous, who wrote his paper under the auspices of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, then had to spend a fair amount of energy defending his unexpected conclusion.

The fundamental sleight-of-hand in Blahous’ analysis was that it focused chiefly on how Medicare for all would affect the federal budget, without stressing that much of its impact would be a redistribution of money already being laid out by employers, families, and the federal and state budgets. That allowed him to make the cost of Medicare for all seem scarier.

The committee doesn’t go that far. Its paper reasonably observes that the first obstacle in costing out Medicare for all is defining what it is. The term is “somewhat amorphous,” the committee acknowledges, though it generally signifies universal, single-payer health insurance coverage for virtually all healthcare “with no meaningful premiums, deductibles, co-payments, or restrictive networks.”

The paper also acknowledges that under Medicare for all, total national healthcare spending might “increase or decrease.” Universal coverage, expanding services to cover dental or vision care, or higher utilization rates might increase costs; reducing administrative costs and cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, and drugmakers might lower them.

But the cost estimates cited by the committee don’t point to an unendurable increase in medical spending. The committee’s most dire scenario, based on an Urban Institute survey, estimates national spending at $50 trillion over 10 years, including money the federal government spends now for healthcare.

That would require $7 trillion more than estimates of current spending for 10 years (including annual inflation), or an average $700 billion per year more than is spent on healthcare now. That annual figure is the size of the military budget Congress approved last year, but instead of buying helicopters and strike fighters, it would pay for medical, dental, vision and long-term care for everyone in the country, without premiums, deductibles or co-pays.

But that’s an extreme case, which would provide all services to everyone including undocumented residents, with no premiums or cost-sharing and no private insurance allowed.

The Urban Institute, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Fund, costed out several permutations of healthcare reform that encompassed broader coverage but lower provider reimbursements and administrative costs. These included models that reduced overall spending by $209 billion in 2020 (some income-related co-pays), or $20 billion (a public option, and premium subsidies instead of elimination of premiums).

Given the uncertainties about the details of any healthcare reform proposal, Newton’s argument that the committee is largely working out the “distributional” issues that arise when revenues from taxes are substituted for premiums and co-pays looks a bit like placing one’s thumb on the scale against Medicare for all.

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That’s especially so since all the options mentioned come right out of a fiscal Grand Guignol. As the committee acknowledges, moreover, “most of the options we put forward are more progressive on average than current law.” In other words, they would hit higher-income taxpayers more than middle- or low-income Americans. That suggests who the prime audience might be for its analysis: those in the highest income tax brackets.

The committee is right to observe that every financing option has particular consequences. The committee says its “preliminary” analysis will be “followed by a more detailed analysis of the various consequences of different financing options.” That’s like rolling a bomb into a room and saying you’ll think about who might be maimed later. How long do you think it will be before Sanders or Warren is asked to justify raising the payroll tax by a third or income taxes by 25% to fund healthcare reform? And for all the concern about higher taxes suppressing economic growth, wouldn’t relieving households and businesses of the implicit tax of healthcare costs spur economic growth?

The public debate about healthcare reform in general and Medicare for all in particular is bound to be complicated, technically and politically. Putting out frightful numbers with little context is likely not to advance the debate, but to end it before it can start.


WASHINGTON — 

The Federal Reserve made another interest rate cut on Wednesday, but Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell poured cold water on the idea that more rate cuts are coming down the pike.

The Fed, as expected, lowered its benchmark rate by a quarter of a point for the third straight time, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%.

Fed officials have described the rate cut as essentially an insurance against the risks to the American economy from the U.S.-China trade war and weakening global growth, which are threatening to undercut what since the summer has been the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.

Earlier Wednesday, the Commerce Department said U.S. economic growth slowed further in the third quarter, with business investments and net exports contracting for the second straight quarter, even as the housing market gained momentum and consumer spending grew at a slower but still-healthy pace.

Trade friction between the globe’s two largest economies has disrupted business operations and spending, as have other risks and uncertainties such as Britain’s messy exit from the European Union.

Powell made clear, however, that the U.S. central bank, after making three successive rate cuts since July, was hitting the pause button. He suggested that the Fed had done enough in light of continued moderate growth in the U.S. economy as well as an improvement in the outlook, particularly with the tentative “Phase 1″ trade agreement announced by Trump earlier this month.

“We believe that monetary policy is in a good place,” Powell said at a press conference Wednesday upon conclusion of the Fed’s two-day meeting and release of its official statement.

The statement was more vague about the Fed’s likely future path of interest rates, but Powell said that it would take a significant development in the economy to cause “a material reassessment of our outlook” for another Fed rate cut. That could be a sizable drop in job growth or consumer spending, which have been the pillars of the economy, as well as a worsening of trade tensions.

Investors were widely expecting Wednesday’s quarter-point cut, and also appeared to be looking for the Fed to keep the door open on future rate reductions. Futures markets were betting that there was a 25% chance of another quarter-point rate cut at the Fed’s last meeting of the year on Dec. 10-11.

Stock markets nonetheless rose after Powell spoke. Even though Powell tamped down hopes for another rate cut, investors apparently took heart in his remarks that the Fed could be sitting on the new very-low rate for a long time.

“We would need to see a really significant move up in inflation that’s persistent before we would consider raising rates to address inflation concerns,” Powell said. Inflation has been running below the Fed’s 2% target for years, and many analysts don’t see it rising fast anytime soon.

With Wednesday’s cut, the Fed’s key interest rate stands at less than the rate of inflation and, Powell said, “will continue to provide significant support for the economy.”

Analysts, however, aren’t so sure. The latest rate cut, like the two earlier ones, was telegraphed weeks earlier and has already been priced into stock markets. And mortgage rates have fallen by more than a full percentage point from last November, more than the total of the Fed’s rate cuts, to an average of 3.75% for a 30-year fixed loan as of last week.

“We’re not going to get more good medicine for this economy,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Assn. of Realtors, said the Fed’s actions have without doubt helped boost a lackluster housing market. But he noted that there are many constraints for faster growth in housing, including unaffordably high prices and difficulties getting building permits.

In the third quarter, housing made an outsized contribution to the U.S. economy, which grew at an annual rate of 1.9%, the Commerce Department said. That was down from 2% in the second quarter and 3.1% in the first three months of this year.

Although that’s still moderate growth, and fears of imminent recession have eased in recent weeks, the Commerce report showed the damage already inflicted by the trade war. U.S. business investments and net exports both fell for the second straight quarter, joining U.S. manufacturing in a recession.

Powell said, however, that he didn’t see evidence the weakness in manufacturing or business investments was spilling into consumer spending.

“What we continue to see is good job creation,” he said. “Unemployment has declined again,” he said, noting that it is now at a 50-year low.

“So it’s very positive,” Powell added. “The consumers are doing well and are focused on, you know, the good job market and rising incomes. And that’s their principal focus. So that is the thing that’s pushing the economy forward, and it doesn’t seem to have been affected so far by weakness in the other areas.”

Powell has been under heavy pressure from President Trump to make big rate cuts, and his signal Wednesday that the Fed would be pausing for now is likely to draw more ire from the White House. As in the past, Powell declined Wednesday to comment when asked about Trump’s remarks about the economy.


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The former Trump campaign aide who sparked the Russia investigation says he is running for the northern Los Angeles County congressional seat being vacated by resigning Rep. Katie Hill.

George Papadopoulos, who spent two weeks in jail for lying to the FBI agents, filed to run for the seat with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

“I’m smelling blood in the water now that Katie Hill has resigned. California’s 25th congressional district is wide open for the taking,” he tweeted on Sunday, the day Hill, a Democrat, announced she would step down from the seat. “Someone has to step up. I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sellouts.”

Papadopoulos, 32, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to federal agents in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election; he was sentenced in September 2018.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, the top Democrat in the race, poked fun at Papadopoulos for not living in the district.

“Welcome to the race. Hey, guess what? This is California, and as soon as you can identify my district on here, you let us know,” Smith, of Santa Clarita, said in a Twitter video on Tuesday, standing before a map of the state. “CA-25 belongs to CA-25.”

Members of Congress do not have to reside in the district they represent. The FEC filing lists his address as near Hollywood. Attempts to reach Papadopoulos’ campaign were unsuccessful, and his campaign website leads to an error message.

Hill announced on Sunday that she planned to resign from Congress amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with subordinates and the release of intimate pictures. She has acknowledged having a relationship with a campaign staffer but denies having had one with a congressional aide. In a video statement Monday, she blamed her estranged husband and a campaign by “the right-wing media and Republican opponents” for the allegations against her.

Her resignation sparked politicians in both parties to eye the district, which was held by Republicans in recent decades until Hill won it in 2018 as part of the “blue wave” that helped Democrats retake control of the House.

Smith immediately announced her candidacy. Secretary of State Alex Padilla had indicated interest in the race, but he said Wednesday that he had decided not to run.

Five Republicans had filed to run before Hill’s announcement, with former Navy pilot Mike Garcia and Lancaster City Councilwoman Angela Underwood Jacobs the biggest fundraisers in the race, according to FEC disclosures. Another Democrat had previously filed to run but has not raised any money.

Papadopoulos came to investigators’ notice during the 2016 campaign after he told an Australian diplomat that Russians had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. After hacked emails were released that summer, the diplomat informed U.S. officials and the counterintelligence investigation began.

About a week after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, FBI agents interviewed Papadopoulos. The former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign lied about his April 2016 conversation with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor working in London who had ties to Russian officials. Papadopoulos said Mifsud told him Russians had “thousands of emails” involving Clinton, but he claimed he had not joined the Trump campaign when they spoke.

The FBI met with Mifsud in the U.S. in early 2017, but Papadopoulos’ lies “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him,” prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III argued before his sentencing.

The judge in the sentencing said that by lying to the FBI in hopes of maintaining his shot at a job in the Trump administration, Papadopoulos placed “self-interest over the national interest.”


WASHINGTON — 

President Trump’s former top advisor for Russian and European affairs arrived Thursday on Capitol Hill to testify to House impeachment investigators, a day after leaving his job at the White House.

Tim Morrison, the first White House political appointee to testify, didn’t respond to reporters’ questions about his testimony, which takes place behind closed doors, but his information might be central to a push to remove the president from office.

Morrison, who served on the National Security Council, stepped down from that post Wednesday, and a senior administration official said he “decided to pursue other opportunities.” The official, who was not authorized to discuss Morrison’s job and spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said Morrison has been considering leaving the administration for “some time.”

He has been in the spotlight since August, when a government whistleblower said multiple U.S. officials had said Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

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Morrison will be asked to explain that “sinking feeling” he got when Trump demanded that Ukraine’s president investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and meddling in the 2016 election.

Morrison was brought on board by then-national security advisor John Bolton to address arms control matters and later shifted into his current role as a top Russia and Europe advisor. It was there that he stepped into the thick of an in-house squabble about the activities of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had been conversing with Ukrainian leaders outside traditional U.S. diplomatic circles.

Known as a hawk in national security circles, Morrison is the first political appointee from the White House to testify before impeachment investigators. The probe has been denounced by the Republican president, who has directed his staff not to testify.

Regardless of what Morrison says, GOP lawmakers will be hard-pressed to dismiss Morrison, formerly a longtime Republican staffer at the House Armed Services Committee. He’s been bouncing around Washington in Republican positions for two decades, having worked for Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and as a GOP senior staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, including nearly four years when it was chaired by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

Morrison’s name appeared more than a dozen times in earlier testimony by William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, who told impeachment investigators that Trump was withholding military aid unless the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, went public with a promise to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Taylor’s testimony contradicts Trump’s repeated denials that there was any quid pro quo.

Taylor said Morrison recounted a conversation that Gordon Sondland, America’s ambassador to the European Union, had with a top aide to Zelenskiy named Andriy Yermak. Taylor said Morrison told him security assistance would not materialize until Zelenskiy committed to investigate Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that once employed Biden’s son. A White House meeting for Zelenskiy also was in play.

“I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation,” Taylor testified. “This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance — not just the White House meeting — was conditioned on the investigations.”

Taylor testified that Morrison told him he had a “sinking feeling” after learning about a Sept. 7 conversation Sondland had with Trump.

“According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he was not asking for a quid pro quo,” Taylor testified. “But President Trump did insist that President Zelenskiy go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelenskiy should want to do this himself. Mr. Morrison said that he told Ambassador Bolton and the NSC lawyers of this phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland.”

Morrison told people after Bolton was forced out of his job that the national security adviser had tried to stop Giuliani’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine and that Morrison agreed, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss Morrison’s role in the impeachment inquiry and spoke only on condition of anonymity. The official said Morrison told people that with the appointment of Robert O’Brien as Bolton’s successor, his own future work at the NSC was in a “holding pattern.”

Bolton had brought Morrison into the NSC in July 2018 as senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefence. He’s known as an arms control expert or an arms treaty saboteur, depending on who you ask.

Morrison, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from George Washington University, keeps nuclear strategist Herman Kahn’s seminal volume on thermonuclear warfare on a table in his office.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Bolton and Morrison are likeminded. Kimball said both have been known for calling up GOP congressional offices warning them against saying anything about arms control that didn’t align with their views.

“Just as John Bolton reportedly did, I would be shocked if Morrison did not regard Giuliani’s activities as being out of bounds,” said Kimball, who has been on opposite sides of arms control debates with Morrison for more than a decade.


Canucks get 49 shots as Kings lose fourth in a row

October 31, 2019 | News | No Comments

Drew Doughty was unequivocal on Tuesday afternoon, the Kings’ veteran defenseman’s faith unwavering even in the wake of a sudden losing skid that felt eerily similar to those that sunk the team last season.

“I know that we’re a better team than we were last year,” Doughty said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

The Kings’ performance Wednesday night, however, was less convincing. In a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, they were outshot by a season-worst 49-24, surrendered a season-most four power-play goals and dropped a season-high fourth game in a row.

“It affects the whole team,” coach Todd McLellan said of the repeated penalty kills. “It takes guys out of the play. The momentum goes away, or you never get a chance to gain it. You’re either killing or you’re getting scored on.”

Where complacency took hold last season — leading to a last-place finish in the Western Conference and losing streaks of six, four and 10 games — McLellan this week tried to light a competitive fire under his squad after three consecutive defeats at the end of last week’s trip.

The first-year bench boss inserted rookie forward Carl Grundstrom, recalled this week from the minors, into a newlook top line alongside Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar. Tyler Toffoli was a healthy scratch, snapping a streak of 207 consecutive appearances (which had been the 20th-longest active such streak in the league). Defenseman Joakim Ryan was replaced with Kurtis MacDermid.

The message: The Kings are willing to make changes in search of results. Their players understand the new standards.

“Last year, the frustrating thing was, early in the season everyone was saying, ‘Oh, it will turn around. It will turn around. It’s going to come.’ It just never turned around,” Doughty said. “This year … it’s about making it turn around. I think that’s what our focus is in here. We’re a lot more confident in this team this year than we were last year.”

They looked so early Wednesday, striking first after Kopitar (who recorded his 900th career point) set up Carter (who scored twice) in front of the Canucks goal for a backhanded finish.

But then the Kings’ parade to the penalty box began.

They took four minor penalties in the opening period, leading to two Canucks goals from Brock Boeser (a sharp-angle shot) and Bo Horvat (a deflected point shot). In the second and third, they took two more — both of which the Canucks capitalized on.

“We took two or three penalties tonight that were unnecessary,” McLellan said. “They didn’t prevent goals, they didn’t affect the play at all.

As a result, the penalty kill goes to work and it’s been very poor, tonight especially … Certainly not of NHL standards.”

Adrian Kempe scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 2-2 in the second before Boeser got behind the Kings’ defense on a partial line change later in the period and lifted a backhanded deke past goalie Jonathan Quick’s blocker for a go-ahead goal.

Boeser scored again 55 seconds into the third — the Canucks’ third power-play goal — after his centering pass deflected off Doughty’s skate and into the net for his third career hat trick.

Elias Pettersson sniped Quick on the man-advantage later in the period, dropping the Kings’ season-long penalty kill success rate to 68.8%.

“Let’s face it, if we gave up one penalty-kill goal tonight, we’d maybe be talking about a different story,” McLellan said. “We can talk about lines and combinations and sitting guys out and all that [but] the penalty kill is the story.”

The Kings will end the season’s opening month with only eight points in 13 games, stuck in last place in the Western Conference.

Already, vultures are beginning to circle (Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and more than 20 other league scouts and executives were listed as Staples Center attendees Wednesday). The promise of the season’s early weeks is fading fast. Yet, their search for answers continues.

“We dropped three in a row [before tonight],” Kopitar said. “So you know changes are going to happen.”


Tracking UCLA’s highlights on Wednesday night involved following the floppy hair.

It belonged to Tyger Campbell, the dreadlock-wearing point guard who was in the midst of almost everything the Bruins did well in their only exhibition game.

He threw a lob to Jalen Hill for a dunk, found Prince Ali for a three-pointer and made a bounce pass to Alex Olesinski for a layup. And that was just on his team’s first three baskets.

Campbell made coach Mick Cronin a winner in his debut inside Pauley Pavilion, the redshirt freshman carrying the Bruins to an 87-57 victory over Stanislaus State a week before their season opener.

Campbell finished with 14 points, 11 assists and two steals in 27 minutes in his long-awaited introduction to the home fans after sitting out last season because of torn knee ligaments.

“I’ve been itching to get back out there, and obviously tonight I just felt great out there,” said Campbell, who received a loud ovation from the crowd of 3,221 after departing the game shortly after throwing his fourth alley-oop pass, which Jaime Jaquez Jr. grabbed for a layup.

The Bruins got a scare midway through the second half when Ali hurt his right ankle and hobbled around for a few seconds while grimacing before motioning to the bench that he needed to come out. Cronin said Ali did not break the ankle, but he did not have any further information on the severity of the injury.

One of the first things Cronin mentioned was his team’s 44 deflections, calling it “a UCLA stat now” that he will closely track each game. He said teams that collect at least 40 deflections win 95% of those games.

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“It’s the greatest single indicator of your defensive effort,” Cronin said, referring to a statistic that includes tipped passes, blocked shots and recovered loose balls.

UCLA’s offense hinged almost exclusively on Campbell in the early going. He was involved in his team’s first 11 points via assist or scoring (including two Jules Bernard free throws that came as a result of taking a pass from Campbell on a fast break).

The Bruins struggled to generate offense when Campbell went to the bench and fell behind by as many as as four points in the first half before running off 11 consecutive points to take control.

Campbell showed that he could do more than pass, tipping a Stanislaus State entry pass to himself for a steal and scoring on a variety of moves. He used a nifty ball fake to elude a defender before whirling for a short jumper, buried an open three-pointer and made a floater at the halftime buzzer that earned him a celebratory body bump with Hill.

Chris Smith, continuing to search for an identity after two inconsistent seasons, scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made nine deflections.

“I told him if I had his size and athleticism,” Cronin said of the 6-foot-9 guard, “my identity would be deflections, defense, blocked shots, rebounds. … He’s really trying to embrace that.”

Hill, Riley and Jaquez each added 11 points for the Bruins, who used 11 players even before Cronin emptied his bench in the final minutes against Stanislaus State, a Division II team from Turlock, Calif. Cronin said that would likely be his rotation once the season starts against Long Beach State on Nov. 6 at home.

“Everybody that subs in,” Smith said, “is just as good or even better than the starters.”


Racing! One day to go to the Breeders’ Cup

October 31, 2019 | News | No Comments

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we circle around one more time on those in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Distaff.

As usual this Breeders’ Cup week, there’s a lot to get to. But first, in Wednesday’s newsletter, I failed to mention we had a story on the 10-year anniversary of Zenyatta’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the story, I talk to John Shirreffs, Mike Smith, Trevor Denman and Jon White. You can read it here. You can watch the race here.

And, Thursday, we met up with Richard Mandella to talk about Omaha Beach’s hopes to win the Dirt Mile and put him in position for 3-year-old horse of the year. You can read it here.

On to the notes.

Breeders’ Cup notes

As we’ve done every day this week, we called up on the Breeders’ Cup notes team to update us on horses in the big races. Many thanks to them. This is an edited version of their report.

Classic

Code of Honor – He jogged for a while Wednesday morning, then galloped 1 ½ miles for exercise rider Lexi Pradun. Rider and horse returned to the barn area through the paddock and returned to the paddock in mid-morning for more schooling.

“It looks like to me that he gets over [the track] fine,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I asked Lexi too and she said fine. She took hold of him the whole way. I can’t worry about the track. … There are two really major races in the United States that I haven’t won, the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I’ve been close in both of them, so they’re both on my list. I hope that maybe this year we can get the one behind us.”

Elate/Yoshida – Elate and stablemate Yoshida both galloped Wednesday and went through the paddock with exercise rider Juan Quintero aboard each. “We’re throwing [Elate] in deep water,” said trainer Bill Mott. We seldom run the fillies against the colts unless we think we’ve got a top-class horse and one that would fit the race. I think she fits the conditions of the race very well and she’s proven it. Of course, we’re running against good competition so she still has to run her very best race to compete.”

Higher Power Higher Power galloped and stood in the gate Wednesday, coming to the track around 6:30 a.m. along with stablemate Ollie’s Candy. “It’s an interesting field, it’s probably a great gambling race this year because you could take a lot of horses and say they have a pretty good chance,” trainer John Sadler said. “There are a lot question marks on all of them. With Higher Power, can he repeat that performance that he had at Del Mar and do it again? Because he’s got that one. But he has to do it again. Can McKinzie go a mile and a quarter? That’s another one. Then, how do the 3-year-olds stack up against the olders? So, there are a lot of angles you can look at. [Elate] looks like she wants that distance, she’s also a Medaglia d’Oro. That’s another fascinating look at that race.”

Math Wizard – The Pennsylvania Derby winner jogged once around the Santa Anita track under assistant trainer Sabine Langvad Wednesday, the morning after arriving from South Florida. “He got in late last night,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He got in around 10 [p.m.]. His flight was delayed because of weather. He ate well. He traveled well. He likes to travel. Whenever he travels, he wakes up when he gets there.”

McKinzie On Wednesday morning, McKinzie jogged a mile under exercise rider Humberto Gomez.

Mongolian Groom – Trainer Enebish Ganbat sent the 4-year-old gelding for his morning exercise Wednesday and morning and had rider Jesse Cardenas jog him a mile then gallop a half-mile. “I want to do exactly what I did before the Awesome Again,” Ganbat said.

Owendale Owendale made his presence felt Wednesday, his first morning to gallop at Santa Anita since arriving Tuesday from Kentucky and his confidence carried over to his trainer Brad Cox. “He’s moving as well as he can move, looks as well as he can look,” Cox said. “It’s a step up from the Oklahoma Derby, but’s a nice horse going the right way at the right time. He hasn’t run a bad race all year. Once he took off this spring, when he won the Lexington, that was his coming out party. It showed he can run with the big horses. His training has been the exact same all year. He’s a very consistent horse and keeps getting better.”

Seeking the Soul Seeking the Soul followed his usual routine of galloping 1 ½ miles before daylight and continues to “train beautifully,” according to his trainer Dallas Stewart.

Vino Rosso – He galloped 1 3/8 miles and stood in the starting gate at Santa Anita Wednesday morning. “He’s doing great,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He showed a lot of energy going on and off the track.”

War of Will Trainer Mark Casse is always encouraged when War of Will gets to bucking on the track. He threw in one of his playful jumps while galloping along with stablemate Got Stormy on Wednesday morning. “He needs to come with his Derby race [on Saturday],” Casse said. “Everything we’ve kind of done up to this now has been looking at how we did the Kentucky Derby. I think he came with his ‘A’ game in the Kentucky Derby. Probably a B-plus game in the Preakness. Our feeling is he’s older, he’s more mature now and why not. If he comes with his big race, then everyone will know he’s there.”

Distaff

Blue Prize – She galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Hiram Rosario on Wednesday morning as she continued her preparations. “These Grade 1s are always tough and it is the same this year with five, six, seven Grade 1 winners in there,” trainer Ignacio Correas IV said. “Last year it was Monomoy Girl and this year it is Midnight Bisou. You try to be competitive going into these races and I feel very good about my horse. But there are other people that feel good, too; another 10 people.”

Dunbar Road – On Wednesday morning, the Alabama winner left Barn 48 with stablemates Sistercharlie and Bricks and Mortar and proceeded to gallop an easy 1¼ miles over the main track. “In the Spinster she didn’t get a good trip,” trainer Chad Brown said. “She was stuck on a dead rail and closer to the pace than she normally is. It just wasn’t good. If she could have been a little further back and got a clear trip, she could have won the race. If she gets a cleaner trip, I expect a much better effort this time.”

La Force – Trainer Paddy Gallagher had La Force on the track early today for a 1 ½ mile gallop as she readies for what likely will be her final start. As usual, regular rider Caesar Garcia was aboard. This will be the third Breeders’ Cup appearance for La Force.

Midnight Bisou – Midnight Bisou galloped an easy 1 ¼ miles with Angel Garcia aboard, according to trainer Steve Asmussen’s assistant Scott Blasi. “[Jockey] Mike [Smith] rides her every day and has a tremendous amount of confidence in her, so however the pace goes, he’s the one riding,” Blasi said. “Coming into the race, she gets pretty sharp. She knows it’s game time, now. Like most good horses, they get into that routine. They know what you’re doing with them and she knows she’s running this week.”

Mo See Cal – Mo See Cal galloped 1 mile at San Luis Rey Downs on Wednesday morning before arriving at Santa Anita Park around 10 a.m. “She’s doing great,” trainer Peter Miller said from San Luis Rey. “She galloped today and arrived there this morning.”

Ollie’s Candy — Ollie’s Candy came to the track around 6:30 a.m. with stablemate Higher Power on Wednesday, putting in a gallop and standing in the gate while under the guidance of exercise rider Juan Leyva. “She was good before I got her and she ran a really nice race at Del Mar last time out in the Clement Hirsch,” trainer John Sadler said. “She won a stakes here at 3, she won the Summertime Oaks, so I think she ought to be highly competitive. She’s training very well for this race.”

Paradise Woods – In her second spin around the Santa Anita main track Wednesday, she seemed much more settled under exercise rider Cisco Alvarado. “There was a lot of traffic this morning so the first time around, she pulls. But the second time, she relaxes,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

Secret Spice – Trainer Richard Baltas supervised his stakes-winning filly Secret Spice as she schooled in the starting gate, then galloped 1 ¼ miles over the main track under exercise rider Sarafin Carmona.

Serengeti Empress –Serengeti Empress got her first feel for the main track at Santa Anita Wednesday morning, jogging under exercise rider William Chavez for trainer Tom Amoss.

Street Band – Street Band, making her first appearance on the Santa Anita track Wednesday, schooled in the gate and galloped 1 ½ mile with trainer and co-owner Larry Jones on board. She also schooled in the paddock. “She got a little antsy in the paddock, but that’s just her,” Jones said. “She galloped nicely and was perfect in the gate.”

Wow Cat – Wow Cat went to the Santa Anita Park main track with fellow Chad Brown trainees Thais and Uni and galloped 1¼ miles. “She’s training well and is coming into the race well,” Brown said. “This year we’re hoping for a good trip with her.”

Santa Anita preview

It’s not quite the lead-in card to the Breeders’ Cup you would hope for, but it is what it is. There are nine races starting at 1 p.m. There are three turf races, with a rail set at 20 feet. Expect zero feet on Friday and Saturday. There are five races for 2-year-olds.

The feature is the $70,000 Lure Stakes for horses going a mil eon the turf. There are actually some decent horses in the race who are used to racing in bigger stakes. The favorite, at 5-2, is Restrainedvengence for trainer Val Brinkerhoff and jockey Martin Garcia. He was second last out in the Grade 2 City of Hope Stakes and won the Rolling Green Handicap at Golden Gate the start before that. He is four-of-17 lifetime and one for five this year.

River Boyne is the second favorite at 7-2. He is trained by Jeff Mullins and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. He is a strong seven-of-19 lifetime but is winless in five tries this year. He was 11thin the City og Hope last out but finished second in the Shoemaker Mile the start before that. Post time is about 4:35 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 9, 6, 7, 6, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE ONE: No. 3 Impossible Task (6-1)

Impossible Task was one of those rare Doug O’Neill horses that did not win at Del Mar. Last out in August, John Sadler claimed the horse and now Joel Rosario rides for Hronis racing. That’s a potent team. We see some sharp works since that last race. 6-1 is great value. Sadler removes the blinkers Thursday and he is 22% for a profit on this move. The horse was also gelded since that last race and is protected today Lots to like here.

Sunday’s result: K P All Systems Go was bet down to 5/2 at post time. For the second race in a row Mike Smith had the winning horse sitting back in Del Mar into the turn before uncorking yet another late move to finish second. Those are the rides that drive horseplayers mad! K P paid $3.40 for place.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Golden Gate weekend preview

Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last meeting, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“Our Thursday and Sunday race cards begin at our usual 12:45 p.m. post times, while Friday’s nine-race card starts at 12:10 p.m. and Saturday’s at 11:30 a.m.

“Our feature on Saturday is a new stake, the Joseph T. Grace Stakes on turf for 3-year-olds and up. The marquee race of the week is led by Grecian Fire, who won the Grade 3 All American Stakes over this track in late May and won the California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar this summer. Willam Antongeorgi III, who is currently in a three-way tie atop the jockey standings, has the call. Others figuring to get support are Mugaritz, coming off a win in the Bulldog Stakes at Fresno, his stablemate Sixes and the stakes performers Builder and Camino Del Paraiso. Nine runners are entered the 1 1/16-mile race.

“No Stronach 5 wager this Friday, but there are plenty of interesting races. The feature is the eighth, an allowance for fillies and mares sprinting on the Tapeta. Your likely favorite is recent California-bred maiden special weight winner Miss Megan, who broke her maiden at Del Mar by double digit lengths. Andy Mathis trains the daughter of Richard’s Kid, whose main competition includes Southern California shipper Stirred from the Michael McCarthy barn, the Steve Miyadi trained Ruby Bradley and Sweet Rafaela from the Isidro Tamayo barn.

“Speaking of Isidro, congratulations to the 33-year-old conditioner for picking up his first career hat trick on Friday afternoon. Tamayo won the second race with Mr. Q, the third with Passionate Reward and the nightcap with Conquest Sabre Cat. He’s an up and coming trainer that folks should pay attention to. He does a terrific job with his string of 47 horses.

“Lastly, good luck to trainer Blaine Wright, who saddles Anneau D’Or in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday. Owned by Peter Redekop, the son of Medaglia D’Oro has raced just once, resulting in an eight-length win against maidens on turf at Golden Gate. Juan Hernandez retains the mount on the $480,000 purchase, who is out of the Tapit mare and Grade 3 winner Walk Close. Santa Anita morning line maker Jon White has installed Anneau D’Or as the 15-1 morning line fifth choice.

“We’re taking a shot,” Wright said. “He’s a very talented horse and he’s doing great.”

Final thought

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more. Tell your friends, or even people you don’t like that much.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at johnacherwa@gmail.com. You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now, the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, October 31.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 20th day of a 23-day meet.

FIRST RACE.

5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Drasario John Velazquez 122 Richard Baltas 15-1
2 Too Late Mario Gutierrez 122 Doug F. O’Neill 4-1
3 Impossible Task Joel Rosario 122 John W. Sadler 6-1
4 Witch’s Vow Tiago Pereira 122 Hector O. Palma 15-1
5 Smooth Like Strait Geovanni Franco 122 Michael W. McCarthy 7-2
6 Heywoods Beach Jorge Velez 117 John W. Sadler 6-1
7 Dean Martini Javier Castellano 122 Peter Miller 5-2
8 Nineeleventurbo Flavien Prat 122 Neil D. Drysdale 8-1
9 Phast Pharoah Victor Espinoza 122 Jeff Bonde 12-1

SECOND RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

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PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 I’m the Hero Evin Roman 122 Adam Kitchingman 8-1
2 Saralin Flavien Prat 122 Simon Callaghan 9-5
3 Antigone Tyler Baze 122 Simon Callaghan 3-1
4 Gingham Joel Rosario 122 Bob Baffert 6-5
5 Well Done Sally Martin Garcia 122 Kristin Mulhall 12-1
6 Lizzario Rafael Bejarano 122 J. Keith Desormeaux 20-1

THIRD RACE.

7 Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Carnelian Hero Rafael Bejarano 122 Jeff Bonde 4-1 50,000
2 Include the Tax J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 Michael W. McCarthy 3-1 50,000
3 Successful Command Tyler Baze 122 J. Eric Kruljac 8-1 50,000
4 Wicked Blue Modesto Linares 122 Vernon E. Aguayo 15-1 50,000
5 Baltimore Beecho Assael Espinoza 122 Jorge Periban 6-1 50,000
6 Papa Tony Tiago Pereira 122 George Papaprodromou 12-1 50,000
7 Govenor Cinch Ruben Fuentes 122 Tim Yakteen 6-5 50,000

FOURTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $31,000. Starter Optional Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $40,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Delp Diego Sanchez 122 J. Keith Desormeaux 4-1
2 Vastly Deep Eswan Flores 120 Steven Miyadi 3-1
3 Absolute Weapon Abel Cedillo 120 Andrew Lerner 2-1
4 Destiny’s Journey Assael Espinoza 119 Steve Knapp 6-1
5 Old Trafford Martin Garcia 122 Simon Callaghan 3-1 40,000
6 Billy K Jorge Velez 114 Ryan Hanson 8-1 40,000

FIFTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $32,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $32,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Quinnie Geovanni Franco 125 Carla Gaines 12-1 32,000
2 Gone to Bali Evin Roman 125 Vann Belvoir 8-1 32,000
3 Saburai J.C. Diaz, Jr. 120 Vladimir Cerin 7-2 32,000
4 South Boot Shirley Joseph Talamo 125 Craig Dollase 8-1 32,000
5 Tig Tog Joel Rosario 125 John W. Sadler 5-2 32,000
6 Candy Swirls Tiago Pereira 125 William Spawr 4-1 32,000
7 Pacifica Jorge Velez 117 Leonard Powell 10-1 32,000
8 Wind Tartare Rafael Bejarano 125 Vann Belvoir 4-1 32,000

SIXTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 K P Cats Wild Abel Cedillo 122 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 5-2 30,000
2 Calese Hector Berrios 122 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 8-1 30,000
3 Teachers Big Dream Jorge Velez 117 Eddie Truman 6-1 30,000
4 Circleofcolor Geovanni Franco 122 John C. Ivory 7-2 30,000
5 Totally Normal Tyler Baze 122 Jeffrey Metz 12-1 30,000
6 Kuda Huraa Drayden Van Dyke 122 George Papaprodromou 4-1 30,000
7 Vannavanna Bo Bana Mario Gutierrez 122 Steve Knapp 6-1 30,000
8 Sharp Turn J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 Mike Harrington 8-1 30,000

SEVENTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Catch the Eye Martin Garcia 122 David E. Hofmans 8-1
2 Mucho Macho Woman Joseph Talamo 122 Ronald W. Ellis 4-1
3 Paige Runner Jorge Velez 117 Gary Mandella 4-1
4 Saving Sophie Drayden Van Dyke 122 Ronald W. Ellis 3-1
5 Amatara Flavien Prat 122 Richard Baltas 5-2
6 Full Eclipse Brice Blanc 122 John E. Cortez 20-1
7 Cover Version Victor Espinoza 125 James M. Cassidy 6-1
8 Karmically J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 John A. Shirreffs 15-1

EIGHTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $70,000. ‘Lure Stakes (R)’. 3 year olds and up.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 River Boyne Lanfranco Dettori 125 Jeff Mullins 7-2
2 Declarationofpeace Joel Rosario 121 John W. Sadler 8-1
3 Tule Fog Tiago Pereira 123 Javier Jose Sierra 30-1
4 Double Touch John Velazquez 125 John W. Sadler 6-1
5 Brown Storm Javier Castellano 125 Michael W. McCarthy 12-1
6 Ritzy A. P. Flavien Prat 125 Dan Blacker 10-1
7 Lil Milo Tyler Baze 121 Alfredo Marquez 12-1
8 Ronald R Drayden Van Dyke 123 Ronald W. Ellis 10-1
9 Andesh Abel Cedillo 123 Philip D’Amato 4-1
10 Restrainedvengence Martin Garcia 125 Val Brinkerhoff 5-2

NINTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $15,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Busy Paynter Tiago Pereira 122 Brian J. Koriner 9-5 12,500
2 Blew by You Henry Lopez 117 Daniel Dunham 20-1 12,500
3 Coilette Mario Gutierrez 122 Jorge Periban 3-1 12,500
4 Hola Mazuma Edgar Payeras 122 Vann Belvoir 20-1 12,500
5 Tribal Dance Abel Cedillo 125 Mark Glatt 3-1 12,500
6 Warm It Up Modesto Linares 125 Vernon E. Aguayo 30-1 12,500
7 At the Margin Assael Espinoza 122 Jairo B. Monascal 30-1 12,500
8 Promnesia Ruben Fuentes 125 Reed Saldana 12-1 12,500
9 Secret Maneuver Jorge Velez 117 Milton G. Pineda 8-1 12,500
10 Heart of the Nile Eswan Flores 125 Hector O. Palma 8-1 12,500

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. It’s one of the most important days of the year, so let’s focus on real-world issues: Which Halloween candy is the best?

HALLOWEEN

If you’re like me (and if you are, I’m very, very sorry), then Halloween was a mixed bag. I’m allergic to chocolate and can have maybe one chocolate bar before I get even puffier than normal and have to rush to the emergency room. Most people, however, love to give out chocolate on Halloween. So, when I would empty my bag, there was about 75% of it I couldn’t eat. So if you are giving out Halloween candy tonight, let me suggest this: give the kids two candies, one chocolate and one non-chocolate. Everyone wins! and if you aren’t sure what non-chocolate candy to give, here is the list that my 10-year-old self would have presented to you:

1. Now and Later

2. Skittles

3. Starburst

4. Smarties

5. Jolly Ranchers

6. Charms Blow Pops

7. Nerds

8. SweeTarts

9. Lemonheads

10. Shocktarts

Please, no Circus Peanuts or Swedish Fish. Those were made near the gates of hell and should never be given out. And if you are one of those people who gives out a pencil and a tiny notebook, then you have made a series of wrong choices in life and I will pray for you.

If you are wondering what my Halloween costume is, I’m dressing as a Dodger. That way I don’t have to worry about a gaudy World Series ring weighing me down when I lift up my bag.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled newsletter.

WORLD SERIES

Hey, it looks like Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets bullpen advice from his good friend Dave Roberts, because he left Gerrit Cole in the bullpen and went with Will Harris in a crucial situation in Game 7, and it cost his team dearly.

For the last five months, the Washington Nationals, baseball’s greatest underachievers at their nadir in late May, thrived when left for dead. They roared back from 12 games under .500 to claim a postseason berth. They won the National League wild-card game on a fluky late-inning hit and error. They stunned the 106-win Dodgers in an NL Division Series and they plowed through the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.

But those conquests did not compare to the stakes presented Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park. They were nine outs from losing Game 7 of the World Series. The Houston Astros, the 107-win machine pushed to the brink, held a two-run lead. The deficit felt insurmountable with Zack Greinke on the mound and the weapons at the Astros’ disposal behind him. He was dealing. For the first six innings, the Nationals did not stand a chance.

But the Nationals, a group seasoned in anxiety, did not wither. Anthony Rendon, the Houston native wreaking havoc at home, homered against Greinke to draw blood. Juan Soto, the 21-year-old wunderkind, walked. The free pass prompted manager Hinch to replace Greinke with Will Harris, and initiate the next step in the Astros’ demise.

Two pitches later, Howie Kendrick, the man who ended the Dodgers’ season with a grand slam before being selected NLCS most valuable player, slashed a two-run home run off the screen on the right-field foul pole to complete the Nationals’ final, and greatest, comeback en route to a 6-2 victory and the first World Series title in franchise history.

The Astros were denied their second championship in three years as the road team won each of the seven games of a Series for the first time. The Nationals, the oldest team in the majors, concluded the postseason 5-0 in elimination games.

WORLD SERIES SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. All games on Fox.

Game 1: Washington 5, at Houston 4

Game 2: Washington 12, at Houston 3

Game 3: Houston 4, at Washington 1

Game 4: Houston 8, at Washington 1

Game 5: Houston 7, at Washington 1

Game 6: Washington 7, at Houston 2

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Game 7: Washington 6, at Houston 2

RON FAIRLY

Ron Fairly, the reliable, red-haired outfielder and first baseman who spent more than five decades in baseball —21 years as a player, first with the Dodgers and lastly with the Angels, and 30 more as a broadcaster— died Wednesday in Indian Wells, Calif., after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

A graduate of Long Beach Jordan High School and a former USC standout, Fairly played his first 11 ½ years (1958-69) in the big leagues with the Dodgers, helping the team to three World Series championships, and he closed his playing career with the Angels in 1978.

“The worst day in a baseball uniform,” Fairly wrote in a 2018 memoir that he co-authored with former Times sportswriter Steve Springer, “was better than the best day I could have had in any other career.”

CLIPPERS

With Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard still in California, missing the first of what is expected to be several games this season for precautionary reasons, his team struggled to create their own shots and stop Utah’s in a 110-96 loss at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

For the Clippers (3-2), there will be many more nights like this, where they play shorthanded.

In their attempt to ensure the healthiest roster possible by the postseason’s start, the team’s “load management” will not stop with Leonard.

“All year, we’re going to rest a lot of guys,” coach Doc Rivers said.

They can only hope they won’t all end like this.

Read more

Arash Markazi: Here’s why Arnold Schwarzenegger says Kawhi Leonard could have a future in Hollywood

Kawhi Leonard’s stunning improvement as a playmaker still shocks NBA coaches

LAKERS

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who had a second straight good workout on Wednesday, will be monitored by the team after Thursday’s practice to see how his health is before a decision is made on whether he’ll play Friday night at the Dallas Mavericks.

The Lakers hope that Kuzma doesn’t have any setbacks after practice before they leave for a three-game trip to Dallas, San Antonio and Chicago, and that the forward can play in one of those games.

NBA

The Golden State Warriors announced Stephen Curry has a broken left hand, an injury he suffered in the team’s third blowout loss this season.

During the Warriors’ 121-110 loss to the Suns in San Francisco, Curry fell between two Phoenix defenders and had his left hand rolled underneath Aron Baynes’ body once he hit the ground.

Curry, a two-time Most Valuable Player, could need surgery on the hand pending further testing. His timetable for a return is unknown.

KINGS

In a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, the Kings were outshot by a season-worst 49-24, surrendered a season-most four power-play goals, converted just one of their six man advantages, and dropped a season-high fourth game in a row.

Over their first dozen contests, the Kings’ limitations were revealed. Despite gaudy shot and scoring-chance metrics, they struggle to convert their opportunities into goals. Their goaltending was inconsistent, if not unreliable. Most of all, their power play and penalty kill were worrisome works-in-progress.

But where complacency took hold last season – leading to a last-place finish in the Western Conference and losing streaks of six, four and 10 games – coach Todd McLellan this week tried to light a competitive fire under his squad.

The first-year bench boss inserted rookie forward Carl Grundstrom, who was recalled this week from the minors, into a new-look top line alongside Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar. He healthy-scratched veteran Tyler Toffoli, snapping the forward’s streak of 207 consecutive appearances (which had been the 20th-longest active such streak in the league). He replaced defenseman Joakim Ryan with Kurtis MacDermid.

The message: The Kings are willing to make changes in search of results. Their players understand the new standards.

“Last year, the frustrating thing was, early in the season everyone was saying, ‘Oh, it will turn around. It will turn around. It’s going to come.’ It just never turned around,” Drew Doughty said. “This year … it’s about making it turn around. I think that’s what our focus is in here. We’re a lot more confident in this team this year than we were last year.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

Protecting his body wasn’t high on the list of priorities as UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson took off running last weekend with his team holding a 32-point lead against Arizona State.

There was still nearly a full quarter to be played and more points to be sought.

“I mean, our goal is to try and score, keep the score going and stuff like that,” Thompson-Robinson said Wednesday, “so that was what my focus was on, was getting a touchdown.”

Coach Chip Kelly would have preferred that his quarterback slid on the grass rather than exposing himself to a hit that resulted in his second knee injury of the season, but everything turned out just fine. UCLA held on for a 42-32 victory after Thompson-Robinson departed the game and he’s expected to start as usual Saturday evening when the Bruins (3-5 overall, 3-2 Pac-12 Conference) face Colorado (3-5, 1-4) at the Rose Bowl.

Thompson-Robinson has practiced all week with a brace over his left knee but doesn’t expect it to be a hindrance against the Buffaloes considering he also wore it against Stanford and ran for a career-high 66 yards.

Having Thompson-Robinson available is a big relief for the Bruins given his improved play over the last month. He’s completed 61.7% of his passes in conference games this season as opposed to 54.0% in nonconference games.

USC FOOTBALL

USC’s Christian Rector thought being on the field was the best way he could help his team. A talk with his coaches convinced the senior defensive end otherwise.

“I just feel like I was hurting myself trying to fight through injury,” said Rector, who sat out USC’s last two games because of a high-ankle sprain. “I just wasn’t helping out the team.”

After coaches convinced him to rest for two weeks and recover fully, Rector is in position to do what he always wanted. The Pasadena native said after practice Wednesday that he’s feeling 100% healthy.

USC plays No. 7 Oregon on Saturday at the Coliseum.

Read more

USC vs. Oregon offers a rare on-field battle for competitive Pittman brothers

CHARGERS

In opening the season 3-5, the Chargers at times have been accused of lacking urgency.

The same cannot be said this week of coach Anthony Lynn, who Monday fired Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator.

“I just felt like it was time,” Lynn said Wednesday. “If I was eventually going to do it, why not just do it right now? We have eight weeks left in this season, and we still have everything in front of us that we want.”

Whisenhunt was in his fifth season overall and fourth in a row guiding the team’s offense.

He was let go after the Chargers made it four consecutive weeks of being unable to run the ball, produce big plays or consistently reach the end zone.

In a 17-16 victory Sunday at Chicago, the offense didn’t pick up a first down until early in the second quarter. It took more than 10 minutes for a second first down to be achieved.

Starting Sunday against Green Bay, Shane Steichen will take over calling plays. He has been the Chargers quarterback coach since 2016, but this will be his first experience as a play caller.

At 34, he’s three years younger than quarterback Philip Rivers, though Lynn is convinced Steichen is ready for the promotion.

“He’s young,” Lynn said. “He’s innovative. He has a lot of juice. I think the players are going to respond to Shane. He’s a good communicator. I’m just looking forward to seeing him do his job.”

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your all-time favorite local sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.

This moment comes from Bob Oppermann of Sylmar:

Sept. 27, 1973, was going to be a big night for me! Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Angels, and if all went well, he would set the single-season strikeout record. And in honor of the occasion, the game was even going to be televised! This was going to be a big night for a 15-year-old Angels fan!

But then Dad stepped in and ruined my plans. He said that he had to make an emergency service call in Santa Ana. Somebody’s chairlift had broken and he was going to need help lifting the unit. He was only going to need my help for a minute, but he wouldn’t be able to do it without me. (He was only going to need me for a minute, but my entire night was going to be ruined is how I saw it!) I looked pleadingly at my Mom, begging her to let Dad know how important this night was! She just shrugged and gave me a look that said, “Sorry, I can’t help. You need to help your Dad.” So Dad put his tools into the box on the back of his Honda 750, and off we went. Heading south on I-5, I remember getting off at Katella, and seeing The Big A right in front of us! How I wish we were going to the game!

Well, to my surprise, we were going to the game! Dad had gotten some tickets from a friend of his. Ryan was going to need 15 strikeouts to tie Sandy Koufax’s single season record of 382, 16 to break it. By the sixth inning it seemed that breaking the record was imminent, as Ryan was just mowing them down. As I recall, he tied the record in the eighth inning. But as luck would have it, he couldn’t get a strikeout in the ninth or the 10th. He finally got his 383rd strikeout of the season, in the top of the 11th inning, and history was made! Fortunately the Angels scored a run in the bottom of the inning to make it a complete-game victory.

What a big night it was, indeed! Nolan Ryan’s awesome, record-setting performance was made even better by the best prank that Dad ever pulled on me.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

San Antonio at Clippers, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, AM 570

BORN ON THIS DATE

1902: Race car driver Wilbur Shaw (d. 1954)

1933: Surfer/sailor/Hobie Cat inventor Hobart Alter (d. 2014)

1947: Marathoner Frank Shorter

1951: Football coach Nick Saban

1953: Basketball player John Lucas

1958: Cyclist Jeannie Longo

1961: Sprinter Alonzo Babers

1963: Former Dodger Fred McGriff

DIED ON THIS DATE

1983: Football coach/owner George Halas, 88

2010: Basketball player Maurice Lucas, 57

2018: Baseball player Willie McCovey, 80

AND FINALLY

A look at Willie McCovey‘s Hall of Fame career. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


It’s a familiar scene: A fire erupts, firefighters battle the flames from the ground and water is sprayed across the land from the sky. The aerial fight occurs often, even when winds are strong, raising the question of how effective airborne firefighting tactics are when wind conditions are dangerous.

On Wednesday, as the Easy fire ravaged more than 1,300 acres in Simi Valley, the winds hit 60 mph. Overhead, helicopters were seen dousing the fire below, and two “super scooper” planes unleashed a flood in Ventura County.

“Water remains our No. 1 firefighting tool,” said Jim Hudson, an assistant chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. And typically, every available resource is utilized.

The sight of a water drop can often offer hope to those below. But effectiveness is not always easy to measure, especially when resource costs are taken into account.

Most firefighting aircraft in the U.S. are owned or operated by private companies under government contract. It typically costs up to $14,000 a day to keep an air tanker on call. Heavy-duty helicopters can cost $32,000 a day on standby, plus $6,300 per hour of flight time.

Hudson said that during high winds, a helicopter would typically be opted for deployment over a larger air tanker, as the smaller aircraft can more effectively operate at lower elevations to target the fire.

“They have a higher probability of dropping water on targets,” Hudson said.
But that doesn’t mean a 100% guarantee. Firefighting aircraft come with limitations, often magnified when battling choppy skies.

So why use water drops when wind is a constant obstacle?

For one thing, the equipment can hold hundreds upon hundreds of gallons of water, Hudson said. Additionally, a nearby pond or lake can offer a refill supply, offering a large volume of water without diverting time to the search for resources.

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Hudson said that the effectiveness of this approach is an ongoing assessment. Typically, it’s up to the individual agency that oversees the air supply to decide what equipment to deploy.

“Every agency is going to work in conjunction with the incident commander on the ground,” Hudson said.


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When the Easy fire erupted early Wednesday morning in Simi Valley, the stakes of this particular firefight quickly came into focus:

Save the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The pre-dawn blaze, stoked by strong easterly winds, was racing toward the hilltop compound surrounded by nearly 100 acres of rolling grasslands.

Long vulnerable to wildfire, the library had taken efforts to protect the facility — where Ronald and Nancy Reagan are buried — but this particular assault was unprecedented.

Maneuvering amid 60-mph winds, helicopters circled, unleashing their water drops behind the library. Two super-scooper planes swooped low to hit the advancing flames with such an inundation that it created a rainbow in the morning sun.

Every two minutes, a new rotation of choppers or super-scoopers dipped into the canyon behind the library, turning fire into smoke.

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“They are getting beat up good, those pilots,” said JD Nees, who flew helicopters for the Navy reserve. With wind gusts reaching 60 mph — strong enough to knock a person off the feet — the choppers bounced and danced in the unpredictable turbulence.
A hand crew crested the hill, the inmates working to tamp down the smoldering soil. “That’s a good sign,” Nees said.

When library planners selected the site in 1987, its location in eastern Ventura County was undeveloped and praised for its views of the adjoining mountains and its Western disposition, isolated and scenic.

But its rural character brought with it the inherent risk of wildfire. After the firestorms of 2017, 300 goats were brought in to help reduce the excessive fuel load, part of the county’s vegetation management program.

As the Easy fire burned south, it swept down a ridge toward a tract of homes off Madera Road. An off-duty LAPD officer, wearing a raid jacket, began yelling to residents that the fire was approaching. As flames grew visible, homeowners on Roosevelt Court began to make plans.

“I pulled the cars out into the driveway, put the passports and bank documents in one and my musical instruments in the other car,” said Rory Kaplan, who moved here in 2001 when the homes were built.

“I am ready to go,” he said.

The news to evacuate came over a loudspeaker from the Simi Valley police, and Kaplan joined the exodus with his neighbors. Kaplan believed his home would be safe.

“One thing is sure, they aren’t going to let Reagan’s library burn — and that protects us” he said.
Soon the roads out of Simi Valley had clogged with residents streaming south toward Thousand Oaks, cars and SUVs jammed with boxes and treasured objects.

In 1993, two years after the library opened, Reagan stood on the grounds of the library, accompanied by two dozen firefighters, a convoy of fire engines and a fire department helicopter.

He delivered a half-hour speech praising the heroic efforts of the fire crews who had battled the firestorms earlier that year.

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Years earlier, the Reagan family had lost their ranch in Malibu to fire, which the president’s daughter, Maureen, mentioned to visitors.

“We live in a place with unique terrain that’s continually touched by fire,” she said, “and thank God we have unique and special men and women that are trained to stop those fires when they threaten people.”

Times staff writer Thomas Curwen contributed to this report.