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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Real Deal a sign of return to normality

by Wally Hall | May 27, 2021 at 2:31 a.m.

Experts say Michigan and Gonzaga are getting a lot of mileage out of their NCAA Tournament success when it comes to basketball recruiting.

The last year of recruiting was virtual, odd and wild. While that's better than nothing, it certainly isn't the real deal.

Every camp and summer tournament was canceled, but with covid-19 cases dwindling nationwide, everything seems to be returning close to a normal schedule.

Bill Ingram's Real Deal in the Rock is set for June 25-27 with much of the action at Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids in Little Rock. Since this event began, it has attracted some of the best recruits in the country each year.

Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina, to name a few, have rosters full of players who played in Little Rock.

This event is estimated to bring millions into the local economy each year, and it was sorely missed last year when tourism was practically nonexistent.

Sponsors such as Dr. Jimmy Tucker, Stephens Inc., Component Systems, Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, Big Red, Gatorade and this newspaper have helped make Real Deal one of the biggest and best basketball events in the country.

It's wonderful news that the event is returning, not just because of the economy, but it is another sign that normal is almost back in the world of perspiring arts.

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With the Belmont Stakes looming large June 5, it appears a field of 10-12 horses will take on the 11/2-mile track in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Medina Spirit, winner of the Kentucky Derby, was a fading third in the Preakness and will not run.

Preakness winner Rombauer got a surprise when jockey Flavien Prat chose to ride Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, instead in the Belmont. Rombauer picked up John Velazquez as his jockey.

Medina Spirit's trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from running at the the three main tracks in New York.

But Baffert's cloud of failed drug tests doesn't mean the Belmont won't have a great race and a quality field, especially if Essential Quality decides to run. The favorite in the Kentucky Derby ran fourth and then passed on the Preakness.

Known Agenda, trained by Todd Pletcher, is already at Belmont, and the horse that rallied from way back to ninth in the Derby might like this distance.

Yours truly was hoping Caddo River would be ready to run, but he apparently will miss the Triple Crown unless a late decision is made by owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.

Caddo River won the Smarty Jones in impressive style at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in January, then ran fifth in the Rebel Stakes and second in the Arkansas Derby behind Super Stock.

In the Arkansas Derby, Caddo River faded to third when Concert Tour made his stretch run before hitting a wall.

Caddo River didn't like being passed, dug in and moved back ahead of Concert Tour, which probably had a lot to do with that horse hitting the wall.

The hope was Caddo River might be the next Temperance Hill, who Anthony owned.

It's hard to believe that it has been 41 years since that Arkansas Derby winner went into the Belmont as a 53-1 shot against Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk and Preakness winner Codex and pulled off a stunning victory.

Temperance Hill won the Oaklawn, Razorback and Suburban Handicap as a 4-year-old before being retired to stud.

He died peacefully in his sleep in 2003, leaving behind a great bunch of memories for Arkansas racing fans.


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