Digest (Dec. 28): Altissimo taking high road to Laurel Park's Christmastide Day

Though he has made 32 starts over the past three racing seasons, with 13 visits to the winner's circle, Nancy Lavrich and Ronald Zielinski's Altissimo will be entering new territory today in the $100,000 Dave's Friend at Laurel Park . The 6-furlong Dave's Friend for 3-year-olds and up, one of six stakes worth $550,000 in purses on a 10-race Christmastide Day program, will be just the second time Altissimo has raced outside his native Ohio. He was seventh in an optional claiming allowance Dec. 28, 2016 at Turfway Park – located just across the border in Florence, Ky. – to cap his juvenile campaign. Altissimo, which means "highest" in Italian, has six wins in his last seven starts, five of them in stakes, all of them with regular rider Christian Pilares aboard. Pilares returns on the gelded 5-year-old son of Noble Causeway from Post 2 in a field of 7, listed as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. "He's just gotten real good lately," trainer Richard Zielinski said. A career winner of 326 races since 1989, Zielinski never had more than 138 starters between 1991 and 2014. He is in the midst of a career year with highs of 58 wins and $1.35 million in purse earnings from 438 starters.

Et Cetera

Navy defensive coaching staff rounding into shape

Navy's new defensive coordinator is expected to bring two assistants with him from Kennesaw State. Baltimore Sun Media Group reported this past Saturday that Kennesaw State defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has accepted the same position at Navy. Newberry will replace Dale Pehrson, whose retirement was announced on Dec. 15. Multiple sources have since confirmed that Newberry is bringing defensive ends coach Kevin Downing and outside linebackers coach P.J. Volker from Kennesaw to Annapolis. Downing and Volker would replace former Navy assistants Tony Grantham and Napoleon Sykes, who were fired on Dec. 19. That would leave head coach Ken Niumatalolo with two positions to fill. Niumatalolo would still need to replace defensive line coach Sione Po'uha and secondary coach Dan O'Brien. Po'uha left Navy to accept the same position at his alma mater of Utah.

— Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

Pro basketball: The Baltimore Shuckers of the Central Basketball Association announced they re-signed Marquis Powell for a second season. Powell was a McDonald's All-American nominee at Riverdale Baptist.

From Sun staff and news services

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