Winners and losers in Baltimore

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The Preakness Stakes result was a big win for the following: New York, which was sitting around lucky without even knowing it, as what has been the shell of its former self, Belmont Park, will once more become the center of the universe for the hottest sport going, horse racing; good 'ol boys and females everywhere, as bluebloods have reason to stew over a cheapie rising to the top of the game; California Chrome the horse; NBC television; the people who bet Chrome to place, as he paid the same as the win, $3; and thoroughbred horse racing, the sport.

It's too bad the Triple Crown is so far away, a mile and a half.

That's not as much of a race as it is a journey. It's like the field should be chasing a few foxes.

Go jog a mile and a half, and then we'll talk about how easy Chrome looks to have it.

Stalkers usually win the big races. For the marathons, there will be no dramatic closing. No last-to-first upsets. Somebody near the front will take the lead on the turn and pull away.

Let's get one thing settled right off. Please don't start talking about some deadbeat closer figuring in the Belmont Stakes. Stalkers usually win the big races. For the marathons, there will be no dramatic closing, no last-to-first upsets. Somebody near the front will take the lead on the turn and pull away to win.

The losers at the Preakness were the following: Calvin Borel, who rode Ride On Curlin like Jane Fonda's Cat Ballou in the Kentucky Derby; the "new shooters," none of whom were in the picture at the end in Baltimore; and the "figures" players, those forlorn "experts" who hope and pray that numbers will virtually eliminate thought from horse race handicapping.

The No. 1 question dogging handicappers great and hopeful is what to do with Beyer numbers and other speed-figure ratings.

It is the wish of handicappers flush and flushed to let somebody pick a winner for you.

And if you admit that, you deserve to lose.

The over-reliance on figures and numbers leads to one of the dumbest things ever heard about a winner: He didn't win fast enough. The team-sports equivalent of this nonsense is: They didn't beat anybody.

You can't blame anybody or anything for winning them all.

California Chrome's time in the Kentucky Derby had the "figures" players scratching through losers for a "value" play. It was like somebody might change the Derby motto to "the most exciting two minutes and change in sports." Excuses flew after the Derby, stuff like, the dirt 2.6 inches below the surface was drier than the dirt 1.9 inches underground.

Here's a thought: Watch the race. Note the jockey slowing down. Thus the time, whatever it was, in the Derby.

At the moment, horse racing is obliterating all other sports when it comes to good news stories and TV ratings. Not bad for a sport that has to work hard for prime-time attention.

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