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Sep 04, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen

I’m a “list” kind of guy, so with that in mind, I made a list of things that I found annoying and offensive in the world of sports over the last few days.      

So, in no particular order, here goes:     

The Red Sox Nation lives and dies with their beloved Bosox, and their rabid fans
 went so far as to scream at Yankees’ announcer Michael Kay to “rot in hell” as Kay was
watching last Saturday’s Yanks-Sox game from the Monster seats. But do the Boston players really give a damn?  None of the club’s three stars (Manny,  Pedro and Nomar), who make a collective $50 mill or so
per annum, deign to talk to the media, the conduit to the fans. Nomar strikes out as the tying run
with the bases loaded in the ninth. Pedro gets bombed on Saturday, and doesn’t bother to accompany
 the team to Philly, and we all know the Manny story.Ramirez blows off the three-game set with the Yanks with a sore throat, but is OK enough to go
 bar-hopping Saturday night with a Yankee buddy.And then Manny tells ESPN that his “dream” is to play for his hometown Yankees while taking $20
 mill to play for the Sox. I’m sure the Sox would love to unload him, but who would take on his salary?
·         The NYRA scandal has been ongoing for months, but an AP story last weekend, which
hardly caused a ripple, brought it to a head. The piece described how the clerks in the ritzy
Belmont Park trustees room have been “10 per centing” for years. The room for high-rollers has
been used as a “venue of criminal activity”, the Feds told AP.
·         Somehow, in light of a New York Daily News page one piece on sports groupies the other
 day, the Black Eyed Susan Stakes, annually run at Pimlico on the day before the Preakness, will
 never have the same meaning.The author concludes the piece with a tale about a group of coeds at the University of Maryland
 whose function is to help “recruit” star athletes to the school. The coeds call themselves Black Eyed Susans.
·         A friend of mine considers himself the world’s leading authority on harness racing, and he showed
 why on Monday when he tossed the 1-5 favorite in the first race at Freehold. Indeed, the favorite was
 beaten a pole, and my buddy hit the tri (4-1, 19-1 and 22-1) in an eight-horse field.         “Where are those 10 per centers when I need one,” my friend asked.         He needn’t of bothered.         The tri came back $398!
·         On closing day at Saratoga, NYRA released its facts and figs, and bragged how the attendance
 for the 36-day meet was a record 1,049,309, a five per cent jump from last year.  Give us a break.
 Of that million, about 200,000 were “spinners” on the half-dozen giveaway days, everything from
hats to Funny Cide teeshirts to wall clocks.
·         You rarely see the truth when it comes to assessing the morning-line odds on a standout
favorite. But Monday at Arlington takes the cake. Take Charge Lady was listed at 7-2 on the program
 line. She won by 10 at $2.60.
·         I found the opening episode of ESPN’s “Playmakers” interesting, but disturbing. Especially
the part where the cops let the star running back off scot-free after finding cocaine in his car.
 “You better vacuum the carpet,” the cop warned the RB before wishing him Godspeed.
·         The other day a prominent trainer at a major Eastern racetrack called me into his office.            “John, I want to show you something,” he said.            The trainer opened his desk draw, and took out a live battery.“I found this on the track this morning,” he told me. “And there are dozens more where this
 came from.”I had two reactions: 1) profound disgust, and 2) confirmation that poor Billy Patin (Valhol, 1999 Arkansas Derby)
took the fall for the entire industry.
·         I wrote in this space a month back that Birdstone, win or lose the Hopeful, would not run in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That is why I was mystified when the story broke this week in the national media.
·         I’ve never been a fan of uncoupled entries, and last week’s Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga is
exhibit A.Trainer Chris Clement won the race with Sixty Seconds ($8.50), and was celebrating his good
fortune in the winner’s circle. In the meantime, thousands of folks were ripping up tickets on the
 winner’s uncoupled --- and favored – stablemate.
·         I’ve never been a fan of match races, at least not since 1975.But Del Mar plans to run a match race as Race 4 on Sunday between a pair of claimers – Oopstheregoes
and Chester’s Choice. No, that’s not the hook. The hook is the jocks – Julie Krone and Patrick Valenzuela.
 I just hope everyone makes it back.
·         My nominee for the worst race of the year – or, for that matter, any year…On Monday at Ellis Park, five claimers were asked to run 2 ¼ miles. Sir Dorset, the 1-9 favorite,
 won by 43 ½ lengths (don’t forget the half-length), and the margins were pretty much the same back
 to the trailers. The winner paid $2.20, the exacta $3.80.Smiling Jon Court looked sheepish when he brought Sir Dorset back to the winner’s circle, but it was
 a pleasure to see Jon take the hose from the groom and spend a couple of minutes hosing down the horse.
·         Finally, some credit for trainer Dennis Manning.Like Barclay Tagg, trainer Manning spent three decades looking for a good horse.
 Barclay found his this year. Manning has gone Tagg one better. In eight days, he won
 a Grade 1 – his first -- with Valid Video, and a Grade 2 (the Pennsylvania Derby) with
 the unbeaten Grand Hombre. Valid Video will go to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as
 one of the favorites. And Grand Hombre will be a major player in the Classic if
owner Earle Mack gives the green light.Grand Hombre was a monster winning the Pennsylvania Derby, upsetting Toccet
and Dynever. But this came as no surprise to the folks who saw and heard the interview
with jockey Joe Bravo two hours to post. “This is a friggin good horse,” said Joe.

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