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Nov 19, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


I've always been proud to call myself a newspaperman. I spent most

of my adult life covering sports for various newspapers, notably the

 New York Post, the Newark News, and, yes, I guess you can make

a stretch, and include the Morning Telegraph/Daily Racing Form.

Never once did I regret that I chose to cover sports for a living.

But look at what's going on now in the world of sports.

This week is a perfect example.

Kurt Warner, Colon Powell and Jodi McDonald lost their jobs in the same

 news cycle...and, according to Wednesday's editions of the New York

Daily News, the two biggest stories of the day are 1) "Sheffield Sex Tape

 Extortion" and 2) "TO and the Desperate Housewife".

I'm not talking sports section here.

I'm talking Page 1 and Page 2!

Hey, I know there's no hockey, but you would think there is more going

on in sports than Jerry Springer.

Actually, there is.

The Oklahoma-Nebraska game for example.

In case you missed it, and since the game did an 0.2, you probably did.

But here's what happened:

Oklahoma, a 31-point favorite, is up, 30-0, takes over on its own 20 with

 four minutes to go, and sends in its entire starting offense, including

the quarterback.

Cleverly mixing a combination of runs and passes, Oklahoma drives down

inside the 20 with a minute and change remaining. Take a knee? Two knees?

 Are you kidding? They are still throwing the ball downfield. Until it comes

to crunch time.

Fourth and 3 on the nine with 30 seconds remaining.

Up until this point, I thought for sure the Oklahoma coach's intent was to

cover the number. But no. Instead of taking the three, he calls for a pass. It's

caught but short of a first down. The Oklahoma coach looks like he just lost

his best friend. He's next to tears.

Now Nebraska takes the ball, and its running back goes 40 yards off-tackle.

Nebraska gets to the 30. AND SPIKES THE BALL WITH ONE SECOND LEFT!

Nebraska rushes in its field goal team, kicks the three, making the final score

 30-3. Take that, says the Nebraska coach.

It comes out later in the press that the Oklahoma student body spent the last

 quarter throwing oranges on the field (Orange bowl, get it), and lacing the

poor Nebraska players with profanities.

College football. Isn't it wonderful?

And I'll quickly touch on another game...

Little Kansas had big, bad Texas deader than Elvis, but a bogus interference

call kept Texas alive, and Texas scored a winning TD with eight seconds left.

You think maybe the Big 12 wanted Texas to win? After all, a win keeps Texas

 in the BCS, which is worth millions to the school and the conference. The Kansas

 coach certainly thought so. He expressed that opinion, and natch got fined for it.

And one final football item...

Instead of giving the East Coast the BC-West Virginia game last Saturday -- a

matchup of two Top 25 teams -- ABC gave us Michigan-Northwestern.

Of course this is the same ABC that gave us the Desperate Housewife coming

 clean two nights later.

And I love the NFL's take.

I'm sure you've heard those radio promos when they give away a trip to the

 Super Bowl. Only they are not allowed to say Super Bowl. They refer to the

 event as the "Big Game in Jacksonville." Otherwise, the NFL would sic its

lawyers on them.

But the NFL has no problem showing TO leering at a naked "Housewife" in

front of millions of 12-year-olds.

Yea, I sure miss being a newspaperman.

Changing the subject, during a visit to Monmouth Park the other day, I ran

 into a a horseman who handed me a two-page, hand-written memo.
I found it interesting. I think you will too.

To wit...

"Every year, at the close of the New Jersey meet, Judy Cook, who trained at

 Atlantic City and Garden State in the '80s and '90s, travels to Monmouth to

look for a few new prospects. As a former thoroughbred trainer, she knows

 there will be a horse or two who needs a new occupation, and she is adept at

 making that transformation.

"There are various reasons for racehorses to end their racing careers -- age,

infirmity, and just plain inability to compete. However, most horses are able to

 perform in other capacities, and that is where people like Judy come in.

"Two years ago, a horse named Faith Rewarded arrived at Judy's farm in

Port Republic, N.J., and was adopted by Judy's daughter, Debbie Stricker. Within

a year, "Faith" learned to jump willingly, and at the Athens Olympic last

summer, "Faith" carried young children around the ring, and "taught" them to ride.

"The reward for Judy Cook is twofold: 1) the satisfaction of giving these horses

 something important to do, and 2) seeing youngsters gain riding and life

experience with these lucky animals.

"All said and done, the horses who compete need the care and attention they

 receive after their racing days are over. And they still require the human

attention they get so much of early on.

"It is unfortunate that more people who have horses do not realize what great

treasures the ex-racehorses can be. The connection between these people and

the backside of the racetrack requires the public's attention to encourage this

 type of career change."

For more information, you can reach Judy Cook at (609) 965- 6218.



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