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Sep 09, 2005



In case you missed it, the biggest racing screw up in years occurred late Monday afternoon at Philadelphia Park.

It was Pennsylvania Derby Day, the only racing day on the calendar that really matters at Philly Park. Sun King overcame post 14 to win the Derby by a pole as the 7-5 favorite. For trainer Nick Zito, it more than made up for his 4-for-56 at Saratoga.

But the real story of the day was the co-feature, the $100,000 Pennsylvania Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Zito had Hide and Chic, the 3-5 favorite, and Private Gift, from Will Farish, the former ambassador to England, and Neil Howard, was the 2-1 second choice from the outside post in a field of six.

As the assistant starter was leading Private Gift into the gate, the starter hit the button. With the assistant standing helplessly in front of Private Gift, jockey Albarado had two choices: 1) run over the poor guy, or 2) stand in the gate. Fortunately, he chose No. 2.

With Private Gift, one of two speeds in the race, still in the gate, Amazing Guy, the other speed, went wire to wire at $9, with Hide and Chic a distant second.

After a stewards' inquiry, the announcement came down that all monies on Private Gift would be refunded. And all monies bet on the filly in the pick three would, under Pennsylvania law, go on the favorite.

Tough luck, bud!

The incident of course produced a national firestorm of stoppers, and some of them got lucky. I know of one guy on the first floor at The Meadowlands who scored a $150 win ticket on Private Gift.

The last time this happened was at Saratoga in the late '70s when a James Maloney-trained filly named Keep It Now was left standing behind the gate when the start came. In that case, starter Marshall Cassidy, a racing icon, paid the price with his job.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.

One major difference was the media coverage. The Saratoga incident was blasted over every newspaper in North America. There is no national racing media coverage in 2005 other than the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup. Surely you won't read a line elsewhere about the Philly Park incident.


There was another interesting officiating incident yesterday.

The time was 11:40 p.m. Eastern. Florida State, a 3 1/2-point underdog, was up, 10-7, on Miami in one of the worst football games  ever played.

Miami third and goal on the Florida State three. A pass play goes for no gain. As the Miami field goal team was running on the field, a flag was thrown. A Florida State guy had taken off his helmet, and thrown it 10 yards. An automatic 15-yard penalty. The ABC cameras caught it plain as day.

The zebras then huddled on the field, and reversed the call. Their explanation? A Miami player knocked the helmet off the Florida State guy.

Sure. And I'm the pope.

Miami then botched the field goal, Florida State took over, and ran out the clock.

It was obvious that the call was overturned because the zebras didn't want the four-hour game decided by a flag. And they didn't want to break coach Bowden's heart. Or stop his heart.

And that's commendable. Especially since I had the dog.

In case you missed this event, hopefully some day ESPN will show a replay. But I doubt it. The incident was not a positive thing for the game.


Speaking of the media, here's one for Ripley.

Last Saturday, Rutgers and Illinois ended regulation tied at 27. In overtime, Rutgers kicked a field goal to go up 30-27. Illinois then marched in for a TD to win, 33-30. The game, which started at noon,  ended at 4 p.m.

At 4:15, I turned on WINS on my car radio to get the scores. I heard the guy say: Rutgers beat Illinois, 30-27! Just to make sure, I turned the station on again at 4:45...and once again, the same guy said Rutgers won, 30-27!

No, I didn't listen again at 5:15. I had heard enough.

Other wise...

You have to wonder some times about what these coaches and managers are thinking.

Here are three examples:

1) Virginia Tech 20, N C State 13. Eight minutes left. NC State is fourth and two on the Tech 20. And kicks a field goal! They got the ball back with 40 seconds left and no time outs.


I don't know. Maybe 20-16 looks better to the alumni than 20-13.

2) Down seven to Utah with three minutes left, Arizona is fourth and five on the Utah 43. And they punt! They kicked it into the end zone for 23 yards. Utah got that back on one play, and ran out the clock! Incredible.

3) St. Louis leads at Houston, 4-3, in the home 13th. Houston has first and third with one out, and the bottom of the order coming up.

At this point, Cardinal skipper LaRusso orders an intentional walk to a .250 hitter to get to a .300 hitter. This of course coming from the greatest baseball mind of modern times.

Results? The next guy got whacked by a pitch to force in the tying run, and one out later, a guy singled to knock in the winner.

Now, I know the game doesn't mean zilch to the Cardinals. They're home like Secretariat. But Tony...what about the boys!

Here's something else about baseball that really bothers me.

Why don't managers ever bring in their closer's in the eighth inning when the other guys have their best hitters up?

Last Tuesday, there were three cases when teams rallied to win games in the eighth inning against secondary relievers. The Phillies, Tampa Bay and St. Louis all lost in the eighth as Wagner, Diaz and Izzy looked on from the pen.

Couple of other notes...

Over three days last week at Saratoga, jockey Bailey accepted a total of seven mounts. All were favored. And all got beat.

I'm hearing that jockey McCauley, sidelined three years with a horrible broken leg suffered in a spill at Monmouth, is looking to make a comeback.

Nothing yet on owner Drazin's appeal of the no-DQ Iselin Handicap.

I was leaving Monmouth Park after the fifth race last Friday when Jose Cuevas, the Exercise Rider to the Stars, and now trainer Frankel's go-to man at Monmouth, collared me, and whispered in my ear:

"John, I love my horse in the eighth."

Now, I've known Jose 30 years, and this was the first time he ever gave me a tip.

It was hot. I was tired. And I couldn't be bothered walking the dozen steps to the window.

Jose's horse, Darby Fever, paid $10.40.

Oh, well. It's not all bad. Pitcher Duke will be back next week for my beloved Buccos.

Who else but my beloved Buccos would play a guy (Eldred) who is 0-for-30 with 20 strikeouts?

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