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Oct 14, 2005

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: JOHN PIESEN


We know by now that the home team always gets the call (see Yankees, Astros, Penn State and the University of Texas over the weekend) in team sports, but there’s always one exception.

 

On Sunday, Denver (-7) led Washington, 21-13, with two minutes to go. On fourth and 15 at the 50, Washington QB Brunell missed down the sideline. Game over. Game covered.

 

Hold on. A flag downfield. Illegal chuck. First down. Washington marched in to score with 30 seconds left, missed the two-point conversion, and Denver won, 21-19.

 

I guess you need to call this a tough beat.

 

Unfortunately, for the national TV audience, all this went unseen.

 

Dallas-Philly ended with three minutes left in Denver. Instead of switching, Fox went to commercial, and the four talking heads.

 

Another dramatic ending occurred Saturday in California.

 

UCLA led Cal, 41-40, in a battle of unbeatens. A game for the ages. With a buck-thirty to go, UCLA picks off a Cal pass, and the guy is brought down on the Cal five.

 

It occurred to me that the only way Cal could win at this point was by letting UCLA score, and getting the ball back – down eight – with a minute-plus to go. So how come neither coach, nor, of course, the broadcasters, knew what I knew?

 

Instead of taking a knee, UCLA tried to score, and Cal – instead of letting them score -- put up a great goal-line stand. UCLA finally did score on fourth down as the gun sounded to win 47-40.

 

That brings me to the bunt.

 

Years back, an Ivy League professor determined that a baseball team has twice the chance of scoring with a man on first and none out than with a man on second with one out. Nine times out of 10 a team is bunting with a superior hitter to get to an inferior hitter. The tenth time usually is when it’s the pitcher bunting.

 

That brings us to Astros-Braves on Sunday. An all-timer.

 

Twice in extra innings, manager Cox bunted himself out of the potential winning run. Naturally neither play made the ESPN highlights package.

 

The first time, Furcal leads off with a walk. With a right-hander on the mound, Furcal has a 95 per cent chance of stealing second. So of course Cox has Giles bunt, and Giles pops to first. It should have been a double play because Giles didn’t bother to leave the batter’s box. But that’s a story for another day.

 

Now, with one out, Furcal steals second from here to the Great Wall. Terrific. Now Chipper is intentionally walked. So what Cox did was to get a base and an out from his two best hitters. Inning over.

 

Later, first and second, none out. The pitcher on the ropes. Bunt. Everyone glad-hands the bunter. Intentional walk. Now, you have the No. 8 hitter up with bases loaded and one out. Strike three. Inning over.

 

The only time I like the bunt is when I have the other side.

 

Switching gears, one New York racing writer wrote after the Champagne that they can dust the Triple Crown trophy off for First Samurai. Maybe. Maybe not. But I hope that, by May, First Samurai learns to run the last quarter faster than 27 seconds. They finish faster in the feature at Freehold.

 

Speaking of Freehold, you may have missed it, but favorites are winning at a 65 per cent clip there. In case you need to know.

 

When Belmont resumes Wednesday, there will be a new apprentice on the block. His name is Kyle Kaenel. He’s the 16-year-old son of Jack Kaenel, currently residing in Hot Springs, Ark., and his first-time agent is Herb McCauley.

 

“The kid can ride a little,” Cowboy Jack was saying. Actually, the kid can ride a lot. You may want to use him.

 

You may remember Jack Kaenel. At age 16, he won the Preakness on Aloma’s Ruler, and his life has been a roller coaster ever since.

 

But the best thing about Jack is that the media couldn’t find him after he won the Preakness. Seems he was busy with Miss Preakness.

 

Speaking of the media, last Saturday, old buddy Russ Harris nailed the last eight winners at Belmont in the New York Daily News. That was the card on which the pick six paid $95, and the consolation paid $4.40!

 

I thought Russ had a real good chance to tie my long-standing world record of 10 straight winners. After all, there were 3-5 shots in the first two races on Sunday. Alas. April True got nailed in the opener. My record lives for another day. That is unless you count that tip-sheet guy down in Kentucky who says he hit 12 straight.

 

The best performance by a racehorse over the weekend was by a maiden filly named Everything Good on Saturday at Keeneland. This filly looked like Damascus circling her field to win by a pole over a speed-favoring track. Her trainer is William H. Fires. Her rider is Robby Albarado. I make her 4-5 for the Fantasy next April at Oaklawn Park.

 

As for New York racing, this is not a good time. Braulio Baeza is looking at jail time, NYRA says it needs to sell its artwork to stay in business, a crowd of 4,000 turned out for the Champagne, and the New York Times didn’t bother to staff the Champagne.

 

Is Birdstone really to blame?

 

Finally, I make Jose Santos 3-5 to make president on The West Wing. That LA Law ticket is too tough.                                                                         

 



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