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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Updated: January 30, 2:59 PM ET
Cairo Prince, and other stuff

By Bill Finley
Special to ESPN.com

Stuff that's rambling around my mind while battling cabin fever on another brutally cold day:

It doesn't mean that Cairo Prince is going to win the Kentucky Derby, but his win in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream may have been the best performance in a Derby prep race in years. It's not just that he won impressively, by 5 ¾ lengths. A lot of horses look good in Derby preps. It's that he demolished a very good, very deep field. With so many preps out there, most 3-year-old races are watered down events with small fields, and the winners can only prove so much.

The cold made for another quiet day of racing Tuesday as Parx and Charles Town decided not to brave the arctic weather. To some, that's sensible. But up in Edmonton, Alberta they must think we're pretty soft.

There aren't many places colder on Earth this time of year than Edmonton, so if they want to race they better be prepared to deal with some very harsh circumstances. At Northlands Park, which runs harness racing this time of year, they have a standing policy that calls for no cancellations as long as the temperature is above -13 Fahrenheit and the wind chill is above -22 Fahrenheit.

Northlands General Manager Chris Robert said those temperatures were chosen because when it gets any colder exposed flesh will freeze within 10 minutes.

To win the Kentucky Derby, everything has to go right, and everything is not going right for last year's 2-year-old champ who is battling a foot problem.

"Unless there's a complete blizzard people here will still come out to the races," said Northlands trainer Rod Starkewski. "It's winter. The only thing to do is to come out to the horse races or go to a hockey game."

Taylor Rice's four-win day at Aqueduct Monday was no fluke. Rice, who is the niece of trainer Linda Rice, finished third in the standings at Hawthorne before coming to New York. The apprentice has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on the racetrack and simply doesn't make rookie mistakes. New York's top apprentice, Emmanuel Esquivel, loses his bug in early March, which should pave the way for Rice to have a huge late winter and spring.

When the Jockeys' Guild met Monday the subject of selling the sport was on the agenda. They talked about jockey competitions, expanding the Breeders' Cup so that there are activities the entire week for fans and using retired riders like Chris McCarron and Pat Day as ambassadors.

There's nothing wrong with any of those ideas, but, once again, a faction of the racing industry met, discussed how to build the sport and failed to mention the only way racing will ever thrive -- by lowering the takeout. The people who run this sport somehow believe it is the only business in the world where the customer is not price sensitive. The takeout is the cost of making a bet and it is way, way too high, which is the No. 1 reason why the sport struggles. Until this problem is dealt with horse racing isn't going to emerge from it malaise.

Something tells me it's going to be a while before we see Shared Belief back in the entries. To win the Kentucky Derby, everything has to go right, and everything is not going right for last year's 2-year-old champ who is battling a foot problem.

A grass horse (Wise Dan) is eligible for two Eclipse Awards, the grass championship and the older male championship, but a dirt horse is eligible for only one, the older male championship. It makes no sense. If the voters want to continue to give grass horses championships in categories that have historically gone to dirt horses then the Eclipse committee needs to change the rules and/or the categories around.

There are way too many Derby prep races.

John Nerud is the co-owner of a horse in Saturday's ninth at Aqueduct, Verbosity, who will be one of the favorites. A win could be an early birthday present for the legendary retired trainer who will turn 101 eight days later?

Seeing pictures of Hialeah on paulickreport.com is another reminder of how dysfunctional this sport is. Here is the most beautiful, classy racetrack ever built and no one can figure out how to re-open it for thoroughbred racing.