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Monday, January 4, 2010
Beauty and the bet

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

To some, perhaps to many, there is more to horse racing than gaming, which is a nice way of saying wagering, which is another way of saying gambling -- competing, there's a good way to describe pari-mutuel action.

Horse handicappers don't compete with one another except at tournaments. Good handicappers benefit from stupid handicappers, which is why bad public picks made by TV experts are so important.

Handicappers compete with the puzzle that is each horse race, the goal being to fit numerous similar pieces together for an official solution.

More to horse racing than being paid for problem solving?

This rumor requires some explaining.

Horses without wagering is the breeding game, it's the showing business, the prancing and the strutting, the rodeo riding. Scotties don't need to race around the ring to be appreciated. But to railbirds, thoroughbreds without wagering would be a little like sitting at a roulette wheel to observe the fine wood grain in the spinner, and not to bet.

The chief aside to focusing on horse racing as a bet is the Horse of the Year award, which greatly interests players and theorists alike. That so many are more passionate about this honor than a state-bred non-winner of two at Delta is a little surprising. But I am resolved this year to occasionally look at something beyond the PM Form.

Most awards are comprehended by the winners. Some actors and musicians might be the exceptions, not knowing where they are, once off the red carpet. When it comes to a horse getting an award, I'm not sure the animal will appreciate the full scope of moment. What's another apple.

So the Horse of the Year honor is for the connections, the people, who can never have too many nice things. And it's also for the horse players who wish to have their opinions heard through the official voters.

Horse players deserve to be heard now and again.

Here's all we have in the Horseplayer's Bill of Rights.

  • All tracks and simulcast venues will try to conform to Health Department rules. Track food places will eat what we sell.
  • Anybody jumps you, we'll (the track) be on the case.
  • We (the track) will try to show most incidents that cause a racing inquiry.
  • If you can prove you were shortchanged, you can get what you had coming.
  • Acts of rudeness, even if it was our fault you got shut out, costing you whatever, will result in your being banned.
  • Items will be held in Lost and Found six hours.
  • If a betting machine doesn't work, it's your responsibility to find one that does.
  • Some security cameras will be real.
  • Make complaints in writing.

    Most sports have the one major MVP award. There's no "Best Bounce Passer" in the NBA, no "Best Dome Thrower" in the NFL. Whereas thoroughbred racing spreads the awards around based on specific types of contests, the Horse of the Year business between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra is the most anticipated awards race ever.

    The winner will be announced around the middle of the month.

    The way Horse of the Year action seems to work is if you're a member of some group and are a below average handicapper, you get to vote, as sort of a reward for hanging around the sport for lo, all the years. I, myself, am too busy at the windows to vote or to write more than this one piece about what the guys and gals in their black tie and black dress formal gear will be doing in a couple of weeks. My vote would go to Zenyatta, the favorite; that's right, the betting favorite in some European wagering sites where they know how to combine gaming and styling.

    Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.