Saturday, May 15, 2010
Firing is training
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
Here are some Preakness thoughts, beginning with a request to all networks when they show live horse racing.
The most meaningful piece of commentary during the television coverage of the Preakness occurred at what seemed like a fraction of a second before the race began.
Reporter-from-horseback Donna Brothers said that Super Saver was noticeable in the weight that he had lost since the Kentucky Derby.
I turned to a friend and said, "Did you hear THAT?"
"They're off," the race announcer said as bettors stood to do something about a previous wager or two.
Not all people watching horse race coverage on TV are interested in the aesthetics of the game. Many people sometimes watch the coverage from off-track venues, or have legal phone wagering connections, and are betting. Great insight can come from the body language of all concerned. Usually, horseplayers watch TV coverage so they can eliminate runners favored by expert pickers experiencing a down decade. It would be helpful if all picks, and any valuable information like a horse being noticeably lighter after a tough race, were made well before the racers were going into the gate. Speaking of picks, the contest winner with the memorable head-topping last week at Churchill successfully switched to Lookin at Lucky.
The Preakness also reinforced the notion that firing a jockey is sound training technique. Bob Baffert fired jockey Garrett Gomez, and presto, end of Lookin At Lucky's trouble. Trouble instead shifted to Gomez's Preakness mount, Dublin, who broke slowly and headed for a concession stand. Outside of the winner's performance, Dublin's race was the most memorable, as he closed dozens of lengths and finished a pretty unbelievable and game fifth.
When short-priced horses don't dominate the exotics, collecting lines are short. After this Preakness, I asked around the nearest simulcast place to see if anybody had the trifecta of almost $3000, and, if so, how they got there. Out of a packed house, I found only one couple with the correct numbers. The handicapping insight used the universally accepted lucky numbers of 7-11 along with, naturally, a vacation to Jackson, Wyo. Obviously, handicappers using past performances to find the exacta of 7-11 were shorted somewhat by the tourists.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.