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Saturday, May 21, 2011
Teaming up on handicappers

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Here's what the first two races of the 2011 Triple Crown series have proved:

How easy betting football is.

A football wager is made up of a contest involving only two teams. Each game is handicapped by a point spread aimed at creating a level playing field. Sometimes the point spread is accurate, sometimes not. True, luck is a factor. Also true, referees and penalties are factors. But there are only two teams. T-w-o. After watching 34 horses run in two races, picking a winner among two entries sounds inviting. Pick the winner of a two-horse match race at even money? It would be a horse player's great honor.

The first two Triple Crown races showcased the fact that a horse race is comprised of approximately 100,000 things that could influence the outcome. Dirt in the face one time, no problem; next time, the horse ducks back. And so on and so forth, squared.

Who could have imagined that the jockey on Shackleford would be a genius at the Preakness, breaking fast, then slowing down the middle part of the race so that toward the finish the horse would not be running on stilts.

Besides the perfectly timed ride, here's what else stood out:

Boxing the Derby runners again put out a fat exacta.

Speed is always to be preferred over deep closers.

What's with Animal Kingdom breaking back with the mop up crew, which is to say Dialed In?

What might be a proper distance for Dialed In, who blew a $6 million payoff by sleepwalking out of the gate, the steeplechase?

Think it might be time for another rider on that one?

The on-track, pre-race experts batted about .300, saying that Shackleford appeared to be too hot and bothered to be a factor and almost should be sent to the showers. But they got Macho exactly right, saying he looked like a bag of bones after the Derby. Make a note that getting hot on a hot day means next to nothing.

Nobody closes much at the Belmont distance, at whose stadium plenty of good seats are apt to be available.

People actually lose money betting on team events?

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.