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Monday, June 6, 2011
Live and in person

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

A Triple Crown race like the Belmont Stakes make a person want to get involved, not with horses, with the tracks; it's enough to make a horse player go to the live races again.

Simulcast joints are killing attendance at live race venues.

Here are some reasons to revisit the live horse races now and again.

1: You win more

The pace is slower, the focus more concentrated. The more time you spend handicapping a race, the less you are apt to lose.

Attending the live races can be like visiting a casino. Once there, it's more trouble to leave than it is to remain and make another bet. If you pass on a race, it could be something like an hour without action. The Form has numerous feature stories.

You see things live that don't translate to a simulcast TV set. Race track bias is more obvious when jockeys return as though from a mud wrap, cussing the inside part of the track. The most money that good handicappers ever won probably happened at the live races.

Live racing can be more social than a simulcast frenzy, and is more easily shared with friends.

2: The rail. And the paddock

Reading the body language of a horse is a subjective analysis, Shackleford appearing to have just come from a bubble bath before winning the Preakness, for example. One horse's discomfort is another's pre-game ritual.

I have noticed that a horse shaking its head side to side as if to say, "Forget it, I'm not running a lick today," is a consistent negative indicator.

The body language of a person is equally important.

Sloppy trainers tend to run that way.

Rough or rude handlers of horses seldom produce winners.

All you get to see of a post parade on a simulcast telecast are a few bobbing heads and the rear ends of horses. Live, the straightness of a horse's leg can be observed, a jockey's approximate advancing age.

The rail is where need is taken for a ride. It is often where dreams go to crash, and sometimes it's where miracles open up like wild summer flowers.

Leaning over and looking up the track from the rail at your 20-1 shot running its guts out, it beats the tube.

3: Memories

Remember the time at the simulcast place? Neither do I.

All infields look the same there.

Most great race track memories are from the live events, right down to the thrill of catching the first view of the grandstand itself. It's like coming onto the first sight of Vegas on the moonlight drive from LA, memory makers produce tingles.

Scenery is important.

You can feel only so rotten with that Santa Anita view.

4: Food

The barbecue at the live race meet here is to exercise for.

5: Air

Sometimes entertainment takes place after the live races, concerts like the Beach Boy, singular, or the always popular races involving animals other than horses, short dogs and camels, or drawings for which you have to stay around to win.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.