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Monday, April 1, 2013
Who Really Knows?

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Here are some good questions.

Q: What is a "wise guy" pick?

A: A "wise guy" selection is passed along by somebody who is in a position to know something, but doesn't.

These picks show up in two places, on the tote board as odds shorter than should be the case, and on TV, "wise guy" to "wise guy," barn insider to expert picker.

"Wise guy" picks are also known as "trendy" picks and seldom win.

The "wise guy" pick for the Louisiana Derby was Departing, who ran a decent third, the problem being, "wise guys" don't make show bets.

Q: Is Revolutionary becoming the peoples' horse?

A: Looks like it.

Nobody likes him except for the betting public.

The "experts" are hung up on trying to explain away their love for the ghost ship Remsen, with those coming back from that one looking very lost indeed.

Revolutionary breaks like Mr. Ed and will have to pass upwards of 19 horses to win the Derby. Orb's style is more suitable for the task. But Revolutionary has guts. And you can't blame a horse for winning repeatedly.

Lots of people have said that Revolutionary hasn't beaten anybody.

But he has beaten everybody they picked.

Q: Is it difficult for a horse race writer to stay objective?

A: Sitting there with $65 worth of futures tickets in your pocket as your horse breaks last, yeah, there's some cheerleading taking place.

Being right about a horse being overrated is not exactly great handicapping. You still have to pick the winner. Still, lots of "experts" have preferred various fields over Revolutionary.

Q: Can Verrazano be beaten?

A: Sure.

He could draw the rail in Kentucky.

No matter how good somebody looks in the preps, running against 19 horses adds a triple dose of bad luck into the mix.

Q: What's wrong with Shanghai Bobby?

A: He resembles the kid who started playing traveling league baseball at the age of eight, and threw a wicked curveball at the age of ten.

Too much too early.

Q: What is up with the state of horse racing?

A: Well, as you probably heard in 1988, the sport is going under.

Or was it 1995 when the critics said it would be replaced in the public's eye by competition like roller derby?

Or was it 2003 when somebody said that thoroughbred horse racing was like pro wrestling?

Or was it 2010 when they said that casinos and fast gambles like that would bury horse racing?

Actually, people have been saying horse racing was fading every year for the last two or three decades.

The truth is that the sport is just fine. Hooking up with slot machine junkies and casino dogs has given the sport new life in the form of fat purses. TV ratings for the Kentucky Derby and Breeder's Cup are terrific. The switch to a point system has made the Derby prep season more fascinating than ever, with big races comprised of full fields happening most every weekend.

Casino gambling addicts have helped to make horse racing what it is today. Better us than somebody else.

Q: What is a betting race?

A: Like a "value" race, or a "wise guy" race, a "betting race" is one you're fixing to lose. A "betting race" is one in which the favorite is considered to be a toad, leaving the field open to big prices.

So in truth, even though eyes light up at the mention of a "betting race," it is a major negative: who needs hard to pick races.

The "betting race" of the past weekend was thought to be the Louisiana Derby won by the favorite Revolutionary. So next time you hear "betting race" think about the favorite again.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.