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Busted

5/26/2014

This column is about some busted beliefs that have turned up after the first two Triple Crown races.

It was almost going to be about busted myths. But a myth is busted to begin with. By most reputable definitions, a myth is a widely held belief that is wrong. That makes the "MythBusters" TV show sort of confusing. Why bust something that's already incorrect? TV has been known to run with what sounds good, not necessarily what is proper. A popular network show starting this week is called "America's Got Talent." The show might be exciting, but the grammar is not. America's is possessive. Even what might have been intended, America Has Got Talent, is a misfire.

Busted beliefs

Favorites are a bad play: That might be true at Evangeline Downs. But the better the race, the more you need to look at the favorite. Odds-on maiden-special horses at major tracks are the most reliable favorites on any card. To those horse players who go by the theory that they would rather lose than take a $7 win payoff from the Kentucky Derby or an $18 exacta from the Preakness, the only appropriate response is: Thanks.

Experts can't miss them all: This is sometimes overheard as "He or she is due." Whereas the worst expert picker imaginable has to hit an even-money shot now and again, the fact is that numerous pro pickers are automatic when it comes to pinpointing obvious throw-outs. The obvious in any sporting wager has a siren call that is hard to resist: a recent big win, plenty of company on your side of the bet, with a minimum of imagination and thought required. Some people are so predictable in their wagers that a bookmaker knows where the money will go beforehand and might even bump a point spread a half-point against you. Being a bad picker is a great public service. Being successfully waved off a team or a horse can be magical. It's just that missing most of them can be personally embarrassing. Listen, we love you pickers who seldom get anything right. Like a Beyer number, you're an essential part of a handicapping workbook. Any picker who is 0-for-2 in this Triple Crown series has great value. A favorite, something trendy at 10-1, the Oklahoma City Thunder over the San Antonio Spurs -- just get those selections out as early as possible.

Horse racing is down: The sport is not a talk-show favorite possibly because it's complicated to follow on a regular basis and because this Triple Crown season has been full of such good news: record crowds. No spills. Huge television ratings. Scandals held to a minimum. A sense of humor (the picture of a donkey racing around first in Kentucky and Maryland). Upbeat connections. Good news, like good weather, has a way of turning into dead air. On-site attendance is down outside the showcase events. Home wagering is up. And around they go for more money than ever.

The new Daily Racing Form format looks great online: Actually, it has been running like Calvin Borel carried five-wide. This venerable publication faded to dim apologies and went offline under great stress last week. Although some theorize the site broke down under the surge of complaints over the new look, the reason given by management for the washout was technical trouble. The most obvious new look is the red DRF-Plus box that means you must pay to read the majority of the online stories. Giving stuff away free can be done by those with all the money in the world, or by those headed toward financial trouble.

Getting hooked up with all that the new DRF has to sell is a little complicated. A quarterly past performance subscription will get you access to all the pay articles. Pay articles are available without PP's for about $20 a month. Picking the trifecta in a $5,000 claimer might be easier than finding the most economical manner in which to get the best of what the new Form has to offer. And the Form continues to suggest that the horse race fan avoid those nasty old tracks and wager online, with $80 in free bets and $125 in cash being given away at the moment in an introductory computer-based wagering offer.

It all evens out over time: No, it doesn't. According to my notes over the past three years, my horrific-luck losers outnumber pure-luck winners by a 2-1 margin. How can such a thing happen? How can the ones you bet attract a preponderance of the rotten luck? Perhaps it is because horse players see what they want to see.

The race-riding instructions from the trainer to the jockey are essential to victory: In the case of California Chrome, the prerace message seems to be something like, "Go fast and don't fall off."

A so-called "betting" race is just the ticket: Nothing in horse racing is so misnamed. A "betting" race is one in which all entries are equally fair or equally horrendous or equally confused. Experts purport to love "betting" races because the payoffs are predicted to be considerable. But why anybody would love a race that is unhittable speaks toward his "expert" status. Just watch. The next time you hear somebody say it's a "betting" race, the favorite wins by five.