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Sports fans, welcome to our world
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com


Email indicates this site picks up new readers during the Triple Crown races.

So if you're joining us for the Preakness Stakes, let me introduce a continuing theme here.

This is the seventh or eighth or ninth piece in a 100-part series aimed at improving the future of horse racing. If you speak what you believe to be the truth 100 times, somebody is apt to hear. But people running sports are frequently too rich to be practical. People running baseball can't see what's wrong with baseball for all the pot smoke, for one example.

Too often horse racing is treated like a spectator sport.

Sometimes it looks like a zoo out there with people riding camels between horse races and donkeys carrying kiddies in circles out by the rail. I'm serious. I'm at the rail at my home track the other day and there is a promotion involving exotic animals. Lose a photo and trip over a snake, imagine how that would feel.

It is thought by many that anything bringing attention to horse racing will benefit the sport, a Triple Crown Winner, a scandal, letting fans dig like gophers for cheap watches along the home stretch.

Here's when horse racing is a spectator sport: when an animal has won the Derby and the Preakness and they're loading them in the gate for the Belmont Stakes in New York.

The rest of the time, horse racing is a spectator sport like shooting dice is a spectator sport.

That's not a fruit salad they're ordering at those windows.

That's wagering.

Outside the Triple Crown season, it's called gambling.

Let's wager. It's why they have British race-callers. Some things just sound better.

The way to ensure a successful future for horse racing is simple. You give a person the opportunity to make a good bet. It would be nice if track management figured out a way to take care of its best customers, but that's probably asking too much. What's the last thing you've had comped at the horse races? I was once comped a program and tipped the person who gave it to me one buck, which was what the program cost in the first place.

Horse racing would be set for life if it could annually attract one percent of people making idiotic gambles like playing the slots. If you think there is any shortage of gamblers making bad bets, ask somebody counting the money at an Indian casino. Customers who seem to be in an unblinking trance-like state stuff dollars into slots for hours on end without rising, unsure of any complicated old pay-out formula, uncaring as well.

A good bet is one that is honest and makes sense.

Here's some horse race track progress just waiting to happen.

One night not long ago, I was looking at a horse in a race that was being simulcast.

They way they muck up the simulcast screens with type, and the cavalier manner in which post parades are filmed from some of the smaller tracks, sometimes it's all the viewer can do to count legs.

I bet twenty bucks on this horse, whose soundness did not extend far beyond the gate.

After a few jumps, the jockey pulled it off to one side, so much for my ten and two five-spots.

One can only imagine the pressure a track veterinarian faces from owners and trainers of horses that even to the casual eye might appear a little loose around the edges.

And I suppose the possibility always exists that a horse could injure itself walking toward the starting gate.

But if an unsound horse isn't able to race too far from the post, I would very much appreciate it if the stewards would review the vet's performance as they might a jock's.

The Preakness, 2003
A digital photograph is a computerized image.

There is no negative, no developing.

It is possible for a digital image to start out with two ears and then wind up with a third ear in the middle of a forehead.

Would a digital image of a jockey carrying what appeared to be a tiny jet engine in his hand be considered evidence?

Probably not.

All digital images could probably be considered suspicious but not evidentiary.

After what jockey Santos has been through, I wouldn't mind if he rode the favorite to a victory here.

When there is a lot of speed on a speedy track, some speed usually holds.

This is what I am wagering: I am putting Funny Cide and Peace Rules over the 1 and the 4, Cherokee's Boy and Kissin Saint, in Exactas. Then I am putting the 1 and the 4 over the two morning line favorites for the minimum. And finally, this straight Exacta: Peace Rules over Funny Cide, because jockey Prado owes me one for flying up to challenge the horse that wound up last in the Derby.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@go.com






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