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TrackNotes: Dumb Asses

Was (or is) Floyd Mayweather good for boxing?

My buddy and I have debated Mayweather's legacy for a long time, sometimes to the point where we've had to just stop talking about it.

I don't like "Money." Don't like his "defensive" style - I see a runner - and he was one of the prime players in the fraud that was his fight against Manny Pacquiao, a bout that took six frickin' years to make. Their duplicity severely damaged the boxing pay-per-view business, which hasn't recovered since.

The same might be asked of American Pharoah and his herculean campaign in 2015, in which he won the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup Classic. Unprecedented. One big difference is that 'Pharoah and his human connections are so much more likeable than Mayweather's.

Without much conviction, as far as I was concerned, so many turf writers opined that 'Pharoah's quest would be "good for racing." The line felt forced, rung lazy.

But I'm too close to it. I remember Funny Cide, the modest New York-bred, whose Sackatoga Stables entourage would ride to the races in a yellow school bus.

Zenyatta, the 19-1 super mare, attracted women and children from all over Southern California, which was primarily the only place they let her run in a very highly managed career. Reminds me of Mayweather's fight card making.

The dumb asses at Dumb Ass Partners found themselves with a horse of a lifetime in California Chrome, but wiped out the goodwill they'd built when one of the owners cried all the way home after he was beaten in the Belmont. Their internecine squabbles hurt only 'Chrome, but his heroic win in March's Dubai World Cup has us watching him with great anticipation in 2016.

Ghostzapper, Smarty Jones, Flowers in May, Medaglia d' Oro, Mineshaft, Goldikova, Gio Ponti, to name just a few of my favorites.

Television ratings, wagering handle, level of interest by the general sports media. I guess those are the benchmarks of whether or not 'Pharoah was good for racing, whether his exciting exploits last year generated new interest in racing, or brought back players fleeing over the fleecing racing engages in these days.

So how did it go May 7th, when Nyquist fairly dominated a suspect field in the 142nd Kentucky Derby?

Television ratings sunk 14 percent from last year, which posted the highest overnight share since 1992. This despite former figure skater Johnny Weir's over-the-top flaming gay guy schtick. Even he seemed tired of it this year.

On the wagering front, betting was strong on the day but down 10% (at $124.7 million) on the Derby, the only race casual fans usually know about.

It didn't help when TVG.com, the AOL of America's online advanced deposit wagering houses, took down its own system 80 minutes before the Derby with a "readiness check." Hey Sparky, hands off the reboot button! Although maybe Sparky now sleeps with the fishes.

I have to wonder if the increased handle on the Derby was because after the first two, including Exaggerator, who finished second, odds were in double figures. The exotic bets had to have gone up.

Michael Dempsey at Turf 'N' Sport speculates that one problem is that the preps for the Derby, starting with the Holy Bull from Gulfstream in January, is not adequately covered on national television.

"Churchill Downs and the horse racing industry needs to get all of the final major preps televised, or the casual sports fan will have no idea who the 20 in the starting gate are," Dempsey writes.

Also, Nyquist ran just twice from his Breeders' Cup Juvenile win up to the Derby. Through no fault of mine, he was off my radar.

Nobody ever learns from history. Churchill Downs, abetted by the media, has positioned the Derby way too high as a singular race, if you're talking about the greatness of a horse. Mine That Bird, in only one example, didn't do a thing after his Derby.

Sure, now Nyquist is the only horse capable of winning the Triple Crown this year, but at least for this fan and player, we'll only know how great he is or will be at the end of the year. American Pharoah proved that. Besides the historic achievement of his Triple Crown, all of his other wins cemented his career, or at least his epic season.

Despite being undefeated now, if the last race Nyquist wins was this Derby, he's just another three-year-old who peaked in May.

Preakness Picks
So what about this 141st Preakness?

The big angle is that Nyquist (3-5 morning line) is a lock for this race but that the 10-furlong Belmont will doom him. Alright.

I'm still not convinced about him, as you can tell. He ran a very nice Derby, the only one who could create his own trip, which is all and everything in a Derby, stalking three and four back and exiting a very hot pace that fell apart on the last turn(!). Through traffic problems and fatigue, none of the others could close into it. Typical.

First, the weather at Baltimore's Pimlico is forecasted as miserable. Cool and rainy all day. That changes the angle to Exaggerator, a veteran and winner on off tracks. He'll take a lot of money.

Who else has a chance? Generally, once again, we see mediocre Beyer Speed Figures all around. Nyquist got a 103 for the Derby, three figures, I believe, simply because it was the Derby. Gift.

But I do see the 11 horse, Stradivari (8-1 ML), whose Beyer jumped 21 points to 100 in a Keeneland allowance race last out. Bob Baffert's been mum on his Collected (10-1 ML), winner of his last two, including the Grade III Lexington last out. Uncle Lino (20-1 ML) seems like he'll be challenged in the mud. Abiding Star is the obigatory local boy, winner of his last five with mud experience. Good: He's the son of Uncle Mo and out of a Dynaformer mare. Bad: He's the obligatory local boy. High altitude company here.

Ordinarily, it's Nyquist. But the mud in the face will be the intriguing factor. Watch the weather and try to hear if they say the track is sealed, which will speed it up a bit.

My focus will be on Stradivari, Collected and Exaggerator, at no less than 3-1.

NBCSN kicks it off at 1:30 and the big NBC signs on at 4.

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Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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