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TrackNotes: Satellite Dishes And Starting Gates

The latest research results are in.

Sure, all data is anecdotally based, but the conclusion is indisputable: The pull of Thoroughbred horse racing and its attendant wagering action is very strong indeed.

At the conclusion of a successful season handicapping the Bears and the NFL right through The Big Game, opportunities fell off precipitously.

Wagers on teams where leagues play a gazillion games every year seem silly. There was that one game where the Knicks, on what turned out to be the tail end of Linsanity, traveled to Miami, but more on that later.

I hadn't really stopped reading the Daily Racing Form or The BloodHorse. But the rage after a botched 2011 Breeders' Cup was real and justified. The BC has become a classic example of the committee making itself and its bloated racing card and the boastful "marketing" hoopla of the whole thing the main focus, instead of treating it for what it is, a very nice two days of racing. "World Thoroughbred Championships" indeed. Ask any Chicagoan what tossing around the word "world" will get you.

And make no mistake, racing's ills are nowhere near being solved, with little or no progress being made. There is still no cogent strategy for bringing it all together in an age when satellite dishes are just as important as starting gates. Remember in Seabiscuit when War Emblem's owner, Samuel Riddle, parochially refused to match-race the 'Biscuit or even acknowledge the possibility of his talent? Besides being able to quickly ship a horse to the purse money anywhere in America and the simulcast technology, the game is run pretty much the same as it was back then.

Without singular leadership, crimes against the game continue with ridiculously low penalties. Even for things like falsifying the identity of a horse, monkeying with the betting pools, or the all-too-common trainer filling a horse with drugs.

Do you think the football bounty hunters are going to get away with a fine of $2,000 and a five-day suspension? No, because the NFL knows that it must have some degree of institutional integrity and consistency and that appearances and perception mean everything. And I believe the league also is taking into account the need for probity vis a vis the game wager and the interest it generates in millions of people. What a difference a central, democratic administration could have on racing!

But there's wagering and then there's wagering.

From this viewpoint, it has now got to be about picking spots. Sticking with the bigger stakes races and avoiding cheap claimers and first-time maidens. Playing the better tracks and avoiding those with artificial surfaces. Questioning the robotic declarations spewed by the racing media.

And not get sucked in by "The Road to the Roses." Wait until the Kentucky Derby starters are known and go backwards to evaluate them. And not get psyched by today's hot horse, lest the fragile beast break and fall off the Derby trail, a la Algorithms, Junebugred, or Out of Bounds.

Because of its self-inflicted ills, racing can't be the best-run sport in America, but it still feels like the greatest.

Who on earth would bet on the NBA?

In the aforementioned Knicks-Miami game, I had a strong feeling the strength of the Heat would subdue Jeremy Lin. LeBron called it a big game the day before and that was enough for me. Linsanity brought the spread to Knicks plus 9.5. I thought Miami was a lock.

Sure enough, Miami made sure Lin wouldn't beat them, holding him to a single field goal and forcing eight turnovers. But what about those referees?

Are they that bad? Are they lazy? Are they tired? Or are they corrupt?

In Knicks-Heat, New York's J.R. Smith was clearly lurking out of bounds at the end line when he took one step to the side of the lane under the basket, took the pass and laid it in. On another play, LeBron went to the lane, set up the tent, laid down the blanket and popped open a cold one and waited for Lin. Lin, with his right shoulder square in the middle of LeBron's chest, steamrolled James. Foul James. The lame announcers, including Marv Albert, said it was a foul because only half of their bodies touched each other. Huh?

So I'm watching my cover go down the drain. Fortunately, the non-call on Lin infuriated the Heat and they went down and hit a three to seal the 12-point win.

And then on Wednesday night at Milwaukee, the refs blew a big call late in the game after going to the video.

In a key late possession for the Bulls, Derrick Rose was dribbling around a sloppy pick when the Milwaukee defender grabbed Rose's bicep and the ball just kept going out of bounds. They call ball Bucks. Okay, the play was kind of hidden and TV's Neal Funk and Stacey King saw the infraction only after four replay angles.

But the gray shirts went to the sideline video and then came out and confirmed the call. Thank goodness the Bucks botched the play as Derrick wound down the clock and iced the game.

What's the difference between Rahm Emanuel and Barney Fife?

Barney kept the summit.


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

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021