June 1, 2001

News Rundown
Some notable racing-news headlines:

Item: Jockey Pat Day Joins 8,000-Win Club
Comment: Congratulations

Of the three riders who have achieved at least 8,000 career riding wins -- the immortal Bill Shoemaker, the living legend Lafit Pincay Jr. and "Patient" Pat "I'll Wait All" Day -- it's obvious from that use of the adjectives and nicknames that Day has had to put up with the most criticism, deserved or not, from both the fans and the media.

Part of that perceived problem (the patience problem) is actually part of the Day genius.

Unlike the immortal Shoemaker and the legendary Pincay, who were based mainly in California, Day for the most part stationed his tack in the Midwest. No top jockey wins many races without paying attention to how tracks typically behave, and Day understood this to its fullest.

Rather than hustle his mounts too fast too eary -- not an unreasonable strategy at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park -- Day let his horses relax, making sure to have something left for the long, tiring straights of places like Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. The lament following many young (and even some veteran) Southern California jockeys -- "he moved too soon!" -- was anathema to Day.

Which, of course, at certain times, led to shouts of "he moved too late!" But what jockey hasn't? And, obviously, Pat Day didn't do it as often as people would have believed. After all, you gotta be doing something right if only two other jockeys have ridden more victories than you have.

So it is with Pat Day, and his recent milestone. Criticism will hound him till he retires, but now he can shrug off the hoots the way all champions do -- by pointing to the scoreboard and that "8,000" next to his name.

And who woulda thunk that among that 8,000-win riding trio, the tracks that played host to their first win were Tanforan (Shoemaker), Panama (Pincay) and Prescott (Day). Just goes to show you, talent will out.

Item: Triple Crown TV Numbers Way Up
Comment: "I love this game!"

Surely, the move to NBC from ABC and a lead-up to the NBA playoffs was responsible for a lot of the gain, but Marshall McLuahn was right: the medium is the message.

Had the Soapbox Derby or Pro Beach Volleyball been the lead-in to the Saturday NBA playoff games, NBC would have packaged those events with as much flair and hype as they have with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Television is all about selling the drama, and keeping the viewers hooked, and even though Bob Costas can't bring that same kind of genuine historical perspective to racing (the way Costas invariably does with baseball, to wit: "Look at the way Clemens is balancing that resin bag on his wrist. It resembles the style first popularized in the 1980 World Series by the Kansas City Royals Dennis Leonard."), there's enough of a support staff to keep things believable.

And if that's not the reason, there's always Shaq, Kobe and the soap-opera-turned-televised-execution by the name of "All My Lakers."

Item: Scandal in Illinois Forces Steward Out
Comment: Yeah, and your point?

This time, it's a controversy involving the workouts -- their reporting and accuracy -- and the resulting hue and cry is understandable, if not entirely meaningful.

You may remember a nice little filly (now mare, now retired) named Hollywood Wildcat. Trained by Neil Drysdale, the horse shipped from South Florida to Southern California to run in the Hollywood Oaks as a three-year-old in 1993. She had nary a published -- emphasize published -- workout, however, in the interim and most of the fans in the stands figured that she'd be a short horse off a three-month layoff, not to mention the new surroundings.

The horse won the Hollywood Oaks, for fun, before anyone could understand she was the real deal, paying a $30-and-change mutuel. Drysdale said the Form was caught napping in not making mention of the workout, and James Quinn turned the error of omission into a cause celebre in one of those 10 books on handicapping he wrote.

Yes, the Illinois incident might instead be an error of commission, but in an age in which the fix might be in in the NBA and where major league baseballs are regularly juiced and bats are routinely corked, cheating in racing is something we, as horseplayers, must deal with on our own, individual terms.

If indeed the Illinois incident was a grand scheme intended to result in ill-gotten gains, sure, it's a bad thing, but how many of these things happen and we don't know about it because all concerned were able to keep quiet? Full-fledged honesty in racing won't come about until the sport is run by androids and robots, and even then, we'll have to trust the integrity of the itchy-palmed people programming them.

But seriously, are we going to try to watch so hard for all these instances of fishy behavior, or try to get better as handicappers? And, in the long run, for every Illinois steward, clocker and trainer who beat you out of a legitimate mutuel, you'll probably have a Hollywood Wildcat situation that'll make up for it.

Yep. Luck eventually evens out.

New June Contest
Congratulations to the May Mayhem winners of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest!

The winner of the Saturday "Beat the Chalk" Division was the great Don P., longtime contestant, first-time winner. He has some interesting remarks on the art of beating favorites. You can find them on the Horse Talk Message Board

Bob G. won the Sunday "Across the Board" Division with a steady stream of live longshots. You can also find his salient comments on bomb handicapping on the Message Board.

And another contest veteran, Art W., was victorious in the always entertaining Exacta Box Division.

To the winners, the spoils. And to all our hearty Big-Prize Handicapping Contest players, our best wishes and sincerest thanks.

And don't forget to check out the June Triple Crown Sweep Edition of the contest.

Next week, the big Belmont Stakes and everything else racing.

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