June 29, 2001

Requiem for a Minus Pool
When it unfolded, it was so terribly frightening that, only a week later, it was quickly, if not almost instantly, gaining the status of legend, much the way Dwight Clark hauled in "The Catch" for the 49ers against the Cowboys in 1982 and Michael Jordan canned "The Shot" to clinch the Bulls' championship over the Jazz in 1998.

And unlike Teddy Ballgame or Larry Legend or Donnie Baseball, the athlete and the event in question took not decades to achieve such catchphrase designation. Try a minute and 20 some-odd seconds.

It happened last Sunday at Hollywood Park, and around Southern California, it is known for the time being and perhaps for aye as, simply, "The Crafty C.T. Race," and anyone who saw what transpired in the second event on the card that day at Hollywood Park and hears that fateful phrase will be shocked back to relive the moment as though in a time-warp, the horror brought back to life in full sound and color.

The Crafty C.T. race will live for a long time as an ignominious episode in the life of the horse in question, Crafty C.T., an animal so highly thought of earlier this year that he was seen as a serious threat to the superiority of none other than Point Given.

But it didn't quite work out that way for Crafty C.T., leading his trainer, Howard Zucker, to rest the three-year-old for 11 weeks, skipping the Triple Crown races and set his sights on easy pickings: a seven-furlong breeze of a prep race en route to a date with another top three-year-old, Congaree, in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood.

At least it seemed that way on paper, where a win by Crafty C.T. was merely a formality, a quick jog around the one-turn sprint distance, at morning-line odds of 1-2.

So much a formality it was that only four horses dared line up in the starting gate with Crafty C.T., who, according to the script, would simply shoot out of the gate, open up a couple of lengths and nurse his advantage while in hand in deep stretch.

So much a formality it was that some shrewd bettor literally jumped at the chance of getting a cool 5 percent on his sure-thing investment, betting $75,000 to show on Crafty C.T. The other four horses combined for $5,000 in that same pool.

The Crafty C.T. Race was supposed to be a mere formality, and for the first 40-some seconds of the contest, it pretty much was.

Then Crafty C.T., who was used to being free and clear in the early stages of his races, found another horse approaching his flank. Crafty C.T. was niggled along, but the 11 weeks off were also pressing him into submission at the top of the lane.

Crafty C.T. was a short horse, no comfort to the gargantuan show bettor. Crafty C.T. clearly was not going to win, was rapidly fading out of second place and would need to battle hard to save third. Crafty C.T. had never so much outdueled a horse in the homestretch in his life.

So much for the mere formality. Crafty C.T. did not finish third, either, and the tote board twitched awkwardly, its show prices having returned more than the place prices and even more than the win price.

And that, my friends, is how the second race at Hollywood Park on Sunday, June 24, 2001, came to be known for ever and for always as "The Crafty C.T. Race."

Practical Pointer #14
Seamless segue, and you probably already figured it out: incontrovertible frontrunner, coming off the layoff.

Short horses lack that oomph they'll need in the stretch to withstand their most dogged challengers. Prominent racing researcher Dr. Jim Cramer of the Handicapper's Data Warehouse of Lexington, Ky., is on record as saying that layoffs don't have much of an effect on horses -- except E (early, absolute need-to-lead) horses.

And so it was with Crafty C.T. Absolutely, Crafty C.T. was the class, speed and best of the field. But with two similarly strong frontrunners in the lineup and the potential for an unfamiliar and possibly debilitating struggle ahead of him, Crafty C.T. got the worst of it.

No doubt, speed is dangerous, always, but examining the texture and nuances of the frontrunning favorite in a race -- in this case, a horse with more pressure than usual and time off to overcome -- seems worth the effort.

And when the frontrunning fave is prohibitively backed, a win bet on any other horse you choose, could also be a rewarding endeavor.

Practical Application of the Practical Pointer
In this exhaustive exercise for Saturday, June 30, the track and race are listed along with the suspect frontrunning favorite (or potential low-odds horse) in question. In parentheses appears this corner's win selection to beat the likely bogus choice.

Flagstaff
Race 6: Special Avenue is the bad fave (Agate Hunter is the preferred win bet)

Grants Pass
Race 8: Missy Muffet is bad (Quarter Term is good)

Los Alamitos
Race 3: Final Attempt (Bobs Peak a Boo)

Pleasanton
Race 3: All Access (Slew Stew)

Halfway Home, and the West Is the Best
In the race for year-end honors, horses based or considered Southern California natives are holding a huge edge over their East Coast-based rivals, which should make for an interesting Breeders' Cup this October at New York's Belmont Park.

No one would argue that the top three-year-old, sprinter, turf male and turf female are, respectively, Point Given, Caller One, Bienamado and Astra.

That leaves the dirt distaff division and the handicap ranks up for grabs, and even then, the East is nowhere close to dominating. Perhaps the game New Yorker Critical Eye has an advantage among the distaffers, but fellow East Coster Albert the Great is not lengths clear of Captain Steve or a healthy Tiznow.

Great Deal on the Best: C&X Report
Year 3 of the acclaimed print newsletter C&X Report, written by the incomparable Mark Cramer, is nearly upon us, and you couldn't have picked a better time to start a new subscription or continue your existing one.

The first issue of the new publication cycle (September 2001) will contain a complete table of the win probabilities of all the C&X Report research articles from the first two years. Think of it as Kinky Handicapping meets Winning at the Races. If you're a new subscriber, this comprehensive table will catch you up quickly on what C&X Report is all about. Better yet, you'll soon appreciate what's in store for you in every issue. Or if you're re-upping, it's like getting a refresher course in both the art and science of the Mark Cramer way.

Sign up today as a new subscriber to C&X Report and you'll receive 14 issues for the price of 12. To whet your appetite, we'll send you the July and August 2001 issues absolutely free as our way of saying thanks for subscribing promptly.

Or resubscribe and receive the very special bonus of password-protected online access to "Late-Breaking Information," Cramer's latest innovation that will serve as a timely and topical supplement to the unparalleled excellence of the printed newsletter. Do it today and be in line to receive Cramer's uncommon, updated wisdom starting in September, focusing on such newsworthy events as the Breeders' Cup and the European contingent's chances.

To take advantage of this very special new-subscriber offer of 14 issues for the price of 12 or to resubscribe for the same low price as last year, plus receive online access to Cramer's "Late-Breaking Information," visit The Handicapping Store and click on the links to C&X Report. Or call (323) 876-7325 to order by phone.

See you next time. As always, thanks for your continued readership.

We appreciate your comments about this newsletter. Please send them to our staff. Thank you!