Leaving in better shape

May, 21, 2011
BALTIMORE -- With no TV to do this week, I spent a lot of time around the Preakness Stakes barn. There was plenty of information to be had. The difficulty, of course, was determining which of it to use.

I am walking out of the track in better shape -- not financially. I don't have to tell my wife to choose plastic for flooring when we move, but neither are we paying for upgrades with any investments made Saturday.

I am doing better thanks to the trainer of Mr. Commons, John Shirreffs. He took pity on my limp Friday (an arthritic condition from a fracture-dislocation, plus eight surgeries) and brought me into his barn. First he applied some liniment (just like I was a slower and smaller version of Zenyatta), then he brought out the magic machine -- not "a machine." Those are illegal horse zappers. This was for therapy only. And it worked. God knows what it does but I trust John Shirreffs. Something about electrons and cells. I think he said that. I took it for the night and walked it back to John trackside at 6 a.m. Saturday. Walked it back pain free.

Pain came later.

Back at the barn mid-card, I checked in with Dale Romans. "I'm alive on the pick four," I told him. "Your horse is a single, right?"

The pick four is simple as it sounds: Pick four winners in a row. The favored way is to single a horse (or more) along the way, leaving money management space to play multiple horses in other legs and catch a large price.

So, I asked Romans if his horse was good enough to be a single choice. I was speaking, of course, of heavy favorite Paddy O'Prado in the 11th race. But Romans responded "Shackleford?" And he didn't seem to be kidding. He didn't seem to be kidding at all when I asked, "Are you kidding?" I knew that because he said, "No."

That's the kind of information I like to use. In stories. Later. Long after it would have made me 12-1 money.

I was already using the obvious animal. The Derby winner Animal Kingdom made sense and missed by a half-length. Mucho Macho Man seemed logical but was good only for sixth place. All week I was looking for a bigger-price horse and Romans had given it to me, singly. He was the only one who said it quite that way. But he did nothing for my ankle. Shirreffs doesn't enter Grade 1 races to get his name in the paper. Certainly not for the mere Internet. He had to be here for a reason. I mean, how did he know my ankle sucked? I played his horse a bit. He came home in eighth place.

I'm going home with a wealth of knowledge. We can take money out of a machine and feel better about how some of mine was distributed to others.

Pain free, guilt free, I am walking out of here -- in the direction of Belmont Park. Even Dale Romans can't say that for sure.

Kenny Mayne

Kenny Mayne -- known for his offbeat style, dry humor and unique sayings -- has served a variety of roles in more than 10 years with ESPN. He currently provides features to SportsCenter and "The Mayne Event" segments to Sunday NFL Countdown.



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