Belmont ideas

Here are some questions and guesses leading up to Saturday's Belmont Stakes:

Question: How long do you stay with a horse that owes you money?

Answer: A horse that owes you money is defined as one that will win the first time you don't bet it.

Union Rags could owe almost as many people money as do big oil companies. At the Breeders' Cup last year, he ran circles behind the winner. This spring at Churchill, he loitered in the gate. He doesn't produce trouble lines so much as he does worry lines, dumb lines. He's exactly the kind of horse you have to follow to the ATM, one with unquestionable potential that could be star-crossed.

Whereas "Rags to Raggedy" is a horse that owes people money, Creative Cause is not. This one is simply good enough to run third against the best, and win in a short field versus the second-team all-stars.

Q: Why do people think a deep closer is apt to perform better the farther it runs?

A: Because they need the money.

Dullahan is an example of a late runner who closed a block at the Derby, passed on Baltimore, and is now expected by many to finish like Beetlebaum to nail Rags and America's horse (I'll Have Another). In each big race, there's a trendy pick that figures almost too smoothly, one to whose supporters sometimes you have to hand over the gambling money because deep closers can't lose them all. If Dullahan wins, please invest my money wisely in something like a good slot machine stock.

Q: What would a Triple Crown winner do for the sport?

A: First off, it would keep thousands of people from cashing $2 win tickets (they would be kept for souvenirs), greatly pleasing the track.

It will fill handicappers with pride until the next race.

It couldn't hurt the mid-level breeding business, as I'll Have Another was a bargain. A few people split a 12-pack, pool their money, who knows, maybe there's another big one out there just waiting to be discovered.

Q: Is I'll Have Another's name worthy of the occasion?

A: It is more like an allowance name. IHA probably works best. He's a good horse. Whereas the bottom three-fourths of this Triple Crown crew is barely average, Bodemeister can run. Rags should be able to run.

Q: What do you think of the anonymous responders who run unchecked through the Internet spreading ill will?

A: Most writers have a tremendous amount of respect for people who use super hero or wishful-thinking nicknames to temporarily escape the rigors and stresses of everyday life.

Q: Really?

A: Nah. If you'd make up a name, what wouldn't you make up?

Q: What's the best way to avoid horse connections who take liberties with the rules?

A: Lay off cheap favorites. Bet on competent women. Bet less. Play inexpensive exotics.

Q: What about a basketball investment if Dullahan comes from 20 back and takes all the money?

A: Given similar talent, no sport appears to offer a bigger home-site advantage than the NBA.

Sometimes the zebras seem a little like wrestling refs in that they don't always see the bad guys being bad, the bottle caps in the waistbands, the nails in the shoes.

Big-time parties are hard to crash.

Q: What about IHA not having an official timed workout between the Preakness and New York?

A: It's slightly more negative than who-cares.

Q: Should Santa Anita become the permanent home of the Breeders' Cup?

A: No. The Europeans would prefer the familiar chill of Monmouth in the gloaming.

Four out of five years for Santa Anita sounds about right.

Q: What would it take to get you to the new Adam Sandler/Andy Samberg flick?

A: I'd go for a fifty-dollar bill, popcorn and a drink, no questions asked.

Q: What's the future of horse racing?

A: Big crowds at the majors, just like golf and tennis.

Big crowds at the spa-type sites, Oaklawn, Del Mar, Saratoga.

Off-the-charts TV ratings for the majors, made more impressive by the fact that many fans are unrated at tracks and simulcast joints during the events.

No crowds at the grinder meets.

Great slot machine-inspired purses at the grinder meets.

Decent handles at the grinder meets.

More players from home.

Fewer track closings than in any other industry.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.