ESPN Horse Racing

There's a reason they're called 'writers'
By Jay Cronley
Special to

It is widely thought by sportswriters on television that Smarty Jones can save horse racing Saturday by winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, further proof that sports writers on television will say anything to get noticed.

Sportswriters don't belong on television. Sportswriters belong at a blank screen. They should let their fingers do their talking.

It stands to reason that if watching television can make a person slightly nutty, being on it can split a personality right down the middle.

Writers are supposed to be on TV to tell people what to read or to explain how to clean up television, period. When a writer is a regular on television, his or her writing craft has to suffer because you're in make-up when you should have been trying out sentences. Pretty soon, your writing starts to read like what you say on the tube, your writing reads as though it had been dictated.

The allure of an electronic media, and the mindless celebrity that automatically goes with the exposure, extends to the sticks where editors and beat writers from the Goat Path Gazette are integral parts of sports talk radio and television.

But it's the national sports writers who make a person wish there were more loud and simple ex-athletes on the tube instead of scribes gone showy.

The national sports media on whole is a pretty uppity lot. You should see it when the east coast all-stars land in the heartland to cover something like a U.S. Open golf tournament, demanding tastier food, a higher quality of free whiskey and more to do at night, or they'll send a scrub to cover it next time.

Not long ago sportswriter turned TV personality Tony Kornheiser gave the standard horse racing needs to be saved sermon. Like preachers who share sermons, it's as though sportswriters on the tube pass around opinions about how horse racing needs to be rescued.

Here's the line on Kornheiser's Pardon The Interruption show: Showed speed. Tired.

Concerning Smarty Jones and his assignment to save horse racing Saturday afternoon: Save it from what, unprecedented prosperity?

Horse racing is two things at once, a gamble first, and a spectator sport next. Sports like pro football wouldn't be as popular without gambling. Horse racing would not exist without gambling, as most tabs are paid by bad bettors.

Television ratings are way up this season.

Handle is up, year after year.

People are living longer and finding that the track beats mobile home fumes in Yellowstone. Forget Go Baby Go. Now it's Go Gramps Go. With race tracks profiting from slot machine junkies, the future of this attractive gamble seems safe from sportswriters on television for years to come.

The truth is, a Smarty Jones win Saturday would be good for horse racing, not because he could make non-believers suddenly start betting two bucks across the board in places like Mountaineer or Canterbury, but rather because he plans to race around the breeding shed a year before retiring there, and because his unspectacular breeding encourages participation in that aspect of the sport from a dozen people splitting a keg.

Here's what would help racing even more than a Smarty Jones victory: Good service bestowed upon the horse playing regulars by management, eliminating a major handicap.

Belmont Pick
This could be the first Exacta ticket kept for a souvenir.

Smarty Jones was 2-5 on the morning line, which sounds generous.

The funny line seems to be Purge given the edge over Rock Hard Ten as the predicted second choice in the Belmont wagering.

This figures to resemble a parade more than a race, Redford prancing hat in hand through the bright lights in Electric Horseman.

A mile and a half is a long way. Think about it in personal terms, driving a mile and a half from your home. Sometimes it takes me ten minutes to drive that far to a mall.

Think about a horse running that far with somebody on his back.

There would appear to be two decent ways to make money here. Maybe three. Beat Smarty Jones. Hit the Trifecta cold. Hit a price with the Exacta. Like there could be a price at 1-5.

You won't get the shakes if you don't bet this race.


Smarty Jones, Rock Hard Ten, Master David.

Write to Jay at

Finley: Is Smarty Jones saving horse racing?