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Headaches

There are two important developing stories for horse players to think about this week; like we didn't have enough on our minds in the first place.

One has to do with horses crashing, or at the very least, busting, through the starting gates with our money on their bruised noses; bruised, or at the very least, puzzled noses.

So far as I can recall, I have seen one horse perform reasonably well after busting through the gate like a federal agent at a suspicious-looking double-wide down by the creek. It was a quarter horse that crashed through on that occasion and somehow ran third, probably because when he whacked open his gate ahead of schedule, he scared everybody else half out of their wits. Quarter horses sometimes seem wound too tight, like cheap watches. Quarter horses rear and attack gates so often that backing the entire field out of the gate is part of the drill; horses lose their feet in the gate, scratches happen.

Such does not seem to be the case with thoroughbreds.

No blood, no foul; money runs.

Big purses and handles are not easily shaken.

Do you as a veterinarian or a jockey want to scratch your way into a fat lip or a lawsuit?

Everywhere, it seems, thoroughbreds that come through the gate early are hustled around and back into their slots so as not to annoy horses waiting impatiently; bettors are often annoyed, however.

Saturday (August 2), heavily favored Recapturetheglory broke through the gate just before the West Virginia Derby, reaffirming the thought that one of the most important elements of horse handicapping is location, location, location; three feet away from a betting window or machine is about the best location you could have, bet-canceling territory. Recapturetheglory ran ninth in the 11-horse field; the fine horse was defeated by stuff that looked like small town parade material. Another horse that went through its gate before the race finished tenth.

No matter how gentle the premature participation may seem, my advice is stay within ticket-canceling distance of an important wager, and get out of any bet that crashes a race party. Extreme measures are sometimes taken to keep a horse calm during the saddling process. You would think that busting through a gate would be the equivalent of saddling a horse by a busy interstate. If busting loose isn't an automatic scratch, or at least worth an extra ten minutes of good will toward the horse player, you have to take your money matters into your own hands.

Next to be considered is the Breeders' Cup.

For years, the Breeders' Cup races in October seemed like the Players Championship in golf, or the baseball All-Star game, near-majors to be sure, but showcases, as much as anything, rewards for the rich, opportunities for them to get richer.

As for handicapping, playing three-card monte has been an easier play than a Breeders' Cup race. Three-card monte is actually a pretty good wagering opportunity. Here's how that works. Three-card monte is a card game run by a dealer with fast hands and greedy intentions. The goal is to find one of three cards turned face down, usually the queen of spades. You win or lose what you bet. What you do is eliminate the most obvious card of the three. It's never the obvious card. So that leaves two cards for the money, a 50-50 proposition, no juice, not bad; moreover, somebody told me that the dealer favors the side of his or her strong hand for the queen's final resting place -- if he or she is right-handed, maybe you win easily.

This year, the Breeders' Cup races will be run in LA, steroid-free and on artificial dirt.

A small country could run its business for six months on what the average trifecta payoff figures to be.

The only way I have come up with so far concerning the handicapping of a race on fake dirt is to box the horses that figure to be running third through eighth coming for home; which can get expensive.

When my male English springer spaniel went off steroids after healing from a foot injury, he bit me.

When it comes to handicapping the Cup dirt and steroid free, it's not too early to start practicing: Chaos looks to be 3:5.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.