<
>

Money matters

The inner-workings of certain segments of the economy make horse racing look good.

Here's why.

I made two stops today before settling into this piece, first at a stock broker's office, then at the race track simulcast joint.

I used to be a stock broker, passing the required exam by a single point, how, I'll never know. Wild guesses were like homing pigeons that morning. Given training on Wall Street, and assisted by some of the finest analytical minds in the business, here is more or less what I knew for a fact about the global financial markets: the public was usually wrong. This insight promoted the investment strategy of buying high and selling higher, which could be nerve-wracking, given the public's natural propensity to go poor while dogging the obvious. Being victimized by the obvious is something many suckers have in common. Seeing first hand, with cash on the line, that public sentiment is often wrong, is perfect training for a horse race track future.

Sell after a plunge? Play the chalk in a claimer? Thanks anyhow.

The problem with high finance today is pretty simple. Some companies are being run by liars, cheats and thieves, allegedly, but only slightly. Things companies in trouble have in common are confident CEO's and solid balance sheets. Then three days after a pep talk and a positive prospectus, employees are seen doing a variation of the Perp Walk, the Jobless Reel, where people don't have jackets over their eyes, the wool has been pulled there. The next time your boss says things are fine, get your resume together; if the boss says things are great, run.

It's like Penn and Teller put together the average balance sheet. The way assets are juggled, sliced, diced, shuffled and cut, now you see a profit, now you're laid off. If you can't trust a balance sheet, what can you trust? On the business channels on cable TV, split screens full of experts are stacked one over the other and appear about as insightful as regular cast members on Hollywood Squares reruns. Analyzing the markets, it's like betting into a fix, trying to analyze a shell game.

This stock market makes most other forms of gambling seem fair and balanced by comparison.

Shooting craps, why, when it comes to investment risk, that's about as safe as GM back in the day.

Playing Keeno feels about the same as buying a few thousand shares of AIG.

And horse racing, talk about conservative: Compared to the balance sheet of certain and sundry banks, the Racing Form contains all the numbers that are fit to be trusted.

Concerning the worldwide financial markets, numbers are illusionary, rules change by the day, you can short this but not that, panic rules the globe.

At the horse races, all the numbers flashing on the tote board are real. They're not inflated. They're not based on pretend money. At the horse races, we're dealing with cash, not credit. You bet it and hit it, you get it. The past performances happened just that way. Nobody profits on a loss.

Tired of the shysters, the hucksters, the con men, the bullies and the bores?

Take a break from Wall Street and come to the horse races for a breath of fresh, well, artificial dirt; the horse races, where all the men are lucky, and all the women are creative, where most of the restroom stalls work, and where many of the tellers get it right the first time, where, most importantly, you can trust most of the numbers for a change.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.