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My Preakness Day

Editor's Note: Jay dropped by all day on Saturday, May 19 with his observations and musings on the 132rd Preakness Stakes.

6:34 p.m. ET
These could be some of the answers to questions remaining after the Preakness.

Q: After the excitement of the great finish wore down a little, what might have been heard from the gift shop at Belmont Park?
A: Ouch.

Q: With all the fancy radar, why can't anybody predict rain or no rain?
A: Perhaps there's too much emphasis on showy, dangerous weather. If Geraldo's mustache isn't perpendicular to the ground, he's not going to be featured in weather coverage.

Q: What did everybody almost forget about little old Arkansas horse racing?
A: That the spring meet at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs has become the chief recent supplier of Triple Crown race winners, Curlin being one of a number of recent champs.

Q: Who wins when the first two betting favorites finish inches apart at the wire and the Exacta is twenty-some bucks?
A: The masses; and it's good for the sport.

Q: Who loses?
A: I do.

Q: Where was the dumb money in this Preakness?
A: On Circular Quay, whose absurdly late racing style could not close much ground even in lightning fractions. Late runners never change their late spots.

Q: Why wait to bet?
A: So you can hear Street Sense's trainer say that the horse was a little edgier this time around.

Q: What's the dumbest thing in horse race wagering?
A: Letting odds dictate which horse you play to win.

Q: What's the dumbest criticism of any easy winner like Curlin in Arkansas?
A: That he beat nobody. You can't blame a horse who was 15 lengths back there.

5:04 p.m. ET
I just heard about somebody who has plans to go in with others to make a substantial show bet on Street Sense in the Preakness.

The amount of the wager wasn't revealed. But I don't think they were talking pocket money. I think they were talking briefcase money. Imagine their stomachs. I get nervous betting $50.

Monstrous show bets are frequently made on monster runners, young and healthy horses whose worst career race would put them no worse than third. The minimum playoff in the universally commingled Preakness is a nickel on the dollar, $2.10, five percent. Not bad as a sure thing. Not all that good on something that can't talk, like a horse.

A winning $10,000 show bet would return $500.

A winning $1 million show bet would return a minimum of $50,000.

Anybody with a million to bet probably doesn't need a lousy fifty grand.

Since most horses in a Triple Crown race figure to catch a lot of show money, the payoff even on a favorite could be $2.20.

Street Sense on the road is no cinch. I'm a dog on the road. And I get to pick where I stay.

Any of a half a dozen things could put him in the top three, any of a hundred could put him fourth or worse.

In a risk-reward scenario, I can think of better ways to make $500 than betting ten grand on a favorite to show, picking up bottles from the shoulder of a busy freeway, for one.

4:06 p.m. ET
Preakness Day continues with the appearance of a familiar face that had not been around the gaming halls for some while.

Who can always tell the age of a gambler? Ages seem to depend on winning or losing streaks. I've seen an 80-year-old hit a cold triple and look 40, a 25-year-old look 50 at the ATM. This fellow, back after an absence, could have been 40, was dressed better than most with a sport coat and tie, and was smiling.

Somebody asked where he had been, the usual answer in such cases being: newly married. Or in a cast.

The man who hadn't been to the races in a while said he had been through a program that had helped him quit gambling. A discussion about gambling disorders is not usually heard on a Triple Crown day, except possibly outside the main gate, with a preacher handing out fliers. It wasn't a buzz kill. But the racing buzz at our table momentarily sputtered.

He had come back to confront what had almost eaten him alive.

Actually, the one who had quit gambling caught us at a pretty good time. We were all up a little something. A reasonable discussion took place. Gambling is dangerous business to many.

One interesting point was that the primary function of a pastime was to motivate, extend, and improve life. Some people spend fortunes going up Alaska way to lop the heads off salmon, or take to the west to shoot sheep off cliffs. Some spend a ton on electric trains, a bundle on religion. It was our table's opinion that gambling as a pastime was fortunate in one regard. Gambling abuse had well defined danger signals, more so than, say, gardening.

If you lose money, you have a gambling problem.

On the rare occasion, simple stupidity might be a major factor in gambling problem, particularly with horse racing, where brains play a more important role than is the case with slots.

Major horse racing fate seems to come along about every six minutes at a simulcast joint. Three of us throw in a couple of horses each, and a few bucks, some races. All of a sudden, we're in a photo and hit a small tri and have to leave the guy doing so well in his own right to go collect a buck or two.

Here's something about which all players can agree -- there's no such thing as a sick winner.

3:22 p.m. ET
Much joking is done about people who can't pick winners.

But what more could a person ask than to have at his disposal a human eraser, a horse player who can blur the lines of reason and luck with the simple choice of a number between one and nine.

I have, here on Preakness Day, within sauntering distance in the simulcast hall, the services of about a dozen people who consistently display a magical touch by picking losers. When they're seen cashing, they're cashing mostly vouchers. If any of a half dozen of them bought me a bet for a gift, I'd sell it for twenty cents on the dollar. These are regular horse players of varying races and sexes. Some have money. All seem to have credit. Some spend hours on the Racing Form and highlight key numbers or elements of a race in multi-colored markers. Some pick off the program. Most are pleasant. Most are intelligent. Most just don't get it.

They have to win some; otherwise they're there for the company. I can't recall many of this group hitting a tough race, though, which is a race where half or more of the field could win.

A couple or three horse players here might not be able to pick a winner if a race were to be paused in a freeze-frame halfway down the stretch.

Why let a potentially powerful natural resource go untapped?

I have just made the pre-Preakness rounds in my betting hall and have asked for picks from handicappers whose opinions I value most when it comes to consistently stocking the flank.

They love, almost to a person, Street Sense and Curlin. Unfortunately, several of these persistent pickers liked the horse I had tabbed Wednesday, Circular Quay.

They play favorites a lot. When they get favorites who can really run, people not used to cashing tickets hope to make up for lost time. One regular who I cannot recall having mentioned a winner beforehand in two years, at least, has boxed Street Sense and Curlin and is so proud if it, he is showing the ticket around.

There wasn't a long shot to be found among the horse players who were due.

Street Sense. Curlin. Curlin. Street Sense. Circular Quay right there with them.

Handicappers owing me five and ten dollars absolutely love this group.

So, based on these eraser picks, here's what I might do with a dollar or two: Hard Spun!

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com