- Horse Racing - The poorest excuse

Jay Cronley

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Tuesday, May 29
The poorest excuse

After Monarchos ran sixth in the Preakness Stakes, the jockey came on the television screen, with dirt all over him and looking something like a chimney sweep, and he said that his steed had not taken to the race track.

The trainer suggested the same thing of the animal.

"Monarchos didn't take to the track," a friend of mine also said.

The horse said nothing.

But shortly after the race, you could almost hear a murmur rising from the beer drinkers in the infield and the wine sippers on the suit-and-dress level and the hot dog sales people in the grandstand, all explaining the sixth-place finish in the following official manner: Didn't take to it.

This is a little like hearing a football coach say, after his team lost by 35: We didn't execute.

But here is the way that usually goes.

Had this team executed, it would have probably still lost by 28.

The offering, didn't execute, is frequently a euphemism for got whipped.

It is a bad idea to practice physical or psychological medicine without a permit, and from your living room or the Jockey Club or the broadcast booth.

Call somebody incompetent or a quitter, then what do you say when you learn that he had been playing with a broken rib.

Didn't take to the track.

This all-inclusive diagnosis could turn out to mean any of the following:
1. The horse got tired.
2. The horse had a physical problem.
3. There was something about the trip.
4. The footing was not conducive to the horse running his best.

Concerning the physical nature of the race track, I wasn't there and have seen no lab analysis. But it rained some the day before, and everybody knows what water can do to dirt.

But it appeared to me that Monarchos was taking to the track with considerable coordination down much of the backside.

Had he taken to the track, would he have moved smartly from the back of the field to pass them all and win?

Last to first at Pimlico?

Call Ripley's.

Do you take to some parts of the track and not others?

I taped the Preakness and have replayed it numerous times and can now identify exactly what it feels like to not take to something.

It is a very unsettling sensation.

It begins as a physical problem with your stomach turning over and feeling hollow as though you hadn't eaten for days, and then the emotional side of not taking to something kicks in with light-headedness and hot flashes.

Then disbelief.

Then anger.

Then lethargy.

Stop somebody in a mall and ask him or her to do a phrase-association test with Pimlico, and you'll hear two things, right back.

Tight turns.

Stalk to win.

Some people who wagered on Monarchos did not take to watching this horse run last around the first turn.


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