ESPN Horse Racing

Regarding the Belmont and other racing matters
By Jay Cronley
Special to

Minding our P's and Q's, and Q's and A's, with the Belmont Stakes almost at hand.

P's and Q's stand for pints and quarts. Old English pubs operated on the honor system, with the bartender asking patrons to mind, or keep track of, their pints and quarts, come settle-up time.

Q: I've heard that some people are going to buy a $2 win ticket on War Emblem on Belmont Saturday and refrain from cashing it if the horse wins the Triple Crown. It is thought that this souvenir will appreciate in value. Is there any truth to that possibility?
A: Yes, absolutely. I talked to a dealer in collectibles this very morning, and he said that a mint condition $2 win ticket on a Kentucky Derby winner could bring as much as $10 dollars in the year 2050.

Q: Although you haven't been able to hit your backside concerning the front end of the first two Triple Crown races, you've been pretty good about eliminating trendy picks like Saarland, U S S Tinosa and Booklet. Who looks overblown next week in New York?
A: This question is a violation of the policy that stipulates a reader can't take a cheap shot at an expert's pick without making a prediction of his or her own at that particular time. Fresh faces in New York are apt to be ringers, not pretenders. The first two horses from the Peter Pan are legit. If Sunday Break finishes worse than second, it would be an upset. Concerning trendy sucker punches, you can eliminate from your win-bet plans anything with a history of closing great distances, such as the second-place finisher in Baltimore.

Q: Is there a best time to bet a Quinella?
A: A Quinella is a wager whereby the bettor attempts to select the first two finishers of a race in any order. Basic math suggests that the payoff figures to be around half of that of an Exacta. And yes, there is a time when this type of bet should be made. If a horse player has recently lost his job, been divorced, lost his lease and is down to his last two dollars in change, then a Quinella is just the ticket.

Q: Aren't there limits on how much you can bet on everything except horse racing?
A: And the stock market. And a pit boss would probably give the thumbs-up sign if somebody wanted to bet $1 million on a roulette number. The gigantic bets you see in horse racing usually involve alleged sure things to show, the chase for a fast 10 percent return. There will probably be a $1 million show ticket or two on War Emblem. Inordinately large bets can create a minus pool, which means that the track could have to pay some of the winners out of its own pocket, causing hot dogs to cost a quarter more next week.

Q: The world of gambling has always been full of sophisticated scams aimed at stealing money. What's to keep a computer hacker from gaining access to the pari-mutuel system at a race track and messing around with the numbers and odds and changing a 2-1 shot to 10-1?
A: Hopefully, this question.

Q: A friend and I are thinking about going in together to buy a computer power rating service that handicaps horse races. It's pricey. Are there times when it makes sense to spend a good deal of money on a glorified tip sheet?
A: Sure. If you're a little goofy.

Q: Do you think that the Internal Revenue Service is more apt to audit somebody who shows horse race gambling winnings on his return?
A: Audit horse players? No. My guess is the IRS is more interested in people with money.

Q: What should you do if you find a good ticket on the floor?
A: Many people think tickets are like money. But they're not. They're registered and can be traced. The right thing to do is turn in the ticket. At some tracks and simulcast venues, anybody caught trying to cash a ticket that doesn't belong to him can experience the horse player's worst fear: banishment from the joint.

Q: How can you tell which athlete is abusing steroids?
A: It's simple. They'll be hiding their muscles.