Beyer Figures: Ambiguous

By Ralph the Cat

 We all strive to be successful handicappers.  I have to laugh each time I hear these peculiar handicappers say “handicapping is an art” or “handicapping is a science”.  I often think they’re just trying to get in touch with their intellectual side when they make those statements.  Yes, I’m sure there’s science and art involved in handicapping, but last I checked, science can’t measure the unpredictable, and how ever you want to define art as, there’s no one on the planet that has mastered the “art” of handicapping.  If you want to define art as a “craft” or a “trait” then go for it, but a craft or a trait is usually something one can master. 

The newest one I heard was that handicapping is a philosophy.  Last I checked the philosophy of something has a set laws that can prove it.  The only law of handicapping is that no matter what the outcome of the race is, someone’s going to be pissed. 

 If anything, handicapping is a hit and miss based on theory, a proposed methodology with an unverified explanation.  

 One mans theory of handicapping utilizes a methodology of figures, Beyer figures.  Beyer figures have led more blind players astray then any factor in horses racing.  Super-trainers, jockeys, crooked connections, vets, none of them add up to the amount of mislead bets than that of Beyer figures.  Beyer figures are the single most misleading bit of information in American racing. 

 When one handicapper even remotely suggests Beyer figures are misleading or not worth a nickel, one is subject to “you don’t know how to use them”.  The claim is that when used properly, you can employ them in a useful manner and that those that doubt them don’t know how to use them properly or fail to understand the core concepts of them.  This might be the biggest bullshit in the handicapping world.  One thing that I’m confident I could predict is that Andy Beyer will not come close to picking this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, just like that last decade or more.  If the man that created the “Beyer Figures” can’t utilize the numbers to churn a profit or suggest winners, then why believe they are “a large part of successful handicappers”.  The truth of the matter is, they are the most overrated bit of handicapping information known to man.  They have led more bettors astray and caused heavy money to go in the wrong direction because of one concept, it’s a methodology based on science, math and human opinion.  A Beyer number suggests nothing but one mans opinion of a race based on information he chose to use.  One can only suggest that his numbers are used far more than they need to be.  I can’t help but think, the ability to read and digest the information from a past performance is becoming a lost line of attack.

 Beyer figures, credible? Sure, one mans methodology based on opinion is always credible. 

 Ya, and I’m a cat

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What’s right with horse racing?

Much has been written recently concerning what’s wrong with horse racing, and not without justification.  There are, without a doubt, many flaws in need of repair.  But let’s focus on some positives for a moment and look at some things that are right about the sport we love.

1.)  Bet a little, win a lot…..Sure, you can do that with the lottery or a slot machine, too, but that’s pure luck.  There’s a great feeling of satisfaction that comes with handicapping races correctly and winning as a result.  Long live the $.50 Pick Four!

2.)  The fun of going to the track…..Not only is there the excitement of the races themselves, but it’s a great place for people-watching, a microcosm of society.  Rich, poor, winners, losers, and everything in between.

3.)  ADWs…..If you have a computer, bet and watch from the comfort of your own home.  I know, there are ADW wars going on among themselves and with the horsemen, and yes, you have to maintain multiple accounts if you want access to all tracks.  But what better mental exercise is there than to sit at your computer on a snowy Monday night and handicap a Pick 3 at Mountaineer. (Come to think of it, handicapping any race at Mountaineer at any time is the ultimate mental challenge.)

4.)  Guys like Liam Durbin…..I can hear the brown-nosing accusations already, but this gentleman is the real deal.  Ever since the days of the Digital Chalk Line, Liam has been providing sound info and innovation to horseplayers at little or no cost.  Racing needs more people like him.

5.)  The animals themselves…..magnificent…..beauty, speed, grace, athleticism…..all in one package.  I have recently entered into a partnership to claim a horse to race at Charles Town.  I’ll be a 1% owner  (last of the big spenders.)  But I’ll tell ya, when I see that horse coming down the stretch with the colors of my stable, it will be the thrill of a lifetime.

So for those of us with a passion for this game, there is indeed a lot that is right with it.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot…..

6.)  Maylan Studart

Later…..richinboston

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Beyer vs. Dutrow

By Ralph the Cat

Both men have earned great success in our sport, but both appear to be at a war with words.  It’s hard to look like a fool when you’re up against Richard Dutrow, but Andrew Beyer manages too.  Dutrow, who in 2008 trained both the top 3 year old Big Brown and the top sprinter Benny The Bull sent out This Ones For Phil in the Sunshine Millions Dash this past weekend.  After the even money favorite You Luckie Mann and Ju Jitsu Jax set early fast fractions of :22.23, :44.96 and :56.75, the fast charging This Ones For Phil cruised by to score in 1:09.10 at odds of 12-1.  This Ones For Phil earned a career best Beyer of 117 and finished a second off the track record. 

 It didn’t take long for the name calling to begin.  Andrew Beyer made statements in a recent article that This Ones For Phil’s performance was everything that’s wrong with American racing.  Beyer noted that before this performance This Ones For Phil’s highest Beyer figure was an 81 set in his 2 year old season.  He also made note that this performance was a 15 length improvement from his prior effort.

 Dutrow spoke out several days later suggesting there were several things that got the 3 year old gelding to improve while also noting Beyer’s number could be off.  Dutrow suggested the rigorous training and racing during his 2 year old season caused him some minor problems and weight lose that he was able to improve with a few months of down time.

 It occurred to me that Beyer might be more caught up on the horse earning the 117 figure than the horses’ actual performance.  I took a closer look to see just what Beyer is so mad about.  Is it the number or the performance?  There’s two questions that need answered.  Is it unrealistic to think the horse could improve and is the number even accurate?

 Let us look at the improvement first, because there’s no doubt the horse made an improvement.  The horse started out in Kathleen O’Connells barn, an 11% trainer in 2008.  The horse broke its maiden in July with an impressive 6 length victory in only his 3rd start as a 2 year old.  His next start was a 5thplace finish in 100K stake race, where he only ran 3 lengths behind a horse called “You Luckie Mann”.  His next start he stretched out to a mile distance where he blew clear to win by more than 4 lengths in a non-restricted 2 year old stake race at Calder.  After his first stakes win going 1 mile he stretched out even further to run 2nd in another stakes race and then a disappointing 5th and a 3rd in his next two route races.  The horse finished 2008 with 2 wins including 1 stake victory and $90,340 in 8 starts.  Richard Dutrow and his “Posse” approached Kathleen O’Connell and company to purchase the 2 year old stakes winner for what is believed to be in the 6 figures.  The horse spent two and half months training in the Dutrow barn before exploding to an impressive victory that Beyer called “everything wrong with American racing”.  The horse ran 8 races in less than 5 months as a 2 year old and won a 2 year old stakes race in that time with an 11% trainer.  Is it that hard to believe Richard Dutrow got this horse to win a non-graded restricted stakes race such as the Sunshine Millions Dash by 2 lengths in his 3 year old debut?

 Is Beyer’s methodology even accurate or useable for that matter?  They say you can’t compare Beyer numbers from track to track and from week to week.  So then why fuss about them?  Beyer rewarded Benny The Bull a 115 in 2007 after winning by more than 4 lengths and setting a track record of 1:08.2 at GulfstreamPark in the state restricted-Sunshine Millions Sprint, which is a race with no age restriction.  Yet, This Ones For Phil runs a 1:09.1 and only wins by 2 lengths in a state restricted stakes race for 3 year olds and receives an incredible 117.  Hell, Curlin hadn’t received a Beyer figure of more than 117 since his win in the Breeders Cup Classic in 2007, where he earned a Beyer figure of 119.  Is it me or is Andrew Beyer losing his mind over a flawed methodology that he created?

 The last thing that gets me is Beyer claims the horse improved 15 lengths in his first start with Dutrow.  His last 4 starts were in stake races at the route distance.  Most importantly, his last race was a 1 1/16th turf stakes.  How can we conclude a 15 length improvement was made in his recent 6 furlong dirt sprint win when he hadn’t run a sprint in more than 5 months?  Isn’t this horse racing 101?  Oh, by the way, he beat “You Lucky Mann” by 2 lengths in this brilliant performance this past week, which is the same horse he lost to by 3 lengths in his last 6 furlong race more than 5 months ago.  The horse improved 5 lengths more than “You Lucky Mann” did over the course of 5+ months with the help of Richard Dutrow, a Kentucky Derby winning trainer.  Earth to Andy Beyer, did you even look at the horse’s past performance lines before you screamed “cheater”?

Ralph

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Big Brown’s demise – it’s no conspiracy

I’ve as much a right to be angry as anyone, having driven all that way to see the race and going on record a couple of places about how I thought BB would get the job done.  But after the dust settles, most rational minds leave all the silly conspiracy theories and cheating plots behind and realize it was just a horse race that didn’t go the way just about everyone thought it would. 

I’ve already heard the grumbling about how Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow, threw the race for some financial gain.   This is because the odds of 1:4 made it impossible for him to cash again by a simple, large, win wager as he had done in the Derby and Preakness.

However, the notion that Dutrow would throw the race for his financial gain is dumb.  It has two big problems.

For one, there is the question of how he would do it.  I suppose there is physical or chemical tampering but that would be pretty easy to figure out, and it was not indicated for much of the race.  The horse certainly seemed raring to go at first.  Other than that, he would need a lot of co-conspirators like the jockey and the owners.  I suppose Kent Desormeaux would be willing to give up a shot at riding a Triple Crown winner for a few bucks.  Yeah, right.  And even if he was able to get some conspirators to go along, how does throwing the race translate to financial gain?  Can you play the don’ts in horseracing?

Next question would be why?

Dutrow may have a dirty past but that doesn’t make him stupid.  How much money would it have to be worth to ditch a Triple Crown?   Gimme a break.  I know I’m applying my moral standards to Dutrow in saying this, but training a Triple Crown winner has no monetary equivalent.  Further Dutrow would run the risk of being banned from racing, shunned by the sport, fined, and potentially serve jail time, while throwing away the chance to train the first Triple Crown winner in thirty years… just to cash in on some shady back-door transactions.  Sorry.  Not buying it.

As we headed out of the park, I heard the ever popular grumble… “NYRA fixed it… I hope they made a bundle off of all of us suckers…”  Or something like that.  Another dumb reaction.  NYRA’s overall financial impact for what happened will undoubtedly be hugely negative over the long run.  What to do with all those Big Brown tee shirts and ball caps left on the racks… and all the lost wagering in New York racing circuits if they were ever implicated in a cheating situation.

Here’s my theory… the horse lost the race fair and square.

I definitely blame Dutrow and Desormeaux for the loss, but it was not anything intentional.  They just played it entirely wrong.  The horse wanted to run and they made him go slow.  Kent could have just cruised on the rail, but he tried to get him clear running room to the outside.  A reasonable approach since it had been working previously, but it was not the right approach in the Belmont, given that the turns are so long and wide and luck (good or bad) had already handed them rail and that getting outside when he tried to get there was an awkward move.  It looked like a battle of wills between Kent and Big Brown and a series of clunky moves for the first mile.  BB was bothered and frustrated and maybe even confused by the time they hit the far turn.  I think that, and maybe the heat, was enough for BB to say “the hell with it!”

This sort of thing happens at race tracks all across America every day.  Jockeys go to post with a certain set of instructions, sitting atop the best horse in the race, but things go awry and no effort on the part of the jockey seems to correct it.  The horse loses his mojo and it’s game over.  It really happens all the time.  It is just a shame that it happened to a potential champion on a day when the world was watching. 

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Big Brown Triple Crown

The last time I booked a trip to Elmont, New York was to watch Smarty Jones take a shot at the Triple Crown.  The whole nation was abuzz with Smarty fever.   I took the opportunity to have dinner with some good friends, Andy and Monica.  We talked about old times and Smarty Jones.  About 20 hours later I shuffled out of Belmont Park like so many, my head hung low. 

 

As an experienced horse racing enthusiast, I knew it was over when they turned for home and Birdstone was gobbling up ground on Smarty Jones.  The heavy favorite was fried by a blistering pace.  Trudging out to my car, my stack of souvenier $2 win tickets still in my hand, I knew there would be no objection, no disqualification.  No doubt it was over, but it was still hard to let go.   I knew I’d have to face Andy and Monica’s three year old, Calvin, and try to explain what happened.  I’d made the mistake of talking up Smarty Jones to Calvin the night prior. 

 

“No, Calvin, Smarty Jones won’t be able to try next year.  It doesn’t work that way.”

 

That one was the worst ever, but there have been many close calls in recent years.  Each one seems to suck more life out of the Triple Crown hopeful.  Instead of giving us another Triple Crown winner, racing has given us horrific accidents like those of Barbaro and Eight Belles.  This year we have a great shot at a Triple Crown winner and it feels to me that the emotion surrounding his shot at doing it is somewhat subdued.  It could be that the nation is just afraid to get their hopes up. 

 

But my spirits have never been better about seeing a Triple Crown winner.  Even though each near miss is followed by the usual steady stream of theories why the Triple Crown has become too hard, (breeding, not enough rest between races, damaging surface) I let it roll right off my back.  Because it simply doesn’t make any sense.  I find the Triple Crown finishes in recent years to be extremely encouraging.  For example – since  1998 the winner of the Kentucky Derby has gone on to win the Preakness more often than not.  In another two years, the winner of the Preakness has gone on to win the Belmont.  

 

Point Given and Afleet Alex just missed in the Derby but then crushed their competition in the Preakness and Belmont.  Afleet Alex almost fell to his knees in the Preakness and then recovered to pull away.  Point Given never lost another race in his life after dropping the Derby.  These were super horses that just couldn’t get it done in the Derby.  But how can one fail to see that these horses were vastly better than their peer groups?  

If winning the Triple Crown were truly unachieveable, there would not be such a tight shot pattern in the outcome of the Triple Crown races.  The results point to the simple truth that there is clear differentiation in the development of three year old racehorses.  There are stand outs.  There are freaks.

 

I’ll go on record to say that if Big Brown stays healthy enough to make it to the Belmont starting gate, he will easily win the Triple Crown this year.  But even if he doesn’t it is just a matter of time. 

 

So I’m off to New York again to witness history.  Tickets are booked.  I’m looking forward to dinner with Andy and Monica again.  Calvin is older now and I’m not as worried about his heart breaking if Big Brown gets run down in the stretch.  But he has a little brother now, Phillip, who will be cheering for Big Brown without really knowing why or understanding the significance of what Big Brown will be attempting.  Without consciense, I’ll get Phillip all pumped up for the Belmont.  The emotion he will feel with the win I expect to happen is worth the risk of another Smarty let-down.  And if Big Brown disappoints us, ice cream’s on me.   Again.

 

Year Derby Winner – Preakness Winner

1998 Real Quiet – Real Quiet

1999 Charismatic – Charismatic

2000 Fu Peg – Red Bullet

2001  Monarchos – Point Given

2002  War Emblem – War Emblem

2003  Funny Cide – Funny Cide

2004  Smarty Jones – Smarty Jones

2005  Giacomo – Afleet Alex

2006  Barbaro – Bernardini

2007  Street Sense – Curlin

2008 Big Brown – Big Brown

 

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Derby 2008

Here are some thoughts on the contenders in the 2008 Kentucky Derby…

  1. Cool Coal Man – likely pace casualty, but at least he got the rail when all the other speed will be to the outside making sure Big Brown gets a miserable trip.  Bluegrass tossout (another year, another “I don’t get it” Bluegrass result).  Can’t see him getting a piece but he could play the rabbit.
  2. Tale of Ekati – Another run like the Wood and he could factor, but I think the winner will come from further back than where this guy likes to hang out. 
  3. Anak Nakai – my computer program picked him last but I think he is not that good.  Does not belong here.  But I hope some day I can be a wealthy horse owner and can have a horse with enough earnings to qualify for the Derby so I can enter him and hang out at all the Derby events and hear people say my horse does not belong.  Yes, that would be sweet.
  4. Court Vision – He could get it done.  Has the breeding to run all day.  But that is the problem, the race is usually over and he is still running all day.  The trick will be to get him to run sooner in the day.  Would not be a huge shock.
  5. Eight Belles – She’s no Rags To Riches.  My program picked her out of the money in the Oaks.  So imagine how she compares to colts.  Lots of backing but I don’t think so.
  6. Z Fortune – strong as a 2yo, and seems to have improved as a 3yo.  Likes to find trouble, partially due to his late running style.  Arkansas Derby was wide both time and still almost got it done.  Good value at what will likely be >15:1.
  7. Big Truck – There are much better horses running today with the word “Big” in their name. 
  8. Visionaire – Closed ground in the Bluegrass, and has shown some ability to pass horses late, but looks like it would take a big pace collapse.  Reminds me of Giacomo.
  9. Pyro – Even if I toss the Bluegrass result (as everyone does every year for every horse these days) I’m still not convinced he is good enough.  Louisiana Derby result seems like forever ago.  Was strong as a 2yo.  Not so sure he is a strong 3yo.
  10. Colonel John – I’m convinced he is more than a plastic surface phenom, something we all strive to be.  But I’m not sure he is fast enough.  Untested east of the Mississippi is a red flag for me.  Great works at Churchill, but has not faced the same caliber of horses as many in here.
  11. Z Humor – there are better horses in the race today with the letter Z in the front of their name.
  12. Smooth Air – definite wise guy play.  Second place effort to Big Brown in Florida Derby got him a 105 Beyer.  Hello?  Says something for including both Florida Derby exacta horses in your exotics today.  Odds of 20:1 look good too.
  13. Bob Black Jack – Speed casualty.  This is not the year to be a speed horse in the Derby!  As if any year it is a plus, this year in particular.
  14. Monba – Don’t like the name.  What’s a Monba?  Bluegrass opportunist gets Pletcher another shot at sustaining his 0-fer standings in the Derby.
  15. Adriano – the only thing I like about him is the fact that Prado opted off of horses that looked better on paper to ride him today.  I’m not a big jock handicapper, but Prado is that good.  It’s like when the best looking girl in high school goes to the prom with a zit-faced kid that plays in the band.  What’s he got that I ain’t got?
  16. Denis of Cork – My sleeper special.  Closes with a bang when he closes, which is every time except the Illinois Derby.  Got a poor trip, but they hand out poor trip vouchers at the starting gate in the Derby.  Still, at 20:1 I think he belongs in my exotics.
  17. Cowboy Cal – Pletcher’s other Keeneland opportunist and other best shot at remaining winless in the Derby.
  18. Recapturetheglory – One of Big Brown’s big problems.  Speed to his inside from a ridiculously outside post.  If you want to bet a speedy horse in the auxiliary gate, choose one whose name has two adjectives in it.
  19. Gayego – Big Brown’s other big problem.  See statement above about which speed horse to bet from the auxiliary gate.
  20. Big Brown – I hope he doesn’t win just so that we don’t have a Derby winner with such a lame name.  Aren’t most horses relatively big, and a good number of them also brown?  Every year we get the super freak, undefeated but lightly raced horse that crashes the Derby scene.  I avoid them every year and it has never cost me a penny.  This year that freak is in the far outside post with two speedy horses to his immediate inside position and the best speed horse in the race sitting on the pole all alone.  If he is good enough to win today, he should win the Triple Crown.  So get a $2 win ticket on him just in case.

 I recommend spreading your exotics far and wide and hoping Big Brown flops.  Exotics will pay well in that scenario.  Even if Big Brown wins, putting the right place and show horses with him could pay very well.  Best of luck!

    Posted in Horse Racing | 1 Comment

    2008 Derby Preps – can somebody hold form?

    With many trainers and owners choosing to be more choosy about the number and placement of their aspiring Derby horses’ prep races it is increasingly important for these horses to win those big races.  Some of us handicappers like to a horse hold form once if not twice.  For many horses in this year’s Derby hunt, the pattern looks very similar… one or two nice finishes in Grade I company and one or two wins in Grade II or Grade III company.  Followed by a huge flop in major prep race.  Is it asking all that much for a winner to act like a winner?

     

    Someone has to win those big prep races.  So obviously someone stepped up.  That much is certain.  Problem is that if it is not the horse who was supposed to win, the favorite looks remarkably vulnerable and a horse that no one was even thinking seriously about suddenly becomes a contender.  Damn!

     

    Here are some examples of the pattern I describe:

     

    Case 1 – Pyro.  Nice finish in the Champaigne and then the BC Juvenile. Wins in a Grade II and Grade III.  His moment in the sun was the Blue Grass Stakes.  Sent off as an even money favorite.  The result:  ran up the track.  Even given the creepy synthetic surface at Keeneland, this result was tough to digest.  Hard to find a viable excuse.

     

    Case 2 –  Court Vision.  Well bred and perfect running style for the classic distance.  First in Grade II and a Grade III stakes races.  Third in the FOY but closed well to impress some people.  His prove-it race came in the Wood Memorial.  Second choice but well bet and a fairly weak field to boot.  Result:  another strong close that fell short.  For the Court Vision fans, his prove-it race now moves to the first Saturday in May.  Agh.  Not the best time to do it.

     

    Case 3 – El Gato Malo.  First in minor prep, then first in a Grade III and second in a Grade II.  Sets him up for his big “get ‘er done” opportunity in the Santa Anita Derby.  Result:  A 4-wide bid that flattened out to finish fifth.  Another beaten favorite limps into Louisville.

     

    Case 4 – War Pass.  Eh, by now you get the point. 

     

    It isn’t all bad.  There have been a few horses who didn’t wilt under the heat lamps.  It took some looking but here are a few winning favorites.

     

    Case A – Big Brown.  Not much build up to the Florida Derby, just a couple of blowout wins in maiden and allowance company.  But that was enough to make him the 3:2 favorite in the Florida Derby.  That says something about the level of talent in the race, but that’s another story.  Result:  Big Brown held serve and crushed the field, overcoming an outside post and fast early fractions.  But some handicappers won’t touch a horse so inexperienced coming into the Derby.  I’m usually one of them.

     

    Case B – Colonel John.  First in a minor stakes race.  First in a Grade III.  Second in a Grade I.  Finds himself a well bet second choice in the Santa Anita Derby.  Result:  convincing win in nice, off the pace, Derby style.  Nice going Colonel! 

     

    Case C – Gayego.  Like the others, proven in lesser graded company, including a gutsy effort to finish second in the San Felipe.  Finds himself a tepid favorite in the Arkansas Derby.  But at least he got it done from there.  When it was show time, he showed up.  It is one thing to beat a soft field and not settle any debate about your ability to win the Derby.  It’s another to lose to the soft field.

     

    I thought one of the promises of artificial surfaces is to reduce the soreness that racing causes in horses, so they can stay healthy and get back on the track more quickly.  Polytrack (and the like) also promise to reduce the risk of catastrophic injury to the competitors.  Both of these promises, if delivered, should increase the number of prep races in which any given horse is able to compete. But it is too soon to tell if either of those promises holds any weight, and it won’t help anyone this year.

     

    In the mean time, how bad has this year’s prep season been that if I’m looking for a horse that can hold form I have nothing better to choose from than a horse with three races lifetime and two west coasters?  Yuk.  On the bright side, it could be a good year to find a sleeper at a nice price.

     

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    The Big Dance – 2008

    Ask a Kentucky Wildcat fan, I am obliged to start this blog by saying, ”Whew!”  I thought the Cats were out of luck when Georgia stole a bid.  They probably won’t last long, but I’m glad they are in.

    Ok, back to the main body of the blog…

    First – the Mid-Majors.  For so many years the mid-majors have been whining about their being overlooked in the NCAA tournament.  All the talking heads jump on the bandwagon after the famous George Mason run to the Final Four, and they start rambling about parity in Division 1 basketball.  It must be having some effect because now we see teams like Butler and Drake ranked in the top 25.  Not even five years ago if either one of these guys were undefeated at this point in the season and they still wouldn’t crack the top 25. 

    I’m not saying I agree with teams that dominate a mid-major conference getting a top-25 ranking.  I’m just making the observation.  To me, it takes a lot more than some inexplicably long runs into the tournament to say that teams like Butler and conferences like the Horizon, Missouri Valley and Sun Belt are truly, sustainably as good as major teams and conferences.  I chalk up the George Mason anomoly to the fact that it was bound to happen eventually.  And the fact that the tension and excitement of the Big Dance puts a lot of pressure on favorites.

    So Butler comes in to the tournament as a 7-seed and now the whiners and talking heads are complaining they have to play another mid-major in the first round!  Give me a break!  You can’t have your cake and eat it too!  The cake is that Butler has earned some respect, they got the 7-seed.  The eating it too would be to expect the committee to give a darn about who they play in the first round. 

    Next topic – expansion of the tournament.  I don’t really understand why this is such a fascination for hoops experts.  Expanding the NCAA tournament would be one of the dumbest moves imaginable.  And I would even say that if Kentucky were playing in the NIT tonight instead of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

    The NCAA tournament is wildly popular because it is pure and simple, it is unforgiving, and it is conclusive.  To get in, it is simple – win games.  If you end up on the bubble, and then you get cut out – too bad, you should have won one more game.  As tournements go, and as a means of deciding a national champion, it is in a word – perfect.  To monkey with it would be beyond stupid.

    I love the annual discussion of the automatic bids, the bubble and the snubs.  Expanding the tournament to 128 certainly would end the bubble discussions by making the bubble discussions completely inane.  But not everything that causes anxiety and tension has to be stopped.  The bubble discussions and white knuckled build-up to Selection Sunday is great!  Who would want it to end?

    I’m sure the folks who came up with the BCS would love to see the NCAA tournament expanded because then they would no longer be the biggest fools in college sports.

    I’m not a big Carolina fan but I believe they are the best team in the country and most likely to win the whole thing.  Second best team is Kansas, who unfortunately find themselves in a position of needing to beat Carolina to get to the final.  We will see!

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    Liars, Cheaters and Thieves

    What’s the world coming to huh? 

    What a disgusting display by people who are heroes to America’s youth.  Roger Clemens bumbles and blubbers through his testimony in front of Congress.  His accuser is a former cop turned trainer turned drug dealer.  Andy Pettitte misremembers things about Clemens.  This is months after Barry Bonds is indicted for lying to Congress when he was given a similar chance.

    The TRUTH used to be an absolute.  It used to mean a factual account of something that happened, or just is, or an honest account of something a person actually, really, no kidding did or believed.  Now the truth is simply a convenient statement of something which cannot be disproven.  If it suddenly becomes disprovable, just change it to something else, again and again until it comes to rest at something ultimately plausibly deniable. 

    I think this abherrant distortion of the TRUTH was popularized by former President Bill Clinton, who argued the meaning of the definition of the word “is” before a grand jury.  But I’m not sure.  I don’t want to give him more credit than he is due.  Either way, that’s about the point in American history where the truth became something less absolute and more relative.

    Back in college basketball, Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson faces sanctions for violation of five NCAA rules.  What rules?  One may ask?

    The same rules he violated at Oklahoma.  The same rules that put him on NCAA sanctions at Oklahoma. 

    Bobby Knight gets forced out of Hoosier country for being an abrasive, beligerent, codger.  But he goes on to win 900 games and certain acceptance in the Hall of Fame.   I wouldn’t go so far as to call Bobby Knight a class act, but he was a great coach, was good for the game, and added color to every game he coached.  And he made the press conferences worth sticking around for after the game.  As a Kentucky Wildcat fan, I have every right to dislike the man.  But I can’t.  Because he was a great coach.  And he wasn’t a cheater. 

    What was IU thinking?  Tired of an incorrigible honest winner?  Hire a known cheater?  Yeah I know, there was a coach in between, but he was a wacko, so I’m skipping him to make a point.

    So I have to ask myself, at what point does Congress feel the need to get involved in cheating?

    Congress has made a lot of noise over Spygate, but to date they are not hauling in NFL coaches to testify before Congress.  I doubt they will.  The cheating in the NFL is sickening too, but apparently not as sickening as the pervasive meds cheating in MLB.  Congressmen are up to their necks in medicinal cheating in baseball.  But why?  Are they just sore about Barry Bonds lying to them and they want to poke him in the eye?

    Is it because it is America’s pastime and they feel some need to show some sense of ownership of it?

    Or is it that they get involved once the cheating and illegal drug use threatens to taint the sport to the point that legitimately talented athletes are being displaced by cheaters because they can’t compete using just their God given talents?  That would set well with me.  But if it is true, Congress’ arrival on the scene of horse racing is long overdue.  

    Regardless, I am absolutely sick of it.  I’m tired of seeing sports heroes backpedal and plead the fifth and trample the truth.   To be quite honest, I’m tired of seeing sports figures testifying before Congress.  Doesn’t Congress have something better to do?  Isn’t there some lower court that could handle it?  It is quite clear by now that if anyone thought that the power and authority of the Congress would extract the truth from these “heroes” they were wrong.  It won’t.  All the more reason to let someone else deal with it and let Congress make laws and deal with matters that ALL Americans have some concern about, like health care and social security and the war in Iraq.

    Posted in College Basketball, Horse Racing, Other sports | 2 Comments

    Rant on several topics

    Slow times in horse racing and I’m due for a rant.  Here goes…

    What a Superbowl!  Good to see another Ole Miss grad do well!  Go Eli!  Hopefully he won’t start making commercials.

    Pro Football… Tony Romo didn’t start losing because he was distracted by Jessica Simpson.  He lost because he’s not a very good quarterback.  Terrell Owens could make anybody look like a good quarterback.  I think if my Dad were quarterback they could make the playoffs as long as T.O. was healthy.  He’s just that good.  So when T.O. went out with an injury, Romo’s true colors showed. 

    College Basketball… Drake?  Butler?  I said it last year and I’ll say it again… why do these teams make the top 25 every year?  Just because a team has only one loss, or two, does not make them one of the best 25 teams in the country.  If Drake were playing any team in the ACC on Drake’s home court they would be a 15 point underdog.  I’m not saying they are not a good team.  I’m just saying they don’t belong in the top 25.  Someday maybe I’ll be a sports writer and I’ll get a vote.  Memphis is overrated too.  UNC is the best team in the land.  Playing in the ACC all season long should make playing in the NCAA tournament look pretty easy.

    ESPN says it is Rivalry week! 

    • Duke vs UNC this coming Wednesday.  I’ll take UNC, even with Lawson injured. 
    • Florida vs Tennessee.  I’ll take Tennessee.  But is this really a rivalry?
    • Butler at Wisc GB.  I’ll take Wisc GB. 

    Memphis should not lose a game this year, but they are not the best team in the country.  I’m not sure they are in the top five.  I’ll be picking them to exit the tourney early this year. 

    It’s tough being a Kentucky fan this year.  Their chances at an NCAA tourney bid are slim.  Billie Gillespie may not survive the year if he doesn’t turn it around.  They are not even listed as a bubble team.  Yeesh.  Humility is a bitter pill for UK fans. 

    Bobby Knight resigns – love him or hate him, he was good for the game.  I wouldn’t exactly call him a classy guy, but he added color to the sport and he knew how to coach.  Believe it or not, here’s a Kentucky Wildcat fan saying I hate to see him go. 

    Horseracing….

    Curlin Horse of the Year – I was a big Street Sense fan, and called for him to win the Derby and break the so-called Juvenile curse.  To me, the Derby proved he was the best horse in the land and still head and shoulders above his peers.  And to me, the Derby proved that Curlin was not the freak that many said he was.  I was wrong.  Street Sense was already second best to Curlin when the gates opened on the first Saturday in May.  But Street Sense got the ride and Curlin got a miserable trip.  Just like Afleet Alex was the best three year old when he ran his Derby – also finishing third, due to a poorly timed bid by his jockey.  Just goes to show – it isn’t just the horse.  It’s the horse and the trip.  That’s why winning the Triple Crown is so hard.  The Breeders Cup left no doubt that Curlin is truly a special horse.

    I still won’t bet lightly raced horses in the Derby.  Hasn’t hurt me yet.

    Cheating – Good to see the Bloodhorse start to speak out on the topic of meds cheating in horse racing.  In a recent editorial it was even suggested that owners would have their horses suspended if the trainer is caught cheating (something I suggested in this blog many months ago, but I’m not saying he got it from me).  Maybe if enough light is shed on the rampant problem we might see some change soon.  The Bloodhorse is a well respected publication and to my knowledge this is the first time I’ve seen them take a strong stand.  It’s time.

    Posted in College Basketball, Horse Racing, Other sports | 1 Comment