Monday, May 19, 2014

Nasal strip triggers a memory from the past

That was an interesting weekend of sports.  I think I watched more college softball games than I've watched since last year's championship season.  The Gator Gals easily made it through the regionals without a loss.  Next up for the Gator women, and the women from the other regional championships, are the so-called Super Regionals.  Florida will play Washington in the best of three series this coming weekend.  Then it's on to the College Softball World Series.  I hope the Gators will be among the advancers.

Perhaps the most excitement of the weekend was the running of the Preakness, the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown.  It may have been anticlimactic.  California Chrome, the winner of the first leg, the Kentucky Derby, once again dominated the field and has now won the first two races in the three race series. 

Now the suspense begins, although it might be over before even today is over.  And, indeed, it was over today (edited late afternoon to add that the strips have now been approved for all horses running on New York tracks and negates this and the next three paragraphs)That third race isn't until June 7th, but a wrinkle in that race has developed.  California Chrome might not run.  You see, he wears a nasal strip when he races and nasal strips haven't been approved for the Belmont.  A nasal strip, in case you aren't familiar, is a strip of tape across the nose to keep the nostrils clear for breathing.  We've seen similar strips advertised for people, primarily to help them sleep at night without snoring.

Apparently the owners didn't realize that the stewards of the Belmont only allow normal, natural additions, like saddles, etc., to horses in that race.  Even though it is non-medical and, therefore, non-narcotic, it is not a normal addition to a horse's equipment.  I've read Chrome's owners probably will petition to the stewards to allow the nasal strip.

A vet has reportedly said the strip has no real affect on California Chrome and the horse could run the race without it.  Or, if the steward's don't grant the owner's request, the horse could be withdrawn, thus ending another triple crown bid because of, according to one horse pundit I read, the racing gods have chosen to control the triple crown once again.  As you probably already know, several interesting events have caused potential crown winners to withdraw in recent years.

Personally, I'd like to see the race run.  I haven't seen too many Triple Crowns in my lifetime, and only since the advent of television, but they are exciting.  I'd even give up the College Softball World Series game, even if Florida were playing, to see an attempt this year.  Well, I've got lots of time to ponder that.  Shucks, neither event could take place.

Horse racing, as I've said here several times, has been part of my life, although only in my memory for the last 60 years and thus part of those old memories I occasionally pull up.  The first job not given me by my father was at Scarborough Downs way back when I was in high school and the horses raced with riders on their backs and not being pulled in a buggy.  Technically, I guess, I worked for the Maine Horse Racing Commission, not the track.  I collected a sample from winning horses so they could be checked for doping.

One thing about racing I learned:  there are many ways horse owners, trainers, and others can use to affect the outcome of a race.  I never learned of any illegal activity, except the possibility of doping, that would have such an effect.  I never did get an altered sample in my collections but one or two others in the workgroup weren't quite as fortunate, but I only know of those one or two.  I do not believe the track was involved in that activity.

There was one situation that occurred regularly and I never did learn how it worked, if, indeed, it was a "fixing" activity.  And I'm not going to explain it here, but once I heard some horsemen in the barn area talking about it and tried it, I could have made a whole lot of money betting at the window.  Except for one small technicality, I wasn't of legal age to bet.  We had been warned in the training sessions never to attempt to place a bet as we would be involved in a "discussion" with appropriate people.

Several years later, a local radio station, WPOR, was broadcasting the Saturday races from Scarborough Downs.  I was asked to fill in one Saturday.  Just for chuckles, I tried out that secret I had learned from my days at the track.  Before each race, I told the announcer back at the studio which horse I predicted would win.  I'm not a gambler and would never place a bet on a horse race.  I literally drove the studio announcer nuts as he begged me to place bets.  We would have won every race.

I never heard a suggestion that the races were "fixed."  I don't believe they were.  I only know that at least one "system" for predicting an outcome worked for me.  And remember, this was long before harness racing entered the picture at The Downs.  I doubt the system would now work.

So, let's keep watching for an outcome to the nasal strip situation.  See how such a little potential event can trigger an old man's mind from the past?


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