May 16, 2005
Everything you ever wanted to know about sports on TV.At The Buzzer
The Sport of Kings or Just a Bet?:
Why Watching The Kentucky Derby Is A Gamble
Let's be clear about one thing: Horse racing is a bet. The jockeys are not the stars, the horses are. The horses are, yes, animals; thus they are not athletes, but rather beasts of burden. Nobody knows how a horse is going to react on any given day and if a horse should fail to live up to its performance, there will never be a satisfying reason as to why. Saturday the 7th, 50-1 longshot Giacomo became the second-biggest underdog champion in Derby history. Heavily favored Bellamy Road, thought by some pundits — and I use that term loosely — to be the next Seattle Slew and a lock for at least a top two finish, failed to even show, disappointing all with a seventh place result. Bandini, thought to be a serious contender in this year's Derby, finished a ghastly 19th (19th!) among a field of 20. Someone please tell me in what other industry or profession can an analyst whose accuracy rates somewhere around 22 percent be continually brought back year after year to handicap the market? It doesn't happen anywhere except for horse racing, because nowhere else can you say "Well, it was just a horse."
The Kentucky Derby has a lot of build-up and throughout the day, both ESPN and NBC Sports devoted a significant amount of coverage leading up to the race. NBC actually covered the race, hyping up the event by spotlighting trainers like the famed Nick Zito and interviewing celebrities who were sitting in the stands, most likely because their tickets were gifts in exchange for promotional services. Again, just as the jockey is not the star of this event, neither is the trainer. It's all about the horse. Trainers Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher had between them eight of the 20 horses in the field. In the end, it didn't matter as three first-timers prevailed — three trainers who had never started a horse in the race. First-timer John Shirreffs won it. First-timer Kiaran McLaughlin was second. First-timer Tim Ritchey was third. Box those three in the trifecta and you're $133,134.80 richer today. One lucky guy bet the superfecta and scored more than $800,000 thanks to a wild guess I'm sure experts would have frowned upon. Meanwhile, the man NBC tabbed as "it" during the pre-race fanfare, Zito, finished seventh, eighth, 10th, 14th and 15th. Pletcher's trio was ninth, 12th and 19th. Strangely enough, left out of the pre-coverage of horse racing's biggest day were interviews with renowned trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert. There was, however, plenty of glamour as wonderlick reporter Jennifer Smith mingled with celebrities like Matthew Fox of TV's Lost. Smith asked Fox if he knew how the season's last dramatic episode would end. The silence leading up to the actor's response was deafening. Finally, he answers yes, he knew how it would end because they had already filmed it. Shocking.
|Earlier in the broadcast, Kid Rock reminded us all why we watch the Kentucky Derby as he described how he was going to make his Derby bet. He was going to be blindfolded and spun around, then he would point at a horse and bet a grand on whichever one he randomly chose. That's right, folks: Horse Racing!
The only thing you can buy into in horse racing is the hype. To devote your entire Saturday to expert analysis leading up to the race is to waste your time. You'd be just as well off taking the Kid Rock approach.
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