By Tony Mangia
12 HORSES & 12 ROUNDS
Saturday promises to be a big sports day in New York. Here it is, the first week of June and the Belmont Stakes kicks off the afternoon with a field of twelve ponies and night falls at Yankee Stadium with a twelve-round junior welterweight title fight. There is no Triple Crown on the line this year and Miguel Cotto vs. Yuri Foreman doesn't conjure up visions of Ali-Norton, but I'm still breaking my piggy-bank and heading over to the OTB.
Now, I'm not a railbird or even a casual frequenter of the once ubiquitous OTB parlors--there seemed to be one on every New York City corner--and I don't know a furlong from a filly, but this could be the last summer of OTB betting if New York State decides to close shop because of declining revenue. Private corporations have expressed interest in taking over the legal bookie joints and gambling on getting it off life support.
I just show up for the Triple Crown races--The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and, finally, The Belmont. Like the frat boys, yuppies and other fair-weather wagerers who walk over the race stub-littered floor, I'm one of those annoyances, the OTB regulars scowl at. We are like migrating birds who arrive every May and June; take up space at the betting windows and ask questions like, "How much is a dollar box on the superfecta for the...which one is the Belmont race?" We're as welcome as a BP representative at a Green Party rally. After Belmont, we've flown out the doors until next years race at Churchill Downs.
I shuffle shyly at a window while TV jockeys, guys with names like Hector the Selector and Chick, stand behind me, turning away from the race monitors long enough to huff and shake their heads. Time is money and money is two minutes and another long shot at Arlington or General Maximus to show at Monticello. I sense their urgency--their tapping feet and stares as they roll their racing forms into clubs. The only thing more important than their next bet is satisfying that nicotine craving outside . It always amazes me how un-rich all the bettors look at the, ironically named, Winners Circle lounge. Polo shirts and white shoes seem to be acceptable fashions. Not too many winners in that loop.
In the past few years, I've dreamed of the big hit---the superfecta that pays 300 grand. Clutching a fistful of cash and a head full racing results, I use a system---which is so void of logic---to make my picks and then plan my early retirement. I mix and match the favorites, box my exactas and trifectas, then throw in a 30-1 nag to fatten the payoff. I still work, but my picks haven't.
People have all kinds of stratagems---the jockeys, names of the horses...the names of the jockeys. I've picked horses because I heard someone on the subway say, " There's a sale at Macys." I'm looking at the race field and there's a horse running called MomMarriedaSailor. Sale...sailor? It's an omen and you have to take it.
This year's field is up for grabs. The Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver (I wish I knew you were a mudder) and the Preakness winner, Lookin' at Lucky (my dream breaker) won't be running and Ice Box is the only Grade 1 horse in the field. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it sounds important, so I'm picking him. Anyway, I've devised a new fail-safe scheme to win.
The new system consists of my favorite horse's names, jockeys, trainers and, how could I forget, the oddmakers. Take the top three in each category:
- NAMES OF HORSES: Uptowncharlybrown, First Dude, Game on Dude. Take anything with Dude in it.
- JOCKEYS: Mike Smith (Drosselmeyer), Jamie Theriot (Stay Put), Calvin Borel (Dave in Dixie) Never bet against Calvin "Bo-rail"
- TRAINERS: Nick Zito (Ice Box, Fly Down), Rick Dutrow (Spangled Star), Bob Baffert (Game on Dude)
- ODDS: Ice Box 3-1, Fly Down 9-2, First Dude 7-2
A BRONX TALE
Yankee Stadium gets its first title fight since Muhammad Ali squared off against Ken Norton in 1976. The new stadium is hosting a 12-round WBA super welterweight title match between Yuri Foreman, a rabbinical student and the first Orthodox Jewish boxing world champion in 75 years, and local favorite, Puerto Rican fighter, Miguel Cotto.
Yankee Stadium has a long history of championship fights including Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling in 1938 and Sugar Ray Robinson famously calling it quits in the 13th round in 1952.
The last few times we saw Cotto was in beat-downs by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao. It is also the first time he is fighting since the death of his father/trainer in January and with his new trainer, Emanuel Steward. Foreman's story of going from Russia to Israel and settling in Brooklyn to fight professionally is amazing, but the real suspense will be on the FDR on fight night when Foreman, in observance of his religion's Sabbath, will remain at his mid-town hotel until 9:15 p.m., then get a police escort to the stadium for the 10:15 start time.
It's hard to pick a victor in this fight. Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) has seen better days. He has experience and can punch hard, but it's hard not to remember his battered face after Pacman had his way with him. That's the kind of beating that makes an older fighter think twice about getting into a mix. The champion, Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs), on the other hand, can box, but is short on power. He really hasn't fought anyone in Cotto's class. I'll put my money on Cotto. I think he's got one more good fight in him.
This real star of this fight is the new stadium itself. A crowd of 40 thousand is expected and, hopefully, this is the beginning of more historic bouts to come.
Maybe That Sound Was Ben Roethlisberger's Reputation?
The other day, engineers in Pittsburgh used college students to simultaneously flush 250 toilets at the new Consol Energy Center arena to test the plumbing pressure. It wasn't as big a flush as the one where all Pirate fan's playoff hopes and dreams went down the drain two decades ago.
Is That What The Kids Call It Now?
Tiger Woods returned to golf this week at the Memorial Tournament after his "inflamed neck joint" healed.
He Was Safe!
I wonder what would have been more valuable on ebay---a ticket from Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga's "mis-called perfect game/one-hitter" or one from the game, if he got the call, and it went into the books as a perfect game?