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Best of horse racing? It’s the horses, of course

Updated January 3, 2019 - 5:59 pm

If you know a horseplayer – or a parlay of horseplayers — it will come as little surprise that my request for comments on what’s wrong with horse racing got a much bigger response than did my call for thoughts on what is right about the sport.

I got precisely one submission about what it is about racing that keeps us coming back, despite the litany of complaints recounted in last week’s column. The good news is that it was a good one:

“The best = the horses!” @urbanhorsedoc, a veterinarian in New York City, wrote on Twitter. “The beautiful, big hearted, fragile horses that we watch for the joy and exhilaration they can give us.”

Well said by the doc, who is a great follow on Twitter if only for his #donkeyoftheday photos. Promoters of racing would do well to remember that those amazing athletes are indeed the stars of the show.

In addition, I did receive a few suggestions on what readers would like to see more of in this column.

Reader Susannah Buckley says more profiles of people involved in horse racing, especially any that have Las Vegas ties, would turn her into a regular reader.

“As an avid reader and subscriber to the RJ for 13 plus years … I enjoy the connections you bring to us by introducing us to players whether it be rodeo riders, wrestlers or hockey players. If you do the same with jockeys and/or horse trainers … I’d be keen to keep reading and seek more. Also, love an underdog story. Otherwise, an elite sport like horse racing, other than the crazy names (maybe tell us the story behind them), holds no interest for me.”

Excellent suggestion, Susannah. I’ll do my best.

The final word comes from reader Bob Whitson, who emailed me under the subject line “You may be a decent human being, but when it comes to horse racing and what people want, you’re a complete idiot!!!”

“You never write anything of substance and interest to help the player make money,” he wrote. “Help them win and make money and they will come! No one wants to read the dribble (sic) you’re writing. It’s horse manure!”

I’m all in favor of making money, and it’s a fair point that I haven’t done many educational columns lately. I’ll try to do a better job of that this year.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are back at it with two meat-and-potatoes races Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs — a $16,000 optional claiming race for 4-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs and a $22,500 allowance race for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.

In the former, the crowd ’cappers are narrowly favoring 5-2 morning line favorite Tiger Blood, but the closeness of the balloting suggests a wide-open betting affair. They like Tizk Tizk (8-1) and Strategic Ekati (4-1) for the minor placings.

I like Inheritthewind (12-1), who always runs well fresh, to upset the apple cart, with Tizk Tizk and Strategic Ekati filling out the trifecta.

In the turf race, the crew is more solidly behind Well Blessed, the 5-2 morning line favorite, with Trophy Doll (10-1) and Lemon Princess (9-2).

#RJhorseracing handicapper Bob Ranfone notes that the breeding on the group’s pick swayed him, as she is out of a dam by the great turf sire Theatrical.

I agree that Well Blessed looks tough, but I will take a shot with Terrabyte (4-1), a John Terranova-trained filly who didn’t do much running in her first local start, which was rained off the lawn. She stands a good chance of rebounding with the return to her preferred surface. I’ll use Well Blessed and Lemon Princess underneath.

We’re starting another three-month #RJhorseracing handicapping contest next week with a nearly fabulous prize for the winner, so this is a great time to join our handicapping crew. Simply email me or message me on Twitter if you’d like to get involved.

We’ll be paying close attention to the 3-year-old stakes races, so it’s also a great way to familiarize yourself with the Triple Crown contenders months before most folks begin paying attention.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Friday. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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