Infield fly rule: Don't put money on horse not in the race

May 15, 1999|By JOHN EISENBERG

Welcome to The Baltimore Sun's Annual Unofficial Preakness Betting Guide, which operates on the theory that you're going to the race, you're looking for a horse to bet on and your understanding of traditional handicapping is so minimal that the Daily Racing Form could print in Sanskrit and you wouldn't know the difference.

You're an amateur, in other words. Don't worry, that's fine. The Preakness crowd is composed almost entirely of amateurs. You can tell because 90,000 fans is approximately 88,250 more than the total that usually attends a day of racing at Pimlico.

More than half of the big crowd is in the infield, of course, and it's our sad duty to report that Silverbullet- day, the filly, has been scratched, because she'd be the greatest bet in history for all those infielders. Named after a beer. Scantily clad. Party on, Garth, what more do you want?

Alas, Silverbulletday ended up with the far outside post, and trainer Bob Baffert scratched her from the race. You might point that out to any infielders still trying to bet on her later this afternoon, after many hours of their own kind of silver-bullet day. ("Dude, she's in the pole position or whatever.")

What's another good bet for infielders? How about Vicar? The colt finished 18th in a 19-horse Kentucky Derby, so he can't do much worse here. And while his trainer, Carl Nafzger, also is contemplating scratching, Nafzger had an Infield Hall of Fame moment earlier in the week when he said, "We're not scratching until all the parties are over."

Awesome. Except all the parties aren't over until long after the race, of course. So maybe we'll witness a Triple Crown first today, a horse being scratched during the Preakness.

Anyway, we're advising against betting on Vicar, which means you still need a bet. Here are some possibilities:

Kimberlite Pipe. Owned by a head-shop mogul.

Torrid Sand. Owners thought of name while watching beach scene in "From Here to Eternity."

Worldly Manner, owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, of the ruling family of the Arab emirate of Dubai. A victory could keep gas prices down.

Valhol. Name means "battery-operated" in German.

Charismatic. Derby winner is so unheralded that trainer D. Wayne Lukas still can't pick him out of a lineup.

Badge. Obvious selection for "Dragnet" aficionados.

None of that works for you? How about riding a historical trend? Two of the past three Preakness winners, Real Quiet and Louis Quatorze, had more vowels than consonants in their names. So does Menifee, today's probable favorite.

Sorry if that's a little too scientific for you.

Another historical trend: The last time the Orioles were as pathetic as they are this year -- in 1988, the year of the 0-21 start -- the Preakness winner was the horse that ran third in the Derby. That'd be Cat Thief this year.

One more trend: Horses with two-word names have won the Preakness in the last year of every decade since the '50s.

You can thank The Unofficial Betting Guide's crack research and tactical unit for that one.

Still missing a bet that makes sense to you? Let's try doing this another way. Let's throw out the horses that don't make strict, hard, handicapping sense and see who's left.

Torrid Sand was crushed by Valhol in the Arkansas Derby.

Cat Thief hasn't won since the Pat Gillick administration.

Valhol is too worried about his mounting legal bills to run well.

Goodbye to them.

Stephen Got Even's owners are banking on the same lucky tooth that helped the horse to a 14th-place finish in the Derby.

Badge, who has never run at any track other than Aqueduct, is mad that the bagels aren't the same in Baltimore.

Charismatic wants to renegotiate his contract.

Goodbye to them.

Patience Game has made only two more starts than Scott Kamieniecki.

Adonis is just now figuring out that his name doesn't intimidate anyone.

Kimberlite Pipe has gone from first to fourth to sixth in his last three races.

Goodbye to them.

That leaves Excellent Meeting, Menifee and Worldly Manner, the Unofficial Betting Guide's choices as the three horses destined to finish in the money.

Some things to consider:

Menifee's trainer, Elliott Walden, is contractually obligated to run second.

Worldly Manner, based in Dubai, has more frequent flier miles than the rest of the field combined.

Excellent Meeting is not only trying to become the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924, but also the first winner whose name could pass for a declarative sentence.

The pick here is Worldly Manner, a quality colt who commanded a $5 million purchase price last fall and finished a creditable seventh in the Kentucky Derby after an eight-month absence from racing, looking like all he was missing was a little seasoning.

Two weeks later, he has the necessary seasoning and Jerry Bailey on his back. Bingo. Worldly Manner first, Menifee second, Excellent Meeting third. (Results of prior Betting Guide selections not available.)

Oh, and by the way, no matter which horse you bet on, make sure you get to the windows early, before the BGE transformers start coughing.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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