ESPN's Bailey says Barbaro is the best bet

ON MEDIA

May 19, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Take it from a couple of guys who should know: Barbaro is the real deal.

NBC's Gary Stevens and ESPN's Jerry Bailey, both recently retired from the ranks of the nation's best jockeys, expressed no doubt about Barbaro's ability to add the Preakness to his Kentucky Derby victory.

"Barbaro appears like he's one of those unbeatable horses," Bailey said this week. " ... For somebody else to win, Barbaro has to run a weak race."

"Barring anything unforeseen, [Barbaro] should win again," Stevens said. "I love his demeanor ... I love the way he's been managed."

That's praise for trainer Michael Matz, of whom Stevens said: "This guy is a horseman, and he knows what he's doing."

And forget any worries about only a two-week rest for a horse who took a five-week break before the Derby.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he does something even more spectacular," Stevens said.

Bailey said: "With the ease which he won the Derby, you'd have to think he has something left in the tank."

Kenny Mayne, ESPN's horse racing host, doesn't disagree with those assessments, but with such short odds on Barbaro, Mayne likely will bet Brother Derek.

"Brother Derek had a demoralizing trip [in the Derby]," Mayne said. On the other hand, "sometimes the best horse makes the best trip."

A real fan

Every year, we seemingly hear about how horse racing needs a star to emerge from the Triple Crown. Mayne isn't buying it.

"I kind of tire of the whole notion that we have to have a Triple Crown horse to save the sport," he said. " ... I can't put my finger on what will happen. Horse racing will not eclipse the NFL."

Mayne grew up on horse racing, spending a lot of time at the since-closed Longacres track in Seattle. So he is an advocate for the sport at ESPN, but that doesn't necessarily change racing's profile. For example, on Wednesday night's late SportsCenter, the Preakness didn't get a mention in the first half-hour.

And if Mayne were in charge of racing, you wouldn't pay to get into the track.

"They should let people in for free," he said. "Why are you charging people to gamble?"

As for the competition for the gambling dollar, Mayne made this pitch: "Far and away, horse racing is the best value for someone on a modest budget." He pointed out that the payoffs and odds, overall, are more favorable than card games, slots or lotteries.

Plus - and Mayne didn't even mention this - I don't think The Band ever did a song that mentioned lotteries. Good luck had just stung me/To the racetrack I did go ... - "Up on Cripple Creek," 1969.

Preakness lineup

ESPN has six hours of Preakness coverage tomorrow, starting with Breakfast at Pimlico at 9 a.m. on ESPN2 (followed by two repeats) and then five straight hours on ESPN, beginning at noon. NBC (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) begins at 5 p.m. Bob Costas and Tom Hammond host, joined by analysts Stevens, Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier, race caller Tom Durkin and reporters Kenny Rice and Donna Barton Brothers, who gets to do interviews on horseback. As Napoleon Dynamite might say, "Lucky!"

No calls, please

Not to criticize her before she even starts on the air - OK, this is a criticism before she even starts on the air - but the new afternoon yakker on all-sports WJFK (1300 AM), Anita Marks, sounds as if she already has taken a misstep.

Speaking on Mark Viviano's show on the station this week, Marks - whose show debuts Monday at 4 p.m. - said she plans to make Orioles executive vice president John Angelos a regular guest. However, his role will be to talk about restaurants and movies. And she won't take phone calls during his segment.

Don't you think Baltimore sports fans would like to ask any Angelos something about the way the team is being run? Oh, well, maybe Marks can get Emeril to talk about baseball.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell

Lacrosse: Comcast SportsNet has the NCAA Division I men's quarterfinal doubleheaders tomorrow and Sunday at noon. A question, though: If the games are repeated, would that be re-lax?

Baseball: Fox's Game of the Week returns tomorrow, and we get the New York interleague game, Yankees at Mets, 1 p.m. (WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5). The pre-game show features former Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal. Somehow, it seems unlikely Peter Angelos will tune in.

Football: The Arena Football League playoffs begin. I know, you're thinking, "Already?" NBC has regional coverage Sunday at 3 p.m. (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4), with Georgia Force-New York Dragons airing here. Watch out for those Nashville Kats, though. They been playin' since they's babies.

[ Compiled by Ray Frager]

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