GIVING HORSEPLAYERS A WORKOUT
As most horseplayers know, the Daily Racing Form's past-performance charts include recent workout clockings as well as race results. But an alert horseplayer, Jerry Sirabella, a businessman in Franklin Square, N.Y., has discovered a pattern of errors in the workout entries that can make it easier for track insiders to profit unfairly at the expense of the average bettor.
Sirabella documented for SI that the workout clockings the Form publishes each day in a long list frequently don't make it, as they're supposed to, into the past-performance charts. He first became aware of this in May, when a 58-1 shot named Amadandy won a race at Belmont Park. Sirabella remembered that he'd seen an impressive time credited to the horse in the Form's workout list a few days earlier. Sirabella found that the horse's name had been given in the list as I'm A Dandy and that the workout wasn't published in Amadandy's past-performance chart on race day. Since then Sirabella has come up with more than two dozen other instances of horses that won or placed at long odds at New York tracks and whose past-performance charts had workout omissions. The odds on many of these horses surely would have dropped had their recent workouts been published in the charts; even when clockings are unexceptional, the mere fact that a horse has worked out can be a handicapping plus.
What all the horses had in common was that their names had been misspelled on the workout lists. For example, on July 31 a horse identified as Trio's Lark was listed as having turned in a fast workout. Trios Lark (no apostrophe) won three days later at Saratoga and paid $54.80. The fast workout didn't appear in her chart. Similarly, Darcys Boby reeled off a swift three-furlong workout on July 23; no reference to that workout appeared in Darcy's Baby's past-performance chart when he won 18 days later, at 4-1. There's also the case of a 17-1 shot named Intransic Sailor, who finished second in a race at Aqueduct on Jan. 16. The pari-mutuel betting on that race prompted a New York Racing Association investigation because the payoff for the exacta (in which the first two horses must be picked in order) was $67.20, while the return for the quinella (the first two horses in no special order), which should be less, was $116.60. The investigation turned up a big exacta bet by one bettor but no wrongdoing. What the NYRA didn't learn—but Sirabella did—was that a horse identified as In-transient Sailor had logged a workout two days earlier that wasn't mentioned in Intransic Sailor's past-performance chart.
The Form's editor, Fred Grossman, declined to discuss the errors. But he did outline the newspaper's procedures: a computer is used to enter horses' published workouts into their past-performance charts. When the computer is unable to match a name on the workout list with that of any registered horse, indicating a possible misspelling, staffers try by other means to clear up the discrepancy. This can take a week or more. Because the horse has often already raced, the information by this time is useless.
There's no indication that the misspellings and omissions are anything other than honest errors. Nevertheless, readers clearly have reason to be skeptical of a current Form ad campaign promising "complete, accurate, reliable, all-inclusive [and] informative" workout data.
IS COKE ITS OR THEIRS?
Frederick Koch, father of Bill Koch, the 1976 Olympic silver medal winner in cross-country skiing, has spent his lifetime suffering people who mispronounce his name. Every time it happened he told the offender, "No, no, Coke is it."
Finally, last November, in a fit of exasperation and with no small amount of whimsy, he legally changed his name to Coke Is It. Which was fine with everyone except the folks at Coca-Cola Company, who feel strongly that Coke Is Theirs because Coke Is It is the firm's advertising catch line. Naturally, the lawyers got into it, and there was a wire-service story the other day that Coke and Mr. It—that's his last name now—had negotiated a settlement allowing the latter to keep his new handle as long as he doesn't use it commercially. However, the parties agree that there is no settlement, and It says, "They just want me to disappear. They don't want any threats to their little beverage." Coca-Cola refuses further comment, making clear that in its eyes, Mr. Coke Is It.
PUT A LID ON IT
The Silverdome, which was closed after a fierce winter storm ravaged its roof, is the butt of a joke making the rounds in Pontiac, Mich.: Did you hear that Pontiac is coming out with a new car? It's called the Silverdome. It's a convertible with no Pistons.