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No cure for the wintertime blues

2/25/2002

Finally, the snow job stopped. After 16 days, the Winter Olympics
are history, and not soon enough. Good riddance to that endless blizzard of
events, most of them less than meaningless, that dominated February, a month
when almost nothing significant ever occurs in sports.

All right, I got into the hockey and the figure skating, but the
rest of it bordered on the absurd. Cross-country skiing? That's how
Scandinavians get to convenience stores. Curling? It's bocce on ice. If you
want to make the stone push interesting, make the "athletes" drink three
glasses of Chianti beforehand and put them on skates. Half pipe and aerials?
That was the X-Games in boots and mittens. Short-track skating? It's
Rollerball without the head bashing.

If betting had been available, the superpatriotic fervor and the
media orgy would have been more tolerable. If I could have loaded up on
Norway in the biathlon, I could have won back some of the money I've lost
lately at OTB.

Out of habit and boredom, I've been playing the horses during
winter, but the game doesn't have its usual buzz between the Breeders' Cup
and the vernal equinox. As therapy, every few days I glance at a Churchill
Downs press release listing the stakes during the first week of May, and I
smile. I've made my plane, motel and car reservations, but America's Race
still seems a long way off.

Derby Fever? No, I won't need my shot for a few months. This group
of 3-year-olds hasn't infected me with enthusiasm yet. I'm paying attention
but I'm not getting excited. I'll get into it soon enough.

Even with the Fountain of Youth Stakes over, there's no serious
traffic on the road to Louisville. The Triple Crown hopefuls in stakes at
Gulfstream and the Fair Grounds haven't grabbed me, and the big news out of
California was that Siphonic missed a recent workout because of a fever.

Maybe it's me, but I found few intriguing runners as I went
through the past performances for the first pool in the Kentucky Derby
Future Wager. In December, I got $20 down on Siphon at 10-1 at a Las Vegas
future book, and I threw another $10 on him at almost 9-1 in Pool 1. Repent
was 8-1 when the pools closed a few minutes before he blew away nobodies at
the Fair Grounds in a prep for the Louisiana Derby. I thought about putting
money on him but didn't. Maybe Repent will make me sorry.

I didn't feel like playing anything else. The latest word from
Ireland is that 2-year-old champion Johannesburg will have only one prep,
over 7 furlongs at the Curragh in early April, before the Derby. So he's
going to try to win at 1 1/4 miles in only his second dirt race while going
two turns and beyond 1 1/16 miles for the first time. Granted, Aidan O'Brien
is a genius, but this sounds like the second coming of Arazi, minus the knee
surgery.

I strongly doubt that need-to-lead Booklet can get 1 1/4 miles, and
I'm up in the air about his Florida rival, Harlan's Holiday. Came Home is a
major talent, but he'll be a sprinter/miler. Saarland still hasn't run this
year, and I can't go overboard on the filly Tempera, despite the big fig in
the Juvenile Fillies. As for the field, it's a hideous underlay at 5-2.

Last year, I locked in early on Monarchos at 17-1 because his
allowance win at Gulfstream jumped off the page. No such luck -- or should I
say temptation? -- this time.

If you said, "Eddie boy, sounds like you've got a case of the winter
doldrums," you'd be right. Even though it's been remarkably mild the past
few months where I live on Long Island, it's still a limbo period to be
endured. Until the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, my
spirit is in hibernation, especially when my exacta boxes in maiden grass
races aren't coming in.

A big win by Siphonic or a nice hit in a Triple Crown prep will get
me rolling again. It won't take much to recapture that old fire. It happens
every spring.