11/14/2007 2:03PM

PC Fun and Games


Things you can do, besides bet, on your computer:

*It may not be as precise as a Beyer Speed Figure (BSF), but the eBay Memorabilia Index (eMI) provides a pretty accurate snapshot of where America's leading racehorses rank in both the public consciousness and the straw polling for Horse of the Year.

A search of the auction site reveals the following number of memorabilia items currently up for bid for each horse listed below. I parsed out the non-racing items from each horse's totals, to exclude things like a misspelled curling iron that came up under Curlin and a bunch of Disney "Rags to Riches" outfits for Cinderella dolls.

35--Street Sense
25--Rags to Riches
6--Hard Spun
3--Midnight Lute, War Pass
2--Any Given Saturday

And just to keep things in perspective:

180--Seabiscuit (not including copies of the movie DVD)

Speaking of eBay, as reported in this link from Equidaily, the Fair Grounds used the online auctioneer to sell opening-day clubhouse tables for Thanksgiving dinner, which fetched up to $515 each.

*I know I'm late to the party on this one, but those similarly unaware should know as I only recently learned that YouTube has become a treasure trove of historical racing footage. Just go to their homepage, type into the "Search" box the name of a famous race (or its principal competitors) you want to see, and there's a decent chance you'll find that someone has uploaded the video. You can then relive, for better or worse, Great Moments like this one (click the two arrows below to let the suffering begin):



*I recently installed a PC game called "Brain Spa," which promises to keep your mind from atrophying as geezerdom inexorably approaches. Your time at the spa includes eight games meant to stimulate areas of mental activity in the fields of Memory, Logic, Language and Perception.

For me, the games in the first three categories were a breeze but I found to my dismay that I am utterly hopeless at the two "Perception" games. In one you have to match up identical garments flying by on a dry cleaner's motorized rack, and in the other you compare two or three toys rolling off an assembly line and must quickly decide if they match or if any of them sports a tiny defect or discrepancy. I can't even crack the idiot-level "Top 10" scores that come pre-installed.

What are the implications of this for improving one's horseplaying? Some handicappers, such as Dave Litfin, argue that pattern-recognition is one of the most important aspects of the game. Could an inability to match objects or find the subtle differences between them be handicapping this handicapper?

If so, Exhibit A would be selecting Street Sense to win the Breeders' Cup Classic instead of Curlin. I could have gone either way and there probably was an emotional component to my choosing the wrong path: When you pick your first Derby winner since Strike the Gold in 1991, you're a little reluctant to get off him. But I bought into the whole idea that this was going to be just like the BC Juvenile and the Derby -- Street Sense comes off a half-try Polytrack effort to run the race of his life -- without spotting the defect in the parallelism. That evidence came this summer in the Jim Dandy and Travers, where Street Sense was winning but without showing the same level of talent that he did in the Juvenile, Derby and Preakness. What I missed, in retrospect, was that he was no longer an improving and developing horse.

I'm not saying that the Classic was a wholly representative race for Street Sense -- he obviously was spinning his wheels in the slop the entire final furlong, and he probably would have been second with his best effort on a dry track. Nor am I discounting the historical importance of his unique trio of victories in the Juvenile, Derby and Travers. But for all the progress that Curlin made from Derby Day to Classic Day, Street Sense ultimately made none, and that was on display at Saratoga twice, at least to those with stronger powers of Perception than mine.