12/19/2008 6:42PM

That Uh-Oh Feeling


Duncery Okay, so maybe it's not always a good idea to watch TVG with the sound muted.

After finishing the Sunday column, I was feeling parimutuelly peckish, what with Aqueduct shut down for the 5th of 11 straight days, and decided to play the late pick-4 at Hollywood. Half an hour later, I had crafted a little $304 play, put it in through NYRA Rewards (open during the drought except for Christmas Eve and Day), and switched to TVG but muted the sound as there were still 17 minutes until the first leg. It wasn't exactly a racing festival of a sequence -- a turf sprint, an N2x allowance and two maiden claimers -- but it was action.

I glanced up at the odds from time to time, noting how sunny it was at Hollywood even as snow and sleet pelted the windows here, and seeing that I had craftily smoked out the three favorites in a six-horse field and made them all A's. I unmuted the set just as the horses were going into the gate for the first leg, the turf sprint, and suddenly got the big Uh-Oh: The gate was on the main track and so, apparently, was the race.

A quick re-consultation with the pp's showed that there was a main-track standout with no turf experience or breeding that I hadn't used: Persian Honey, who also appeared to be the controlling speed. Too late to add her: They're off. Persian Honey got to the front, was still there at the furlong pole, but fortunately for me she weakened late as she usually does and my three grass horses went right by her. What an easy game.

Twits I relate this story not merely to burnish my reputation as an occasional idiot, but because I suspect we all do these things more often than we admit -- play a race based on the wrong surface, start a multirace bet with the wrong race, or simply punch the wrong numbers. Just a few months ago, I gave a companion at Belmont a passionate dissertation about why I hated some short-priced favorite because he was strictly a six-furlong horse who had repeatedly failed at today's seven-furlong distance. He tolerated my entire screed before pointing out that today's race was, in fact, at six furlongs.

I'm sure the TVG analysts talked about how the race had been taken off the grass, and if I'd been playing the races in the company of humans rather than hounds, they would have mentioned it. For us shut-ins, though, and those who keep to themselves at simulcast facilities where ALL the tv's are muted until post time, could there maybe be a big, flashing "Off The Turf" logo somewhere on the screen?

As for the rest of the Hollywood pick-4, I'm presently alive for a buck to the 3, 6, 7 and 11 in the finale.