06/09/2008 4:32PM



--Before we get to that promised recap of the five other graded stakes on Belmont Day -- coming later tonight or tomorrow -- could all those who keep insisting the Belmont Stakes payoffs were so fishy that the fix was in please remove their aluminum chapeaux and consider the following realities:

1)There was nothing particularly fishy about the payoffs. The place and show payoffs were entirely square and not too many bridgejumpers are going to unload on a horse with a loudly-publicized foot problem in a 1 1/2-mile race that the Derby-Preakness winner had lost 10 times in a row. Nor were the tri and super payoffs amiss. First of all, people complaining that the tri and super paid "only" $3k and $47k are forgetting that there was a dead heat for third, halving the payoffs. I suspect that many if not most players who had a 6-4-8 also had a 6-4-9 and that super players with a 6-4-8-9 also had a 6-4-9-8 -- if you're playing against Big Brown, I don't think you drew too fine a line between Anak Nakal and Ready's Echo, similar clunk-up-for-third candidates.

Add the two dead-heat payoffs together and you're really looking at a $7,657 tri and a $95,946 super, perfectly reasonable payoffs in a nine-horse field with a 25 percent takeout, only 504 tri and 3,024 super combinations available, and the clear 7-1 second choice -- the only horse in the race other than the favorite who went off at less than 14.50-1 -- finishing second. Also, it is always unreasonable to expect a parallel distribution of exotic bets mirroring the win odds when there is a heavy odds-on favorite. Exotics players are far more adventurous and plenty of them were specifically shooting for a monster payoff by eliminating Big Brown.

2)Suggestions that the favorite's connections loaded up on combos without their own horse and stiffed him to cash tickets make no sense if you consider the larger economics surrounding the race: Big Brown's defeat devalued his estimated paper worth of $60 million by something in the neighborhood of $30 million. While I don't buy the repeated speculation in the general press that a victory would have increased his value to $100 million or more, the idea that he was yanked for parimutuel gain is -- I'll resurrect the word -- absurd, considering how much more they lost in defeat.