11/22/2007 12:00AM

It's time to give - well, you know

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - It should not require a special day to be thankful that grown men and women have the ability to bet on Thoroughbred racing from the comfort and safety of their own computers, even though it takes a considerable amount of political lobbying to continue to make it happen.

But here we are, Thanksgiving Day, so give thanks, and be watchful. In the wake of a bill effectively banning Internet poker that passed the U.S House of Representatives by a 317-93 vote, the poker-playing lobby is now hard at work to attach itself to the same dispensations afforded horse racing in the Internet gambling world. And racetracks want to be casinos. Go figure.

While in the mood, be thankful that The Tin Man has gone another two weeks on the road to recovery without incident or complications. The old boy broke a knee getting up from the anesthesia of exploratory surgery on Oct. 25, and broke it good, ending not only any thoughts of competition next year at the age of 10, but also raising the possibility that The Tin Man was now in the crosshairs of such evils as colic and laminitis.

"The Tin Man is doing very well," Dr. Jeff Blea said Thanksgiving morning, cuing a collective "whew" from the thousands of Tin Maniacs. Blea has been on the case at the Richard Mandella barn since The Tin Man did his post-surgical number, and after more than three weeks of near immobilization, this week offered our hero a moment of relief.

"He actually went out for a short little walk," Blea said. "We walked him straight out of the stall and back for a little bit. He was pretty happy to stretch his legs.

"He's been bright and very responsive," Blea added. "X-rays from last Monday show status quo, if not some slight improvement. His blood work is great. Cold feet - no problems associated with laminitis. Touch wood, he's still doing great."

The Tin Man, an eight-time stakes winner of $3.6 million bred by owners Ralph and Aury Todd, represents about all anyone can rightfully hope for in a racehorse. Be thankful, then, that The Green Monkey is owned by Coolmore, an outfit that can afford the luxury of such a handsome dud - a $16 million Korean stallion prospect who will never live down his workout at a 2-year-old sale. On Wednesday at Hollywood Park, The Green Monkey couldn't even perform on grass, even though he is named for a golf course.

Be thankful that cobra venom is on the high watch list of illegal drugs by racing authorities, especially in the wake of the revelation during a public radio interview by 90-year-old novelist and former animator Millard Kaufman that he once took the stuff as a university test subject and woke up naked in a field of flowers. Interviewer Scott Simon, struck momentarily speechless, replied:

"Cobra venom induces nudity?"

And finally, just a suggestion, but it seems the right thing to do this Thanksgiving to be thankful for the fact that on Sunday at Hollywood Park there will be at least one more Matriarch.

With the racetrack all but doomed because of its value as developable real estate, each historic feature renewed there over the coming year will give rise to great pangs of nostalgia. The Matriarch, which has been run only since 1981, ranks among the very best races in California, despite the fact that it has been presented at 8, 9, and 10 furlongs over the course of its history.

Each change in distance made sense. In its first 14 runnings, at 1 1/8 miles, the Matriarch came on the heels of the 10-furlong Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita to provide a fitting finale to the long and usually satisfying season of California female grass racing. Four Matriarchs at 1 1/4 miles, 1995-98, were a noble attempt to test the breed. Two of those four winners, Wandesta and Ryafan, were voted champions.

In 1999, responding to the looming shadow of the new Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, the Matriarch was returned to its more traditional 1 1/8 miles, then shortened again to one mile in 2003, in an effort to draw from the international pool of runners who specialize at that distance. It was not intended that only one trainer and one owner benefit, but that is how it worked out, since the winners of all three Matriarchs at one mile have been owned by Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bobby Frankel.

Juddmonte has nothing in the Matriarch on Sunday, but Frankel does. Precious Kitten, never worse than second in seven starts, carries the ball for the stable and is probably the one to beat, based on her near miss to Lady of Venice in the CashCall Mile over the same course and distance last spring. Her more recent fine second to Vacare in the one-mile First Lady at Keeneland puts her in good form.

Lady of Venice is back for more, too, after finishing fourth in the First Lady as the favorite. She also is making her first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who was hired by owner Martin Schwartz to take over for the suspended Patrick Biancone. Cobra venom was involved in the suspension, but the investigation mentioned no specific horses, and no nudity. Thankfully.