11/21/2012 12:27PM

Jerardi: At least horse racing is up-front about its deception

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If I am not at the track, I can usually be found at a gym watching college basketball. What I love about the track is that nobody is pretending the sport is pure. We all know better. What I love about college sports is that everybody pretends it is pure. We all know better.

The track has its share of frauds, schemers, and outright clowns. It has always been part of the charm.

In a perfect world, everything would be as easy as reading the polls and predicting President Obama would win a giant electoral vote victory. It is not a perfect world or close to it.

The track is nowhere near perfect. Nor would it be as fascinating if it were.

If somebody is trying to darken a horse’s form to cash a bet, my task is to be able to figure that out. I have long since accepted that as an integral part of the game. It does not bother when I am not in on it. I just deal with it.

What I most love about the track is that it is real. You win or you lose. Counting is easy.

What I hate about big-time (read football and men’s basketball) college sports is that it is not real. The truth is somewhere between elusive and irrelevant. It is about one thing – cash, lots of it.

I was reminded of that Monday when Daily Racing Form ’s David Grening called to bemoan the fact that our alma mater, the University of Maryland, was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten where it will play Nebraska instead of Virginia, Minnesota instead of North Carolina.

Our conversation reminded me of what I have told so many of my friends that know I cover horses and college hoops. Their default position on horse racing is that the sport is corrupt and all the races are fixed.

I explain to them that there really is no comparison between horse racing and college sports. I don’t try to fool them by saying racing has no problems. Anybody who is reading this can recite them.

What I do tell them is you can’t compare the two because college sports are so much more corrupt. They are run by a cabal of conferences that exists for one reason – to make as much money as possible from television providers on the backs of the players who not only don’t get paid, but are ostracized and labeled cheats if they so much as take a few dollars from anyone during their college careers.

In fact, line up horse racing, politics, and college sports. Horses are a distant third on the corruption meter. I love politics just because it is so fascinating to see so many people lie with such earnest expressions. I love college sports because I do appreciate the games, the talent of the players, and those same earnest expressions you see from so many politicians. I love horses because they have the pick six, and the Kentucky Derby superfecta is still $2.

Substitute politician for conference commissioner and you start to understand college sports. It is all a mirage, built on the fraudulent concept of amateurism and athletes who happen to be students. It is marketed, packaged, and purchased by so many that schools like Maryland and Rutgers, both on the East Coast last I looked, join a Midwestern league because that league’s own television network promises millions in profits in exchange for getting that network into more homes in the television-rich Mid-Atlantic and New York markets.

If horse racing actually had conferences, this might be the model. But horse racing is decentralized with nobody really in charge of anything except, of course, when the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, that savior of the sport, decided to show its muscle before major races in 2012. No corruption on their watch.

As fragmented and backward as horse racing often is, there is really nobody claiming it is something it is not. If anybody tried to suggest the game was pure, the laughter would be immediate. So nobody tries.

I often get asked if I had to choose between hoops and horses, what would it be. No contest, I tell them.

First, there is the corruption angle. Second, I have noticed neither superfecta nor pick-six betting at any gyms.

Ted Maher More than 1 year ago
College Athletes are paid, very well. Their tuitions, room, board, etc. are all paid for. And, at no cost, they can obtain degrees from schools which the vast majority would not be admitted if it weren't for athletic scholarships. And, if that isn't enough compensation they are free to turn pro. I fail to see the "corruption" in that system nor in a team switching conferences. Also, I disagree that "darkening form is integral to the game" of racing. Overall - poor article.
willard soetero More than 1 year ago
you missed your calling, Dick.....you should follow UK racing. The way they set up their classification system invites cheating. Furthermore, in lower handicaps the purses are so small that the only way to make ends meet is "land a gamble" (cash a ticket). The undisputed king is Barney Curley. You can read some stories about the legend if you research the name. They should make a movie about him....not only are the stories fascinating, but he looks and acts the part perfectly.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
You forgot the latest deception......the promotion of sprinters and milers as thoroughbreds......or that cotton wool miler Frankel as the greatest ever.....maybe they meant greatest hype ever.....that sure fits.....
PeterG More than 1 year ago
Yea, throwing you're money into a pool and watching crooked trainers, owners, and track insiders collect it, is a lot of fun right Jerardi? Taking my money out in my front yard and lighting it on fire would be more satisfying to me. At least I know some trainer who laughs at the people who bet on this sport isn't going to get it.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
I don't think there's any different between America in 1859, when slaves were forced to work in the fields, and 2012, when the vast majority of college athletes are forced to work and produce obscene profits for greedy corporations ("colleges" and "universities") that pay their employees ("athletes") absolutely nothing. PAY THEM. Make all college sports athletes who appear on television professionals.
Todd Elliot More than 1 year ago
if this guy thinks horse racing is crooked,,why does he bet?
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Because he can figure who the CROOKS are!!!...
russell More than 1 year ago
I agree with most parts of what Jerardi wrote but lets look at history here and see how FAR horse racing has fallen on the sports barometer. In the 1940's and 1950's horse racing was 2nd ONLY to baseball in popularity. Boxing was a close 3rd. Pro football, college football, were well behind racing and basketball was far behind that. Now we are comparing horse racing to politicians and college basketball. How sad! PS- Only time people watch college basketball is during March Madness and the only time racing gets any coverage is during the KY Derby and BC. So maybe the comparison is accurate.