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One of my favorite books of all time is “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. The book is about a country vet who deals with all kinds of animals large and small.

On Sunday we witnessed what some called an NBA All Star game (great creatures, huge, big). I myself called it just a version of the Globetrotters. If I were still booking games, this game would not even be on the betting board. They never put lines up on the Harlem Globetrotter games did they? No difference here!

I still can remember when the NBA had real All Star games with players like Julius Erving, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and many more. Today’s games are a joke and the only real All Star games are in baseball.

Rising from the dead

Now to the small creatures. In my humble opinion, pound for pound jockeys are the toughest little creatures I have ever seen and to back up my opinion I will tell you a true story about one such jockey. His name was Ralph “the Portuguese Pepperpot” Neves and the day was May 8, 1936.

Neves was trying to win the riding title up at the old, but one time great, Bay Meadows race track as he really wanted that $500 for the title. But what he really wanted very badly was a gold watch that was going to be presented by Bing Crosby.

The day was Thursday and closing day was Friday so Neves was really trying hard. It was race five and the start of a very bad day for the Portuguese Pepperpot. It was the fifth race and he was stuck behind a four horse spread with nowhere to go. As his bad luck would have it, one of the runners in front of him stumbled and fell. That started the horrible accident as all four runners in front of him fell and his horse went down right on Neves.

Now a thousand pound animal falling on a 100 pound person is not a good thing.

The track physicians rushed out to help the motionless jock, carefully loaded him into a truck and drove him to the first aid room where a doctor examined his body and pronounced him dead. The track was notified and they called for a moment of silence.

The jockey’s close friend Dr. Horace Stevens arrived at the track hospital and was saddened to see his friend’s body all bloodied laying there on a cement slab. Stevens wanted to take one shot at trying to revive him and he took a huge needle out and shot adrenaline right into the heart of the jockey.

For several minutes it had no affect and Dr. Stevens left the hospital very saddened. About a half hour passed when Neves sat up and just walked out of the first aid room and headed right to the jockeys room where he found them taking up a collection for his family.

Neves demanded to continue riding his last mounts of the day but was told he had to go to the hospital for the night. The next morning Neves, in his hospital gown, snuck out a window, took a cab to the track and rode the last day of the meet, winning the jockey title. The headlines read the next day, “Dead on Thursday but wins riding title on Friday.”

Neves did finally really die 59 years later in his sleep in 1995. Now don’t tell me jockeys aren’t one tough bunch of men.

Prepping for Derby

There were two races this past weekend as we keep heading to the Kentucky Derby. The first was run at Golden Gate, the El Camino Real Derby worth 10 points to the winner. Frank Conversation beat 12 other runners with the turf runner Tusk getting four Kentucky Derby points for his second place finish.

You will see none of these horses in the winner’s circle the first Saturday in May. The third place finisher Kasseopia was a fast closing third for Graham Motion, who also sent out Tusk, a runner that looks to have a ton of upside. Don’t get me wrong, Frank is a nice colt but he could not deal with Mor Spirit the time they met.

They ran the Tampa Bay Derby also but it was worth no points. The winner Destin looks to be coming around for Todd Pletcher but the field was very so so.

On Monday the undefeated Nyquist made his 3yo debut when he faced Exaggeratro in the 7 furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita. This is just a prep for both runners and though it is a Grade II there will be no points on the line.

1 for Thursday play

We had Michigan State last week and we will come right back with them. This bettor was very impressed with their second half play vs. Indiana on Sunday and now they look for revenge from a 77-76 loss as a 6-point road chalk last month when not going so good. We will lay the double digits in this game in East Lansing against Wisconsin in a revenge game. MICHIGAN ST.

As always get off the couch and get some sunshine, you need that vitamin D. And, make a few bets, you never know, you just may be walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GT’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Twitter: @SabesBet. Email: [email protected].

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