What’s next, the DNA stakes?

July 10, 2001 4:20 AM
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Some recent developments in horse racing may prompt the notion that the backstretches of the nation’s tracks are in fact nothing more or less than chemical laboratories.

Three of the country’s leading trainers have been cited by the authorities for having an illegal substance found in horses under their care. Bob Baffert, the sport’s leading money-winning trainer this year, is appealing through the courts a 60-day suspension imposed in California; Nick Zito, among the top 10 in earnings, is appealing a 15-day New York suspension, and Scott Lake, who leads the country in winning races, is awaiting word from New York as to his status. He could be facing a 60-day suspension.

It’s entirely possible that when the dust finally settles, all three will be declared innocent of any wrongdoing. But considering that the competition for the gaming and entertainment dollar is severe, horse racing needs all of the goodwill it can muster. News of prominent members of the sport possibly being engaged in chicanery is bad public relations. There are some people who might get the idea that the sport is infested with crooks.

Crocodile Tears

The recent NBA draft triggered a torrent of crocodile tears from the media and the college ranks because so many high school players and college underclassmen chose to make themselves available. Of the first 20 players selected in the draft, only Shane Battier of Duke and Brendan Haywood of North Carolina completed a four year college career.

Media people can expound at their leisure about lofty ideals, but it’s not their ox that’s being gored. And the college coaches are not really upset because players are passing up educational opportunities. The coaches don’t care about education. They’re upset because their interest is in getting players and exploiting them to the colleges’ advantage.

So let’s stop the whining and get real. If the money’s there, there’s no good reason for a young man not to take it. An opportunity not seized may be an opportunity that will not repeat itself.

The Dominator

Amidst last week’s (and continuing) blizzard of NHL trades and free agent signings, the most significant was the acquisition of Dominik Hasek by the Detroit Red Wings. To get Hasek the Wings gave up forward Vyacheslav Kozlov, a 2002 first round draft choice and future considerations. (Future considerations is a hockey equivalent of baseball’s player to be named later.) “The Dominator” comes by his nickname honestly. He’s the best goaltender in the world and having him in the nets gives Detroit a leg up on next year’s Stanley Cup.

The Friendly Banker

Step inside, Bank of America. You have a new competitor — the National Football League. Using its eight-year, $18.3 billion television contracts as collateral, the NFL is borrowing $150 million and making it available in the form of matching loans to teams that reach financing agreements on construction or renovation plans for stadiums by March 2003. The teams will get better terms from the league than they would from commercial banks. So far, seven teams have received approval for loans: the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions and Packers.

Tired Arm

Livan Hernandez of the San Francisco Giants appears to be a classic example of heavy work taking its toll on a young pitcher’s arm. The 26-year-old right-hander worked 200 more innings in each of the last three years and his fastball, once consistently clocked at 92-93 mph, now seldom reaches 88. Batters throughout the league are aware of the difference so they lay off his curve and sit on his fastball. At the midway point of the current season, Hernandez was leading the league in games lost (11) and had a 6.02 ERA.

Best Bargain

The Minnesota Timberwolves did not have a selection in the first round of the NBA draft but they made the most of their pick in the second round when they selected Loren Woods, the 7-1 center out of the University of Arizona. In the opinion of many scouts, Woods was a bargin.