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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Red Flag Definitely Up During This Day at Races

March 13, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

When my daughter got engaged recently to a grocery store bagger, I didn't make a fuss because they hadn't actually set a date to get married, so I figured he still might go away.

But ever since he gave her a ring--she thinks it's a diamond--she can't go anywhere without him tagging along. I know he's probably overdue with his last payment and just trying to protect his investment, but it's not like Wal-Mart is going to come along and just rip the ring off her finger.

I tried, it doesn't budge.

*

SUNDAY I TOOK my wife and my daughter to Santa Anita Park--along with the grocery store bagger, who cost me an extra $14.50 for admission, program and racing form. Friends tell me it will cost 1,000 times as much to put on a wedding--more if the night shift at the grocery store gets the time off.

We had reservations in the Frontrunner Restaurant, and although I only asked for three chairs, they must have counted the grocery store bagger as family and produced four. I noticed the grocery store bagger was holding my daughter's hand--I couldn't believe how worried he was about that ring.

"I guess it would be a good omen if some horse named, 'Plastic or Paper,' was running today," I said, but that didn't go over well with the women.

I tried to make amends. "Listen kid, let me give you a tip--take the newspaper here, and go with Curtis Crayon's picks."

I should have known--if my wife was going to give up the cans she's been collecting for the past year to bet on the horses--she was going to be up to date on The Times' handicappers.

"There have been almost 500 races during this meet, buster, and you know darn well Crayon has only 24 winners and is almost always wrong, while Bob Mieszerski has more than 142 . . . so what are you telling this young man?"

"That Crayon's due."

*

IF YOUR WIFE has a lot of cans, I can't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday than sitting in the Frontrunner, a little TV at your table, good food, the finish line right outside your window and the mountains off in the distance. I would urge you, however, never to yell out, "Come on, you old nag," if it's not clear to your wife that the next race has started.

At this time I probably should point out that Kevin Bickert, the manager of the Frontrunner, picked up our lunch tab despite my protests and urging everyone to go ahead and order dessert. I had to tip our waiter $60 just to make it look good ethically, of course, but now he thinks I'm a big tipper so I never can go back there.

Free lunch or not, I still love horse racing. You go to a Laker game these days and you know how it's going to come out. It's going to go into overtime, Phil's never going to go to the whip, and they're going to lose down the stretch. Shaq will blame Kobe, or if Kobe is sick, he'll blame the refs.

At the track the outcome is in doubt most of the way, and there always is a chance you'll hit it big and never have to write again. To show you how clueless Dodger Boy and the Movie Guy are, they have yet to send a limo to my house and make sure I get to the track with that chance I may never write again.

I'm really surprised sports editor Bill Dwyre hasn't done that.

*

THEY TELL ME the horse racing business is dying, but Santa Anita jazzed up the entertainment Sunday with the International Jockey Challenge, which had four USA jocks squaring off against four little guys from Europe.

I know my wife was into it, chanting, "USA, USA, USA," and although I believe in miracles, she just wouldn't shut up.

In the first USA-Europe race I put my money on "Missed The Cut," and like Dodger center fielder Tom Goodwin, it did, finishing third. Jockey Laffit Pincay, with one victory in his last 45 races, won on some pig that the waiter had put $5 on across the board. Remind me to call the IRS and let them know I tipped that guy $60, which I'm sure he won't report.

In the next USA-Europe race I went with a sentimental choice, "No Apollogee," because that's what Kevin Brown told Fox Sports Net recently--he'd have no apology to anyone for acting like a jerk. No Apollogee ran like a donkey.

*

THE USA JOCKEYS went on to win, my daughter hit the same quinella three times, and my wife was so excited with the USA victory, she tipped the waiter again. It seems the only two losers at the table were me and the grocery store bagger.

*

I DON'T KNOW about Gary Sheffield, but it looks to me like the Dodgers have given agent Scott Boras a lifetime contract to control the team.

*

THE TRIBE HAS spoken, and "Survivor" has moved to Wednesday night to make room for USC on Thursday evening. I like Jerri's chances, however, to last longer than Brian Scalabrine.

*

BASEBALL AMERICA HAS come out with a ranking of the top 100 major league prospects and you only have to go 86 players deep to get to the top--and only--Dodger prospect: Chin-Feng Chen, an outfielder.

The magazine, in a way, likens him to Shawn Green: "Chen tailed off last year in Double-A."

The Angels had the 50th-ranked prospect in pitcher Joe Torres, "the first high school player from the 2000 draft to reach the majors," according to the magazine, and the 71st prospect in pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.

*

THE PROBLEM WITH writing so many notes, sometimes having to remove one because of space limitations, I can't remember if my prediction Steve Lavin would be Pac-10 Coach of the Year actually made it into print.

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Raymond:

"The Times had to double the price of the paper, probably because everyone who threatened to cancel because of you, actually did."

I was told the price increase was to account for my raise.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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