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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Murray Would Have Had a Field Day With This

May 11, 2003|T.J. Simers

A Day at the Races with Misery, Gary Stevens, Dwyre's wife, the memory of Murray and a final scene that had the Marx Brothers written all over it.

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A LITTLE less than six hours before the start of The Grocery Store Bagger Purse at Hollywood Park and the rail birds wanted to know where's this mystery guy who has swiped my daughter's heart. Every Saturday, of course, he takes dance lessons -- so he was going to be a little late. (I don't make this stuff up.)

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HOLLYWOOD PARK asked Times' handicapper Bob Mieszerski, a.k.a. Misery, to go before a live audience and pick the day's winners. They also invited me to do the same -- because the Rally Monkey was unavailable -- to prove anyone can pick more winners than Misery.

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THREE DAYS earlier I met with Stevens to remind him he was finished as a quality jockey so I might see his reaction to determine whether I should wager on his mount. I figured this would give me an advantage over Misery when making our picks. I know, I know, could have just thrown darts at The Daily Racing Form and accomplished the same thing.

But I was intrigued by Stevens. The guy has just been voted one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People along with Salma Hayek -- like she or anyone else is going to give someone who is losing his hair a second look. He has also been working as an actor in "Seabiscuit," which told me he's gone soft and probably has lost the competitive fire a jockey needs to bring home a nag.

I told him that, and he said, "Smart thinking," and then asked me to throw him out of the 14th running of the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap. "Please do," he said, and I don't know how anyone who makes a face like that could be considered one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.

I put the Times' money on The Tin Man in the Murray, and Storming Home won with Stevens riding, and jumping off the critter to say: "I told you so."

I remember him telling me to throw him out; I'll bet he had to use cue cards to make that movie.

It was Stevens' third victory in the Murray, but the other two, as he pointed out, "Weren't for $400,000. They finally got the purse together on it that (a race for Murray) deserved.

"You see, the Murray means something special to me," he said. "The best article ever written about me was by Jim. I have it framed and hanging on my wall."

I'd imagine F.P. Santangelo has one of my stories hanging on his wall.

"When Murray wrote about you it was like the Pope blessing you," Stevens said, and I told him I'm the guy who spent three years in a seminary. "He's probably the best friend racing had here. He was one of the most powerful sports columnists in the country, and to have him on our side was a big boost for us. It's a great loss."

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DWYRE'S WIFE, meanwhile, was jumping up and down. She had chosen the longest shot in the second race because it was Irish. I guess she was using the same method she employed to pick a husband. The horse proved to be a winner, though.

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IT WAS getting late in the day and the Minnesota Wild and Misery had something in common: They were both being shut out.

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HOLLYWOOD PARK and The Times invited 30 college students from across the country to compete for $10,000 in scholarships while spending four days here to learn everything they could about horse racing and sports writing to put them on even terms with Misery.

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I HOPE TVG, the online betting service, pays more promptly than TVG anchor Todd Schrupp. Schrupp picked L'Natural High in the 10th on TV, and just to keep him honest, I said I'd bet $5 it wouldn't even finish in the top five. It placed 10th, and Schrupp never reached into his pocket. You Bet -- I'd like to hear from Schrupp.

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REGGIE TURNER told his family they couldn't do anything to surprise him. So his wife had the ninth race named The Reggie Turner 60th Birthday Purse, and invited her old husband to the track. "She got me," Turner said.

I'm sorry -- I'm told now it was Reggie Turner's 50th Birthday. He fooled me.

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THE DAY ended with Spy Me Not winning The Grocery Store Bagger Purse, and for a moment there it looked like Harpo from the Marx Brothers jumping into the arms of Curly from the Three Stooges with Spy Me Not owner Pablo Suarez yelling, "It's the Bagger, it's the Bagger," and then hugging the kid.

"Over here," Suarez yelled to his family, friends and jockey Patrick Valenzuela, "it's the bagger. We have to get our pictures taken with the bagger." When Santa Anita had a race in my name a few weeks back, I was ordered by the winning horse owners to stay away from them.

Valenzuela, wearing the Superman emblem across his silks, looked at the bagger up and down much like I'd imagine he'd look at a $5,000 claimer, and then shook my hand and said, "Congratulations," happy, I guess, the kid was marrying my daughter and not his.

Later, I heard the bagger telling someone proudly, "I got to shake Superman's hand." I wonder if I should tell him....

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THE DAUGHTER walked away from the finish line, and announced, "I'm such a loser." Now I've been trying to tell her that ever since she found true love in frozen foods.

"No, I had the winning trifecta and changed it at the last minute," she said, and went with Misery. (Hard to believe she'd make a wrong choice like that.)

Misery finished the day 0 for 10 with his picks, while the handsome substitute for the Rally Monkey bet $20, and won $31.60 with three winners.

Dwyre's wife, meanwhile, claimed she did better, but who is she kidding?

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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