Horse Sense

   Just watched Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off single to score Mike Fontenot for the three-game sweep of the Dodgers! The key to the this game was the Cubs’ patience in the ninth inning against Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, who walked two in blowing the save.

* * *

   Cubs fans never cease to amaze me. The Memorial Day weekend was no different, as I spent one day of the weekend at Arlington Racetrack in Arlington Heights, Ill. It was family day at the track, where kids could play on the berms on either side of the grandstands and blues singer Lonnie Brooks put on one heck of a show.
   We got there by the fifth race of the day. There are 11 races a day at Arlington and not being a huge horse racing guy, I just went on instinct when picking my horses. In the sixth race, that instinct was put to the test.
   The No. 6 horse, a dark brown 3-year-old filly named Cubs Fan, came in at 30-1 odds. She had won the second race of her career back on Sept. 8, 2007, beating out Okenfenokee and Wise Cookie with a late surge. 
   But with the No. 8 horse, Dreaming of Liz, who had handily won her last race May 2, 2008, the odds were stacked against Cubs Fan. 
   As I slowly walked up the berm, deliberating my wager, I looked long and hard at my program. I felt the tug of loyalty to team and employer. Do I go with Cubs Fan–fittingly a 30-1 underdog?

   After placing my wager, I watched as the gates opened. I swear, I thought I was dreaming! Cubs Fan had jumped out to the early lead! The race, scheduled for one mile on turf, had seen Cubs Fan lead through the quarter pole. 
   A man next to me was cheering gleefully. He yelled to his wife: “Honey, she’s still leading! That’s a 30-1 dog! Do you know what that will pay out?”
   By the half-mile mark, Cubs Fan continued to pace the pack. If she won, I would take it as an good omen for the Chicago Cubs in 2008. I’ve never been superstitious, but this was nothing short of eerie. I screamed, “C’mon! Dig!”
   As the pack pushed past the three-quarters mark and rounded the last turn, there were ominous signs for Cubs Fan. A couple of horses had bounded to the outside, trying to pass as they started their kicks.
   And sure enough, my heart sank as Cubs Fan quickly dropped back–second…fourth..fifth…Down the stretch she faltered. I don’t even remember in what place she finished. The man next to me threw down his ticket in disgust. “This year’s Cubs better not do the same thing!”
   I looked at mine, which read: Dreaming of Liz, who didn’t win either.
   I know better than to bet on a 30-1 dog, regardless of its name. But that doesn’t mean I won’t root for one.

* * *

Seen around the ballpark: Rick Sutcliffe was in town, doing the ESPN broadcast of Tuesday’s game. “The Red Baron” looked well and was his same larger-than-life self, despite his battles with colon cancer. Word is in a couple of weeks he will be undergoing some surgical procedures. We wish him well….American Idol’s Michael John was seen hanging with boyhood pal Mark DeRosa during batting practice on Tuesday…Carlos Zambrano noticed I had worn two shoes of different colors on Tuesday! I hadn’t even noticed until he did. “What’s going on there?” he said, pointing to my shoes. I seriously had gotten dressed in the dark, not wanting to wake my 3-year-old daughter, who had crawled into bed with me because of that night’s thunderstorm, by turning on the lights. The shoes are the same brand, so they felt the same. How mortifying, but we got a big laugh….Anyone notice the throng of Japanese media on hand for the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda, Saito and the Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome? According to Ryuji Araki, Fukudome’s translator, at least double the number of media outlets were present….As of today, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto could become the first rookie catcher to start the All-Star Game in National League history. Currently he leads Atlanta’s Brian McCann by 113,684 votes.

–Mike Huang

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