In this edition of his weekly column The Ticket, Adam Kramer shares his love/hate relationship with the state of horse racing, reviews his mixed results from UFC 262 and makes some NBA Play-In Bets.
For more than a decade, I was fixated on horse racing. I attended the Breeders Cup every year no matter where it was with my dad. Churchill Downs. Santa Anita. Belmont. The track didn’t matter; we simply wanted to be — had to be — present for the greatest few days of racing.
There is no greater satisfaction (to me) than handicapping a race and outsmarting the betting public -people just like me looking to cash a ticket. Throw in a robust buffet of betting options, and it’s easy to fall in love with the strategy and the sport as a whole.
But these days, horse racing makes it hard to love it like I once did. In fact, those emotions that drew me in are largely gone.
The demise of the sport hasn’t been sudden; it’s been a multi-decade plunge from relevancy. From a run of horses dying on the track years ago in California to a DQ in the 2019 Kentucky Derby to this year, where Medina Spirit failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby.
And to cap it off, trainer Bob Baffert followed up the positive test by blaming “cancel culture” and settling on a bizarre explanation of how the horse might have tested positive. He removed himself and his checkered past from all accountability, which should come as no surprise if you’ve been following along.
On Saturday in the 2021 Preakness Stakes, Medina Spirit lost. For horse racing, this was probably for the best given the cloud hovering over a potential win. Instead, Rombauer beat a “meh” field and won as an 11/1 shot. (No knock on the win or the horse, but let’s call it what it was.)
And so, we’re once again left without a Triple Crown winner, where the biggest story in the sport is a trainer and a test rather.
That, sadly, has become the norm.
I want horse racing to find a way. And perhaps the rise in sports betting will attract more interest to the joys of parimutuel betting. But given the last 15 years, it only feels like interest will continue to wane.
Oh, I’ll watch (and bet), but not like I once did. Things are different now, and the sport simply doesn’t speak to me like it used to. I do hope, however, that a horse or a positive story of some kind can inject (bad word choice) some life back into a sport that so desperately needs it.
Until then, I will wait.
Medina Spirit Falters At 2021 Preakness Stakes, UFC 262 Recap & Best NBA Play-In Bets
At the Window: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
This week, we’re sticking with a UFC 262 theme. Some good, some bad, and another tough visual.
THE GOOD: Beneil Dariush Dominates Tony Ferguson at UFC 262
Dariush was the chalk and clearly not the fan favorite in Texas. On Saturday night, however, it didn’t seem to matter. Ferguson spent pretty much the entire match on his back, and Dariush looked like one of the top fighters in the division. For Ferguson, who lost yet again, it will be curious to see what happens to him moving forward.
THE BAD: Michael Chandler Gets Knocked Out by Charles Oliveira
I loved Chandler as a small underdog in the main event. After the first round, I felt good about where that love was heading. Chandler was active, avoiding submission situations and seemingly on a role. Then he took a shot from Oliveira. Then he took another. And like that, it was all done. Oliveira’s rise is certainly an incredible story that softens the betting loss. But this one stung pretty bad — a reminder of how fast this sport can flip.
THE UGLY: Another Brutal Broken Bone (and Loss) at UFC 262
First, it was Chris Weidman and one of the most horrific broken legs you will ever see at UFC 261. At UFC 262, it was unfortunately Ronaldo Souza’s turn. In his fight against Andre Muniz, Souza’s arm was broken so bad you could hear it snap. Also, I really could have done without the dozen or so slow-mo replays that followed. The craziest part? Souza barely reacted. While I fell to my floor and shielded my eyes, he almost casually shook it off. I lost that bet, but that’s alright. Hope a legend in the sport recovers soon.
What I’m Watching: Golf, NBA Play-In Madness And (Finally) Some Hockey
2021 PGA Championship
Lovely Kiawah Island in South Carolina will play host to golf’s second major, which is good news for us all. This promises to be one of the longest golf courses, well, ever, and the yardage on the back nine is going to be must-see. Any major will find its way into the television lineup, but this one could be fireworks.
2021 NBA Play-In Tournament
While LeBron James might not like it, I’m all for the NBA’s new postseason mini-bracket that will finalize the eight teams in each conference. The format will take some getting used to, but the structure is pretty unique. The 7 and 8 seeds will play, and the winner of that will secure the 7-spot. The loser of that game will then play the winner of the 9 and 10 seeds. Also, Lakers-Warriors? The NBA couldn’t draw it up better than that.
2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs
I am not a hockey aficionado, nor do I consume a lot of regular season games. But come playoff time, I’m your Huckleberry. The Stanley Cup playoffs started this weekend with a handful of truly exciting games where overtime was getting a workout. I want more of this because there is nothing like intense playoff hockey. I don’t even need to bet on every game; the sheer excitement is enough for me.
What I’m Betting: NBA Play-in Games, Golf, and UFC (Of Course)
2021 NBA Play-In Bets
Washington Wizards (+105) @ Boston Celtics: The Celtics’ bizarre and disappointing year ends. Wizards outright.
Los Angeles Lakers (-190) vs. Golden State Warriors: The health of LeBron is going to be a concern until the end of the year, but I like this aggressive line for the Lakers.
2021 PGA Championship
Xander Schauffele (+2000 to win): His length and iron control should mesh with this course really well. He’s been so close before. Time to take it up a notch.
UFC Fight Night 188
Jack Hermansson (-155) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan: I liked Hermansson last week before the fight was moved to this week. I still like him now. Really nice fight and card for a non-pay-per-view event.