Saturday, May 21, 2011

False Prophets and the Preakness

If you're one of the apparently few who believe that the "rapture" will occur at 6 p.m. local time today, I suggest that you tune in this afternoon for the Preakness in Baltimore — unless 6 p.m. has come and gone where you are.

By that time, you will already know if the rapture has occurred as predicted. The folks who have been telling us that the rapture would occur on this day have been saying that it will happen when it is 6 p.m. locally.

But if you live on the West Coast or in the Rocky Mountain time zone — or, like me, you live in the Central time zone — you might want to tune in.

Because the Preakness is supposed to be run when it is 6 p.m. in Baltimore — which is in the Eastern time zone.

Consequently, if there really is anything to this rapture stuff, you should see
  • jockeys disappearing from horses and/or

  • spectators disappearing from the stands.
That ought to make the Preakness pretty interesting.

Oh, wait a minute. Those party poopers at the Christian Science Monitor are reporting that 6 p.m. has come and gone in some parts of the world — and no rapture. (And, writes the International Business Times, Harold Camping, the minister who prophesied today's rapture and bought billboards and distributed pamphlets across the country telling people about it, has been exposed as a false prophet, which will doom his ministry.)

Guess you can eliminate that as an entertainment factor.

Well, the Preakness should still be interesting. We'll find out today — as we always do on the third Saturday in May — whether there will still be a chance for a horse to win this year's Triple Crown three weeks from now in the Belmont.

It's been more than 30 years since a horse won the Triple Crown, and many of the folks in the thoroughbred racing industry don't want to talk about it — kind of like superstitious ball players (or bowlers, for that matter) who don't want to talk about a perfect game while the game is still being played.

Barry Irwin, who heads the group that owns Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, appears to be one of those.

"I don't even want to hear about it, to tell you the truth," he told Ed Fountaine of the New York Post. "Let's just see what happens in this next race."

Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated thinks Animal Kingdom can prevail. He says the horse should be well rested and prepared to handle what he sees as a relatively weak Preakness field.

Layden's colleague, Gene Menez, agrees that Animal Kingdom is the horse to beat today although he warns readers that they should not be surprised "if [15–1 shot] Midnight Interlude shocks the Preakness at a price."

Not so fast, my friend, writes Brad Telias of The Sporting News. While the Preakness is just about the same distance as the Kentucky Derby, there are significant differences between being a relatively anonymous longshot and a much–heralded favorite.

Such pressure seems unlikely to affect a horse, but it could influence the performance of a jockey — and even the slightest change in the way a jockey rides or sits in the saddle can, in turn, influence what a horse does.

And, while it has been relatively rare in the last three decades for a horse to win the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, neither is really adequate preparation for the Belmont, which has (justifiably) been dubbed the "Test of Champions." It's longer than either of the first two races.

Thus, even if Animal Kingdom does win today, history strongly suggests that the hype that is sure to surround him from now until June 11 will prove to be overblown — and his meager race record to date will be proven to be inadequate preparation.

I don't know who will win today's race.

But I do have a couple of predictions — and I am reasonably confident they will be correct.

By 6:30 Baltimore time this evening, we will know whether the Triple Crown is still a possibility. And we'll know if there was anything to that rapture business.

My guess is that there will be a lot of false prophets revealed by sundown today.

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