By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
Saturday's Kentucky Derby often is touted as the greatest two minutes in sports, and because of that brevity, sports sites are focusing on coverage leading up to the event and not during the race.
After all, with a regular dial-up connection, if you visit a site as the horses leave the gates, by the time you refresh the page, well, down the stretch they've already come.
With that in mind, sites are working to establish some horse sense for the racing novice. MSNBC.com, which should get a few on-air plugs during NBC's TV broadcast, has a feature explaining the factors that go into handicapping and allows fans to rank the horses by priority. Based on that criteria, the site offers the three horses most likely to fare well.
For instance, if you find the most important factors to be speed, pedigree and trainer, the site says A P Valentine should be your pick, though the advice comes with a caveat: "This exercise is intended to enlighten and entertain, but it should not be used as a basis for wagering except by the $2 bettor and the idle rich."
What MSNBC.com does best is interactive multimedia features -- it used animated graphics to illustrate Major League Baseball's new strike zone last month. It offers a "jockey's eye view" of each part of the race, with audio clips from jockey Russell Baze to explain the strategies for the first turn, backstretch and so forth.
The site has a poll asking fans which horse will win, and predictably, the voting mirrors the odds, with favorite Point Given leading with 21 percent Thursday. Dollar Bill, sixth in the field with 10-1 odds, was a popular outside shot, drawing 16 percent of the votes.
NBC's broadcast team will compare the online picks with its before the race, and if you get home just after the race, MSNBC.com will air NBC's broadcast online 30 minutes after the coverage ends. The site will have the same rebroadcast after NBC's coverage of the Preakness and Belmont.
VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN: Online voting for baseball's All-Star Game has started at vote.mlb.com, and the Rays will be looking to improve on a dismal showing in last year's balloting. Tampa Bay's eight position players combined for about 1.2-million votes in 2000, barely more than Boston's Carl Everett had.
To help their case, the Rays official site has a prominent link to the voting, fans can vote 25 times. Each player has a one-minute video clip of highlights, and you can compare stats at each position to help research your vote. Just a hunch: Look for talented Mariners rookie Ichiro Suzuki to make a solid showing in the balloting.
TID-BYTES: CNNSI.com breaks down the Derby by the numbers, with several interesting figures, ranging from $65.3-million, the amount wagered on last year's race, to 2, the number of favorites that won in the past 22 races. ... The race's official site, kyderby.com, has comprehensive coverage: If you really want to make mint juleps, the site's recipe reminds you to make the syrup tonight. That site also is selling actual segments of the finish line from the race. The line will be cut into 500 pieces, but at $190 each, it seems a bit much to pay for what ultimately looks like a gray, matted, framed Twizzler.
- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org.