Morning briefing

Times Staff Writer

Sponsor is sent to the sidelines

Today’s Belmont Stakes might be a real hoot for Big Brown, who is trying to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.

But it won’t be for his newest sponsor, Hooters.

The New York Racing Assn. announced late Friday that Big Brown’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, would not be allowed to wear the restaurant’s logo on his pants because of a conflict with another sponsor of the Belmont race course.

Hooters called the timing “very suspicious,” noting that the NYRA’s decision came a day after some members -- perhaps from the notoriously stuffy old guard? -- expressed concern about the deal.


Mike McNeil, Hooters’ vice president of marketing, said no conflict was mentioned when the company submitted for sponsorship earlier this week. The NYRA provided no other details.

“For them to threaten the jockey with suspension and a fine if he races with the Hooters logo on his pants this close to the biggest race of his life,” McNeil said, “is just mean.”

“Hooters girls” dressed in their customary tank tops and tight orange shorts caused a stir Wednesday when they showed up at the barn for a photo shoot with Big Brown and Desormeaux.

“He likes the women,” trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said, and we think he was referring to Big Brown.

Trivia time

When Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont by 31 lengths -- about 100 yards -- covering 1 1/2 miles in a world-record 2 minutes 24 seconds, what was his time at 1 1/4 miles?

Coco loco

Football players and little girls take note: Boston Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp says you fight like Tampa Bay Rays.


Crisp ignited a brawl Thursday when he charged the mound after being hit by a pitch thrown by the Rays’ James Shields.

Haymakers and jabs were thrown, a few wrestling moves were tried, and nobody ended up hurt -- though Crisp got nicked up, which he later explained this way:

“The scratches on my face were people trying to scratch like we were playing football or something, like little girls trying to scratch out my eyes . . . People were trying to pull my hair like little girls instead of throwing some real punches . . .”

Yeah, that’s the trouble when you braid your hair like, uh . . . an NFL receiver?

Playing hardball

Joe Della Cella is walking away from a coaching position at the University of San Francisco to start up -- an Internet site dedicated to reporting, and supporting, college baseball on the West Coast.

The site, which he expects to launch this summer, will include a database of high school, club, summer and college programs, pitching and hitting blogs, player rankings, recruiting news and, in the early going at least, a couple of editorials about what Della Cella contends is a “highly flawed” and “highly biased” NCAA selection system that favors teams from the Southeast and Southwest.

“I’m just not going to stand for that anymore,” Della Cella said.

“We’re going to make our case to the nation.”

But will it care?

The evidence

Della Cella isn’t lacking for proof that West teams get slighted. He points out that the SEC, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences have sent 103 teams into regional action since 2004 while the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast have sent only 47 in the same span.


Which he follows up with these statistics:

In regional action this season, California and Arizona schools were 14-0 against schools from other states.

The SEC, which had a high of nine teams in the regionals (one more than made its conference tournament), is 4-12 this season against teams from the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast Conference.

Trivia answer

1:59, which was two-fifths of a second faster than the still-track-record time he set at Churchill Downs in winning the Kentucky Derby.

And finally

It was widely assumed that Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, was looking for his nearest rival in photos that captured him glancing back over his shoulder near the end of the Belmont.

Not so, he recently told the Philadelphia Daily News. Turcotte said he was peeking at the odds boards to see what Secretariat’s times were at each quarter-mile pole.

He recalled his reaction: “Oh my God. We’re flying.”