HBO offers horse of a different color

Don't watch "Jockey" (7 p.m., HBO) if you're expecting another "Seabiscuit." That feature film had "quality" written all over it, and that's why it bored me silly. Every shot was gorgeous, and every character was flawed but noble. "Jockey" is not so glorious to look at, but it did teach me a lot about the horse racing world. For starters, thoroughbred racing is a $17 billion business, making it the second-most lucrative American sport after professional football.

While the glamour and glory of the Kentucky Derby, Saratoga and the Triple Crown often command our attention, "Jockey" focuses on the hard lives and early deaths of the men who ride these beautiful horses. The film follows two superstar riders, Shane Sellers and Randy Romero, as well as apprentice Chris Rosier. We learn that jockeys, who often come from hardscrabble backgrounds, can become wealthy before the age of 20.

But paddock stardom does not come easily. The low weight standards for jockeys have established a gruesomely unhealthy subculture of continual starvation, forced vomiting, chemical abuse and frequent trips to saunas to sweat away up to 11 pounds before a race. After years of riding and decades of bulimia, Romero is hospitalized for kidney and liver failure in the course of the film -- a dire situation because, like all jockeys, Romero has no health coverage.

Tonight's other highlights

  • On back-to-back episodes of "Bernie Mac" (Fox), Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson guest star (7 p.m.), Hugh Hefner guest stars (7:30 p.m.).
  • Bruce Willis stars in the 1999 supernatural drama "The Sixth Sense" (7 p.m., ABC). Is there anybody left on Earth unaware of the shocking "twist" to this movie?
  • A brutal lesson in punctuality on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • A $5 million jewel heist on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A corpse in the big swamp on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • Drew, the teenage intern, becomes more hateful by the moment on "The Restaurant" (9 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Megan Mullally visits "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Kelsey Grammer and Hanson on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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