Turf writers grab your laptops. Today is one of only two days all year on which no major sport is played.

Coverage of horse racing should be everywhere - NOT. The day before and the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game are the lone calendar days when the NFL, NHL, NBA, NASCAR or the UFC aren’t in business.

But how sad that stalled legislation, snake venom and the depleted Handicap Division are what we have to fill the void. Does it seem that horse racing makes headlines only when a politician gets involved (always!), a horse trainer dopes a horse (often) or an injury wipes out a runner (routine)?

On Friday the Illinois House defeated Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan to lease the state lottery for $10 billion to help pay down the Prairie State’s colossal pension debt. Blagojevich has grandiose plans for improving education and providing health care, but Illinois has no money.

Now six weeks into overtime, the Legislature must come up with a budget soon, and gambling expansion, already shot down once in earlier sessions, may surface again as a solution for the shortfall that’s needed to fund the governor’s programs. If so, the racetracks and OTB parlors could get video lottery terminals or new casinos could be built, thereby providing impact money to the tracks as compensation.

Without additional revenue, the Illinois tracks and Illinois horsemen might as well resign themselves to second-class racing. Illinois does the least of all states to support the industry already, and a once-important racing jurisdiction has felt the sting of neglect.

On the other hand, trainer Patrick Biancone is one guy who must believe he’s attracting too much attention. Struck with problems relating to illegal medications in California and Kentucky, Biancone could become the first trainer tossed from competing on three continents. This time around, it was cobra venom. Just how does one go about getting poison from a snake (the cobra, not the trainer) like this anyway?

Well, it seems as though you can buy venom over the phone or on the Internet (surprise, surprise) from the Miami Serpentarium Laboratories in Punta Gorda, Florida. Recently, trainers at Saratoga Raceway were accused of using the illegal substance to deaden the sore limbs of harness horses. Regardless, the fact that Biancone might have used venom speaks volumes about how desperate winning becomes.

In the aftermath of Invasor’s retirement, here’s a horse that you might want to keep your eye on, and a 3-year-old that is fun to follow but is not one to bet on.

Brass Hat made a triumphant return to the racetrack by breaking the track record at Churchill Downs in an allowance race. Once considered America’s top older horse, he’s been off a year recovering from a fractured sesamoid. Now it seems that the owner’s son Buff Bradley, Brass Hat’s trainer, has him ready to rumble again.

Fred Bradley, the owner – a former Kentucky state senator, is undoubtedly still smarting from the decision of Dubai racing officials for denying him the second place purse from the 2006 $6 million Dubai World Cup for a medication infraction. But it won’t take Brass Hat long to start ringing up Bradley’s cash register again.

As for the horse not to bet, The Green Monkey is ever so close to his first career start. The $16 million colt worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Belmont on Sunday. But beware – at his cost, all it will take is a warning from trainer Todd Pletcher that the horse is a dud, and off he’ll go to the sidelines with some mysterious career-ending injury.