Hot Horse (Baretta, season 4, episode 11)


Baretta  is a cop show that used to be on TV back in the seventies  (and that I never watched).  It's set in New York City and stars Robert Blake as the title character, a police detective with  lots of  gritty street cred who plays by his own rules.   His slogan is, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime." 

In the Hot Horse episode, Baretta investigates the kidnapping of  valuable racehorse Kentucky Clue.  Baretta is assisted in the case by his neighbors, a couple of adorable old Jewish men.   Inveterate horseracing afficionados, the neighbors identify the horsenapper:  a  British bookie called Bristol Bob (James Booth), who followed a similar modus operandi in England. 

Behind Baretta's back, the adorable neighbors kidnap the stolen horse from Bristol Bob and hide it in their apartment, intending to collect the promised reward.  Then the neighbors realize they can further exploit the horse before turning it in.  Altering Kentucky Clue's appearance with a little paint, and giving him the alias  Pretty Baby, they race the superb horse as an unknown long shot and bet everything they have on the outcome. 

Before they can collect any winnings, however, Baretta figures out what they're up to and confronts them with their theft of  Kentucky Clue.  As this scene unfolds, in the bleachers at the racetrack, Bristol Bob reappears and makes off with the horse.  Baretta and his two neighbors hurry to the stables and overtake Bristol Bob.  There's a shootout, which comes to an impasse when Bristol Bob turns his pistol on the valuable thoroughbred and holds it hostage.  But one of the adorable neighbors saves the day by singing Dixie over the loudspeaker, knowing that this song drives the horse crazy.  The horse rears and breaks away from Bristol Bob, and Baretta hurls  himself at Bob and his sidekick, knocking them both silly.   The coda reveals that nobody gets the reward money because Baretta's recovery of the horse was all in the line of duty.

James Booth wears one of those oversized Sly-and-the-Family-Stone caps of brown leather, and a brown tweed jacket with leather elbow patches.  His performance is fine except for the scene where he gets knocked silly, which looks...well, silly.  His best moment, for me, occurs when he makes a threatening phone call using Cockney rhyming slang (brown bread for dead).

(c)  Diana Blackwell 2007