Sorry I’m late. My wife and I had company this weekend, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get my dander up over the fact that the Lexington Herald-Leader wasted about half its pages on mumbo-jumbo stories about some holiday that nobody ever heard of. Instead, I spent the last few days partaking of Kentucky. Our party went for a scenic drive, took a tour of a bourbon distillery, and — of course — spent an afternoon watching thoroughbreds run fast while people in fancy outfits yelled at them.
I’m not much of a horse-player. However, since I found myself at the races during Holy Week, I decided I’d better follow the advice of a real gambler, my grandfather’s friend Blaise Pascalowitz.
You must wager. It is not optional. A day at the races is just a sunburn for nothing if you do not take a chance. (Also, don’t forget to treat yourself to some tootsie-frootsie ice cream.) Could you lose enough to keep you from buying a $5 racetrack beer? Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, some of your money and the rest of your money; and two things to stake, a picture of Andrew Jackson (who, believe me, was no raving beauty that you need to carry around his image in your pocket) and the assurance that you’ll have enough to purchase a watered-down Bud Light. You must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But what of your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that your horse will win. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all your money back plus maybe a few extra bucks if it was a longshot; if you lose, you kiss, what?, twenty dollars goodbye . Hell, it’s not like you’re gonna die before there’s another race.
The rest of Pascalowitz’s advice is meaningless, because he never won a dime in his life.
So I was torn. On the one hand, I could pick my ponies by using a highly mathematical system that involved adding up every number I could find on the racing form, dividing the total by the amount of dollars I’ve made since 1997, and factoring out my allergy to hay. On the other hand, I could just go with the time-tested Eeny Method. Or, if I had three hands, I could fold two of them in prayer, and leave my fate to the emptiness above.
Eventually, I decided to employ the HTSLMKH (pronounced Hotz Lemkhah, which might be Yiddish for “mazel tov”) Principle. Some scholars believe the far-fetched theory that the capitalized word is an acronym for “Hey, That Sounds Like My Kinda Horse.”
Regardless of etymology (and entomolgy, too, for those who are bugged by puns), I’m going to give all my readers a chance to experience for themselves the thrill of a genuine Kentucky racing day. Below, in alphabetical order, are listed four horses from each race I saw. One horse was the winner; two others were selected at random from among the non-winners; the fourth is the loser I bet on. The races were real, so it’s not fair Googling to find out the results.
The Rules: For each race, write the letter of the horse you believe was the winner, followed by the letter of the nag you think stole my two bucks. You earn a point for each animal identified correctly. The person with the score that comes closest to 20 will earn eternal salvation or a leftover Peep, whichever lasts longer.
Race 1: (A) Nacho Man, (B) Speed Demon, (C) Weekend Wildcat, (D) Wetzel
Race 2: (A) Despite the Odds, (B) Hull, (C) Southern Exchange, (D) Taqarub
Race 3: (A) Flying Warrior, (B) Mr. Realistic, (C) Straight Talk, (D) W.W. Lady’s Man
Race 4: (A) Intercoastal, (B) Motown Shuffle, (C) Old Man Buck, (D) Runaway Banjo
Race 5: (A) Harpoon Hattie, (B) Heaven’s Grace, (C) Hit It Rich, (D) Wicked Ravnina
Race 6: (A) Argue, (B) Kantstopdancin, (C) Sheza Sweet Lemon, (D) Smarty’s Dream
Race 7: (A) Gypsy Baby, (B) Magic Broomstick, (C) Paradise Bound, (D) Tempo Approved
Race 8: (A) Fish, (B) Flight, (C) Krypton, (D) Sporty
Race 9: (A) King Ledley, (B) Lost Aptitude, (C) Nordic Truce, (D) Strike the Tiger
Race 10: (A) Dignified Air, (B) Everybody Lies, (C ) Lady Etienne, (D) Laura’s Cat Tales
I’ll add my commentary below when entries start to arrive.