We know how much you loved the NFL Playoffs posts! So we're back with more sports, easing you into next week's Kentucky Derby, very slowly. We won't even talk horses yet. We're not there. The field this year is wide open. It's a shithead's game this year. And that's great news.
In 2005, I bugged A Current Affair and New York Post vet Steve Dunleavy (now retired) about horse racing after he wrote a column during the Triple Crown blasting the state of New York for taking a percentage of horse players' winnings. When I called him up, he made it loud and clear that he rarely won. I told him I wasn't after his money. It's been three years, but I seriously doubt his opinions have changed. If anyone at Langan's Pub is aware of the phenomenon known as the internet, please let Mr. Dunleavy know this interview is now online. If Mr. Dunleavy doesn't frequent Langan's anymore (doesn't he live out near the Rockaways or something?) could someone kindly let me know where I may buy him a drink? As much as I pretended to loathe his love of the mafia and firemen who wouldn't snitch on each other, I actually really miss his writing.
So what can you tell us about betting on horses?
Steve Dunleavy: Here's a point, my bookie, since 1970—err, Frankie Downtown is still alive, bless him. Is he a wise guy? No. But he's a made man. Frankie Downtown would deliver on Mondays at Costello's Bar. Say I wasn't in. I was out of town or out of the country and I owed, at a maximum, 75 bucks. This is back in 1968 or 1969. I wasn't there when he came around, and say the next week I won $100. He wouldn't say, "Well, you lost $75 last week, so here's $25." He'd pay what he owed me, and leave it to me to settle what I owed. He would never subtract my losings from my winnings. By the way, I've only seen him twice in my life, talked to him on the phone quite a bit. If he taxed me, I'd say "You're a fucking mobster." Well, what does my state (NY) do? Seventeen percent! The gambling ring does better than Enron. They pay what they owe and you don't have to knock their door down. Am I professing a love of the mafia society? No.
Oookay. So how do you actually play the horses? Do you read up on them?
Yep. I haven't had any big winners lately, a few last year.
Do you read Ray Kerrison's tips from the Post?
I trust him with my life. He was my boss here in 1966. He was bureau chief. They called us the Australian Mafia, but that was wrong. He was from Adelaide. I was from Sydney. [deceased gossip columnist] Neal Travis was from New Zealand. So it was no mafia. Ray is a very devout Catholic. As square as a butter box. I've seen him drink maybe one or two DuBonnets his whole life. He's seen me drunk many times. I say this very guardedly, but he could have put his kids through college with his winnings. He's very religious. Gave up smoking 12 years ago. He doesn't want to be responsible for you losing your money. So if he gives you a tip—he doesn't go all nutso about it... People who have worked with Ray Kerrison genuflect when they talk about him.
Do you read anyone else's tips?
No. Well, let me think a little more accurately. I always play the jockey. Any great horse on a bad day will be beaten by a medicore horse on its best day. Like Giacomo. Who knew about Giacomo? I think he did something at Hialeah, but that's not a race track. Always look at what horse is 8-1 or 9-1 on Thursday and bet then. It'll be 4-1 on Saturday. Look at the jockey.
Gambling is the wrong word. You do bet, with a modicum of alleged knowledge. But I've never made a big bet in my life. If you opened my wallet, moths would fly out. My biggest payout is $600. When I am left to myself, I normally win.
Meaning when you don't study anything?
No. When I do study. When I am not in a bar, amongst all the talking, sucking down booze. The only secret, and let me make this loud and clear, is when constipated D.A.s swoop on a so-called gambling ring—they should be going to Albany and saying stop taking people's money from their winnings. It's outrageous.
Well, thanks. Jared Paul Stern gave me your number.
He's a great guy. Very dapper. I saw him in a short-sleeved polo the other day and I said, "Well, that's very Ohio of you."
That's one to remember, Steve. Classic. Derby Diary #2's informant, one Robert Nastanovich, late of Pavement and now an employee of Equibase (the horse racing stats company), once drunkenly bowled over Richard Dreyfuss on the way into Churchill Downs on one first Saturday in May. He helped Mr. Dreyfuss up and told him he loved him in Jaws. Mr. Dreyfuss was not amused. Nastanovich will, among other things, tell you not to consider the jockey on Derby Day. More from him next week, along with a boatload of gambling advice.