For nearly four decades Ernie Munick has been giving his heart and mind to thoroughbred racing. He is a writer, a vlogger , a musician, but most devotedly a handicapper and horseplayer. He can be seen twice a week on the NYRA Network's RACEDAY, and his videos for the Breeders' Cup can be found by clicking here.
This was the system to end all systems. When this system walked into the saloon, the other systems ducked for cover. Even after the race was over, the other systems cowered under the tables and behind the bar, dead silence, quivering.
This was my dad's system, Herman, and he called it The Triacronym (tri AK ronim) System. Three-letter acronyms. The letter-based OTB parlors in New York City were where my dad and I honed our handicapping chops. Sometimes - often - the chops were flops, hence the desperate invention of The Triacronym System.
Here's how it works. It's time I bring it back. I'm Big Brown for 38 in Kentucky Derbies.
OK, you start with the number of horses in the race. Every number has a corresponding letter. 1A, 2B, 3C, etc. The first letter of each Triacronym is determined by that number, and you must complete each Triacronym with two program letters of the remaining entrants. If there are five horses in the race, for example, you have to bet five $1 exacta- and triple boxes, ten bets in total, on Triacronyms that would look something like this:
ADE (Aqueduct Daddy Ernie)
BED (Belmont Ernie Daddy)
CAB (Courageous Azeri Broodmare)
DAE (Don't Aggravate Esther)
EDB (Every Doggie Beautiful)
This would cost $60. It's not a cheap system. But over the years my dad and I celebrated a few titanic scores, including one that paid for a roundtrip horseplaying bender in South Florida.
The creativity's in the second and third slots. You can choose any words you want, words that stir your soul or dominate your thoughts or news hierarchy, but the pool of letters is limited to the number of horses in each race, and you can't repeat any letters. This system doesn't need you to pick the winner, my kinda system.
The very first Triacronym was EHB (Ernie Herman Bet), sometime in the late '70s. I can't remember how that fared. Through the years, my dad always used EHB as one of his Triacronyms - unless the field had fewer than eight horses (8=H). Soon after EHB came DIB, Daddy is Best. My parents divorced when I was two, and I spent 5 3/4 days a week with my mom, so I guess my dad was a smidge insecure.
This year is a bit surreal to me. NYC OTB closed for good last December. I don't know a Kentucky Derby without a dirty green parlor. You could take the OTB out of the city, you could even take the boy out of the OTB - but you just can't take the OTB out of the boy or the takeout out of the system.
But enough politics. Here is the Triacronym System applied to this year's running of the Kentucky Derby. This will cost me $240, 20 horses, 20 Triacronyms, $12 per entrant ($1 exacta- and triple boxes). The system's a dinosaur but I'm hoping for a Jurassic Park type of comeback, 20 years after my dad passed away.
There's also no doubt my dad would've bet Mucho Macho Man to win. If NYC OTB still existed, Mucho Macho Man, 3M, number 13, would be letter M.
I debated whether to show you this. I run the risk of coming off kooky and self-indulgent. But neither is new to me, kookiness or self-indulgence. It can't be coincidental that that my longest relationship was with a girl named Mimi. Every day I found myself saying, "Mimi, I...Mimi, I." Me me I.
It's lucky I checked my junk folder this morning. Hidden among the usual Smith Micros, Cheap Tickets and #1 Dating Sites was the press release. It's my favorite kind of racetrack press release, the quotes: just the comments from the connections of the stakes winner and often from the second- and third-place finishers, and sometimes even from the also-rans. This press release comes before the track recap of the race is even written (always extremely well written by NYRA, I might add), allowing outside media to shape the surrounding exposition as they like. Even in my teens, when I bought three or four dailies a day, I scanned for quotes first, then went back to enjoy my favorite newspaper writers. The quotes are the flavor.
What's weird is that the quotes are always sent to my inbox, but the ones from this morning - another red flag; who gets post-race quotes in the morning? - I salvaged from the scrapheap. This could be an elaborate prank - yet when I questioned a few of the parties involved, I just got these eerie vacant smiles, no recognition. The eyes weren't there.
Look, I think the horse is too slow. He'd have to get at least five or ten lengths faster. Even Da' Tara ($79) and Sarava ($142.50) packed bigger figs before they entered the Stakes.
But I do love Jose Espinoza.
His winning percentage is misleading. He doesn't ride that many logical horses and even fewer public choices. I find him eminently reliable. He rarely gets in trouble. For years now, he's delivered atomic prices on Belmont's turf courses. Jose, the Other Espinoza, the NYRA journeyman, the Stealth Bomber, winning the Belmont Stakes - that would blow up the cool meter. But all this seems way way woo woo to me. See for yourself.
Stakes Card Selections 2010
1 - Seis de Mayo, I Got Swagger, Camptown Blues
2 - Tapaline, Gracilia, Aprilmayjune
3 - Cheyenne Spirit, Avenging Spirit, Mr. Ryder
4 - Zio Tony, Trappe Shot,Top It
5 - Strong Commitment, Yankee Empire, Cherokee Speed
6 - D'Funny Bone, Eightyfiveinafifty, Remand
7 - Proviso, Phola, Fantasia
8 - Custom for Carlos, Fantasy Free, Checklist
9 - Tanda, Amen Hallelujah, Streaker
10 - Just as Well, Pickney Hill. Gio Ponti
11 - Fly Down, Ice Box, First Dude
12 - Remittance, Lt. John, Bold Vindication
13 - L.C. Bulgari, Mustang Island, Quick Money