Thursday, February 22, 2007

I Got The Horse Right Here

Here I am yesterday wearing my Knickerbocker Village Hoodie interviewing the inimitable Max Weintraub at Noah's Ark Restaurant on Grand Street. Among the things Max is telling me about is the sad state of affairs at a CSD1 public school (a victim of the new regime's policies-made even worse by Region 9's interpretation of them) as well as growing up on Monroe Street and knowing someone named Kuperstein! That's retired All Star teacher, Miguel Figueroa, to the right. Max, a horsemen, is wearing one of his Western Shirts. He explained how the material is stronger to withstand the brush. Max has one of his horses, "Keen Spirit," racing at Aqueduct tomorrow. I think I'll mix it up with some of the dregs at OTB to place a bet on her. That's "Keen Spirit" below. A podcast is in the works

Here's an article about Max and his cronies from 2003:
COPING; They've Got The Horse Right Here
REMEMBER Funny Cide, the $75,000 gelding bought by six buddies from upstate New York who became the first New York-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, then lost (or as Max Weintraub, of Mercer Street, prefers to say, ''almost won'') the Triple Crown?
Mr. Weintraub, along with his associate and fellow widower Stanley Ettinger, managing partner of Pont Street Stable, and 58 other partners, hope to produce the next Funny Cide, a lucky horse owned not by aristocrats or billionaires but by doctors, lawyers, accountants and garmentos out of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, New Jersey and Long Island.
Why shouldn't the next Funny Cide be Old Crow, Pont Street's chestnut gelding? Or Pocahaba, the black filly? Or maybe Rocket Star, the chestnut colt? In horse racing, a profound belief in one's own fundamental luckiness is an essential quality.
''We're looking for that golden rainbow,'' Mr. Weintraub said the other day, feeding carrot chunks out of a resealable bag to the eight horses now boarding at Pont Street, a stable on the grounds of Belmont Park, on the Queens-Nassau border. His baseball cap was embossed in a pink and blue horse, the colors of the Pont Street silks.
Mysterious Moll won $500,000 before becoming a broodmare. Then the partners thought they had it made with Tap the Admiral, son of Pleasant Tap. Two years ago, they paid $35,000 for the horse, then three years old, and from that point, he won nearly half a million dollars; in July he took home $250,000 from the Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs alone. In September, after racing in Canada, Tap came down with colitis. Three weeks later, Mr. Weintraub visited Tap in the stable, and he was lying down, ''a bad sign,'' Mr. Weintraub said.
Tap died that day; his stall is sadly empty now.
Some horses never win. ''Remember, it's like a Broadway show,'' Mr. Ettinger said. ''There's a 'Cats' and a 'Phantom,' and there's all the rest.''
Other horses have good karma. The stable paid $30,000 for Sweet Sondra, named after Mr. Weintraub's late wife, and she won $200,000.
Mr. Ettinger, a retired importer of silk scarves, is selective about his partnerships. ''I interview people,'' he said. ''If a guy says, 'How much return do we get on this?' I immediately say: 'This is not for you. Invest in the stock market if you're looking for return.''
Mr. Weintraub, retired comptroller at Pace Advertising, which he co-founded in 1949, joined the syndicate 10 years ago after meeting Mr. Ettinger at a New Year's Eve party. Mr. Ettinger drives an Infiniti with 225WIN vanity plates, racing terminology for the roughly $2.25 payoff on a $2 bet on an odds-on favorite.
''I lost my wife nine years ago,'' Mr. Ettinger said. ''If not for this . . . '' His horse buddies are like family; they invite him to weddings, briths, bar mitzvahs, christenings, unveilings.
When the Pont Street horses retire, they're put up for adoption. ''So they don't end up in a French restaurant,'' Mr. Weintraub said.
Mr. Weintraub's first exposure to horses came on the Lower East Side when he was about 10. During the Depression, his widowed mother sold ''shmattes'' -- pillow cases and the like -- out of a pushcart on Monroe Street. She kept the pushcart in a stable, and the owner sometimes let young Max take out a horse and wagon. His mother also used to ride the bus to Saratoga, to take the waters. ''There were the Whitneys, the Vanderbilts and the Weintraubs from the Lower East Side,'' he said.
Mr. Weintraub does not believe in the science of betting. He doesn't even read the The Daily Racing Form. ''I've seen guys come out here with laptop computers and punch in all this stuff,'' he said, ''and they don't do any better.'' His advice: ''Pick a name you like, or a jockey. Jerry Bailey, he wins the most races.''
Away from the track, Mr. Weintraub volunteers at Public School 134 on the Lower East Side, trying to help poor kids in his old neighborhood get into private and boarding school. When one of his horses wins a race, he throws a cookie party.
The other day, his table in the Aqueduct trustees' lounge bet $1 here, $2 there in the first three races, with Mr. Weintraub egging them on. They lost everything, except for Mr. Ettinger, who did not bet. In the fourth race, Mr. Weintraub went for broke. He bet all 12 horses, spending $24, which he rounded up at the table. Mr. Ettinger predicted he would come out even, but he did better. A long shot came in at 12-1 odds, paying $25.60. Mr. Weintraub split the $1.60 profit with his table, keeping 80 cents for himself. Today 80 cents; tomorrow, the Triple Crown.

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