Kentucky Derby 2016: Handicap, but Factor in Your Dreams and Intuition…

Marion Altieri,New York writer

Marion Altieri,New York writer

When newbies to racing ask me how often and how much I bet–I respond that I rarely bet, because I know better.

Then I explain that most of my bets are placed for sentimental reasons–I’ve kissed a horse, or know her/his owner/trainer/etc.  And then there’s the role of intuition, and the mysterious place where actual dreams, intuition and “a feeling” intersect.  It’s that place that I’m going to discuss today.

First, though:  Happy Kentucky Derby Day 2016!  Whether you’re in the mess of humanity and near-humanity at Churchill Downs or sitting in a friend’s living room–I hope you have a blast.  Keep your eye on the prize–and the prize, really is Just, Plain, Fun.

Here’s the deal, from my perspective as a race fan of 56 years. and racing media professional of 13 years.  Two things to ponder for today–for any race day, actually:

1.)  Handicap your brains out today. Go ahead, it’s great exercise for your grey matter.  Remember, though: all the math and statistics mean nothing in the end, because horses are sentient beings–not numbers on paper. A horse can have a GREAT day–a horse can just not feel like running.  No one can force a horse to win a race simply because the numbers indicate that they should. That’s like trying to nail down the wind. 

Whatever you do, don’t invest so much of your money and emotions that you lose sight of the fact that, yes, racing provides millions of jobs–contributes hugely to the economy wherever it exists–and is good for the soul.  Ultimately, however, like football and any other sport:  this is JUST A GAME.  That is, don’t be a clod–don’t throw your losing ticket on the ground in disgust–and don’t scream obscenities about the horse who didn’t win for you.  A three-year-old child in Church knows better than to behave that way.  Just have FUN, folks.

2.)  Now, here’s the second thing I want to share with you.  Two entertaining tales, about Signs and Wonders–and the reminder to, LOOK for the signs.  HEED your dreams.  And, in the end–USE your brain. STOP.  Ponder.  Think–THEN, ACT:

Tale One:  In 2012, I awoke on the second day of racing in Saratoga, following three weird dreams. I never saw anything in these dreams–just heard a voice.  Danny DeVito, using the voice he’d used on the show “Taxi,” yelling, “NARDO!!”  in that Noo Yawk accent.  (Elaine Nardo was the young woman who drove a cab, as you may recall.)

Twice during the night, then a third time at 6:30AM:


I got up.  Drove to the track.  Saw my dear friend, Wren Marshall.  Picked up the Post Parade for that day, and saw that…a horse named, ADIOS NARDO was running.  The 2 horse in the first race, I think I recall.

I nearly lost my mind.  I told Wren about the dreams–and she lost her mind, too.  Of course, we bet Adios Nardo to win.

He won, resoundingly.

To this day, Wren texts me every time she sees that Adios Nardo is racing.  He won at least eight times during his career.  (Which may still be ongoing…?)

“Mere coincidence,” you may say.  (Personally, I don’t believe in “mere coincidence,” I believe in GOD-incidence.  Or, as Karl Jung called it, “Synchronicity.”  On his gravestone in Latin, it reads, “Invited or not–God is present.”)

Tale Two:  In 2005, my friend, Kathie, and I took her Mom, Claire to the Kentucky Derby.  A first trip to Kentucky for all three of us, but for Claire it was a special gift.  She was 72, and had been a fan of racing since 1948, when she was 15 and Citation won the Triple Crown.  (To her dying day, she used nasty language when Secretariat’s name came up,  for his audacity, unseating Citation!) Nobody–but nobody–knew horses and racing like Claire Conmee.  And no one deserved to experience the Derby in person than Claire.  (IMHO, it’s people like Claire who deserve to be flown into Louisville and treated like royalty–not idiot starlets and rock stars who don’t know or care about horse racing.  REAL fans should be treated like rock stars–and rock stars, taught how to muck a stall.  But that’s another article, for another time.)

Well, we three made a full eight days of this trip.  On our way to Kentucky, we drove from my then-home (New Rochelle, New York—way downstate, in Westchester County) to Kentucky via Pennsylvania.

As Kathie drove, she spied a huge, green/white road sign that read, MARION 914.

Now, no doubt this was the sign leading to Marion, Pennsylvania and Route 914.

Kathie, however, yelped, “MARION!  9-1-4!!!!!”—then went on that, yes, Marion is my name—AND, living in New Rochelle—my area code was 914.

AND, she added, excitedly–her own birthday is September 14th:  9/14.

Obviously, as she and I hollered over each other—this was a sign from God.  We were supposed to bet 9-1-4 on SOMETHING on Derby Day.

“But which race?” Kathie wondered aloud.

Claire, from her more practical seat in the back, harrumphed and said,

“The Derby, of course.”

Of course.

So on Derby Day we got situated in our seats, then Kathie and I went to place all our bets.  We bet our real picks for the Derby—and all the other races that day—but we also took out three, $2 straight trifectas on 9-1-4 for the Derby.

Fast forward.  The race BEFORE the Derby…neither Kathie nor Claire saw the finish.  I saw the finish.  Looking up, Kathie said,

“Did you get the finish, Marion?”

“Yeah.  UGH. 9-1-4.”

“NINE-ONE-FOUR?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”  the three of us screamed in unison…


Paid $5,300 for the tri.  The race BEFORE the Derby.

Now, we three each blew a load of cash that day on bets. If ANY of us had thought, all we each had to do was add ONE more $2 straight tri to each race that day:  an extra $24 apiece.  Big deal, twenty-four bucks apiece.

Had we done that, we’d each have won over $5,000.

As Kathie ruefully pointed out later—and the rest of the trip…it was like God had said,

True, that.  Ouch, Lord.

So I believe in signs and dreams.  I believe in following one’s intuition.  I believe in stopping for ONE little second—and THINKING about the course of action, in response to a sign or dream. Then, I believe in ACTING on that thought process.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

Lesson?  Pay attention to the dream you had last night–or your gut feeling–then, ACT on it.

Me?  I had a spur-of-the-moment, gut response when asked yesterday about my picks…turns out, a friend dream’t the same numbers the night before.  So, MY bet today…a great tri-box, at least.  We may just have heard from God, Who wants us to act after we think

One never knows, do one?  Unless you give it a shot…