My efforts to provide readers with a Christmas present, in the form of a winner at Laurel, failed miserably on Monday when the supposed mortal lock finished out of the money. Local horseplayers will have to get their gifts from other sources, and so they may as well start dropping hints now to their friends and loved ones.
In order to aid shoppers who are attempting to find wonderful and appropriate items for horseplayers, I have canvassed local stores and can offer suggestions for presents -- ranging in price from 89 cents to $775 -- that are sure to bring more delight than my mortal lock did.
Any racing fan would be ecstatic if he opened his front door on Dec. 25 and found a copy of the Daily Racing Form that represented the start of a subscription. The District News Co. (277-4800) charges $136.50 for three months of home delivery.
The horseplayer who gets this present and promptly settles down to dope out the Christmas Day Handicap at Calder would probably appreciate having his stocking stuffed with a few red Flair pens (89 cents at drug stores everywhere). They are the essential handicapping tool.
In order to analyze the Christmas Day Handicap intelligently, a horseplayer might be helped by a book on the subject, although I couldn't find a single local bookstore with a very thorough collection of racing literature.
William Quirin's "Winning at the Races" (Morrow, $19.95) is an interesting application of computer studies to the sport. "Ainslie's Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing" (Simon and Schuster, $16.95) is a classic that belongs in every bettor's library, although it's somewhat outdated. There is one good recent novel about playing the horses, Bill Barich's elegantly written "Laughing in the Hills" (Viking, $10.95).
Almost as vital to a horseplayer as his red Flair pen is a good set of binoculars. They come in a wide variety of sizes, although 7x50 glasses are probably the best for watching races. They also come in a wide variety of prices. One of the best midpriced models, Bushnell Custom binoculars, sell for $208 at Livingston and Co. (1423 H St. NW).
Bushnell also makes a cheaper model, the Sportview, which costs $70 at The Sportsman (Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue in Bethesda). I'd like my friends and loved ones to know that the Leitz 7x50 binoculars that cost $754.86 at the Penn Camera Exchange (915 E St. NW) would be a perfectly acceptable stocking-stuffer.
Shopping for horseplayers is relatively easy because thoroughbreds are beautiful creatures and lend themselves to many types of decorative items. For example, Weaver and Sons Hardware Co. (1208 Wisconsin Ave. NW) sells a very handsome brass horse-head door knocker for $35. A pair of brass horse-head bookends is available for $38 at the stationery department of Woodward and Lothrop (11th and F Streets NW).
A cane with a horse-head handle sells for $35 at Camalier and Buckley (1141 Connecticut Avenue NW). A walnut cutting board with brass horsehead handles costs $100 at The Sporting Life (3029 M St. NW), which carries many other interesting equine items. A beautiful set of coasters depicting English racehorses of yore costs $12.95 at The Threepenny Bit (3124 M St. NW).
Horsey neckties are easy to find, but most of the ones I saw this year were rather boring. By far the best was a tie decorated with various colorful racing silks, which Neiman-Marcus (5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW) sells for $16.50. Matching pocket squares cost $12.50.
Horse-oriented jewelry comes in many beautiful (and, invariably, expensive) forms. Any female racing fan would surely appreciate the glittery diamond horseshoe ring that Charles Ernest Jewelers (1027 Connecticut Ave. NW) sells for $580. The Tiny Jewel Box (1143 Connecticut Ave. NW) has an antique sterling silver broach in the form of a riding crop that costs $75.
My all-time favorite piece of horsey jewelry can be made to order by D.J. Pampillonia Jewelers (1213 Connecticut Ave. NW). It is a set of cufflinks, consisting of 14-karat gold horses' heads with a little diamond eye. They cost $775.
Of course, not all horsey gifts are quite so tasteful. Becker's Leather Goods (1101 F St. NW) sells a Lucite toilet seat decorated with a horseshoe, a $2 bill and parimutuel tickets from tracks across the country. For only $260 you can have the most talked-about toilet on your block.
Becker's does sell an attractive item, a $29.95 ice bucket that depicts horses superimposed over past performances from the Racing Form. A set of six glasses in a similar motif costs $22.95. To fill those glasses, Eagle Wine and Cheese (3345 M St. NW) sells a $59.95 decanter, in the shape of a horse and rider, that is filled with 80-proof McCormack Bourbon. That may be just what we need to ease the pain caused by any unsuccessful "mortal locks" in the year ahead.