Ho, Ho, Ho. The Happy Handicapper hasn't yet had time to check with everybody on the wish list, but he assumes that Santa Claus did his best to bring the perfect gifts to all the following.
Laffit Pincay Jr.: A new diet. Now that 117-pound Pincay has passed Bill Shoemaker's career wins record, maybe he can elevate his intake from 850 to, say, 920 calories per day. The extra 50 would allow him another teaspoon of mayonnaise.
Bill Shoemaker: Happiness and serenity in knowing that it took Pincay 4,297 more mounts to get one more winner than he had. (Shoemaker had 8,833 winners from 40,350 mounts. Pincay rode 44,647 horses to get 8,834 winners.)
The Exacta Kid: Finally getting to see his annual Christmas card Kentucky Derby prediction come true. This year's abridged offering: "When Santa Claus ponders the Derby on Christmas Eve . . . Here's hoping he'll alight on Captain Steve." And that was written before Captain Steve won the Hollywood Futurity last Saturday.
Layne Giliforte: The good fortune to stay on North America's Top 25 Trainers (by wins) list through the end of the year. As of Dec. 19, the Fort Erie record holder ranked No. 24 with 101 wins in 1999.
John McCririck: More respect from American horseplayers after the British handicapper -- known for his shaggy sideburns and outlandish hats -- picked the winners of both Breeders' Cup grass races on the NBC TV broadcast.
Secretariat: That the following paragraph from Frank J. Altieri's letter to Blood-Horse magazine be etched on your tombstone and on the base of your statue at Belmont Park: "For everyone who believes that there was a horse better than Secretariat, consider this: Line up your horse's best recorded performance (at any age) with Secretariat's Belmont. Then truthfully ask yourself: Was this better than Secretariat's Belmont? I don't think so."
Fort Erie Race Track management: Constant awareness that despite what the billboards say, you are running a race track with a slot machine facility. Not vice versa.
Belmont Park management: Another Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic-like winner of the first two-thirds of the Triple Crown. It sure makes the Belmont Stakes more exciting.
Buffalo Raceway management: So many new customers that they'll have to reopen the betting windows under the open grandstand. Also, a Web site that somebody keeps up to date.
Batavia Downs: A final resolution to the eternal question: Will "The Friendly Track" ever reopen?
Western Region OTB: A Hertel Avenue parlor that resembles something from the 21st century.
New York State's harness racing industry: Somebody in Albany who gives a darn.
Peace Bridge management: A copy of the Fort Erie racing schedule. Then maybe someone there might have a clue about when to open a few more inspection booths.
Senior citizens of Western New York: A shuttle bus to the Fort Erie Race Track that will not be subject to cancellation by their parents at City Hall.
Rodney Laframboise: A speedy recovery from the injuries that kept him out of the sulky at Buffalo Raceway most of the year.
Jack Flanigen: Another Buffalo Raceway driving championship and a continued will to keep trying with horses from the eight hole.
Mohawk Street OTB parlor: Some room. And a real job for "The Stooper."
Sports news departments of Channels 2, 4 and 7: A map to Hamburg and Fort Erie.
Martin Ramirez: A day-care arrangement for his daughter, so his wife, Maree Richards, can return to work and beat him out for the Fort Erie jockey championship.
Dover Downs: A repairman for the simulcast transmitter, or a new satellite or something. No simulcast watcher in Western New York has ever seen a complete DD race without the signal breaking up.
That guy who picks Buffalo Raceway in The News: "Best Bets" that don't lose 10 in a row like his did from Nov. 19 to Dec. 8.
Daily Racing Form: A circulation manager who can figure out how to get more papers to the newsstands on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, when people actually want to buy them.
OTB Grant Street parlor: A resident psychiatrist.
Fort Erie slot machine players: Continued good health. Every dollar they lose is an extra dime in the purse account for the races.
Adelphia Cable: A technical genius who can figure out how to make the Buffalo Raceway replays available to subscribers in the city of Buffalo, instead of just in the suburbs.
TV simulcast directors at race tracks everywhere: A clue about what horseplayers want. For instance, nobody listens to talking heads. And when a winner is drawing off by open lengths, let's see the battle for second place.
Ridge Lea OTB parlor (aka "Amherst Turfside Complex"): A longer "Happy Hour." Or at least a longer "Pizza for $1 a slice" period. Mmmm, mmm, good (and cheap).
Niagara Falls Rainbow Center Mall OTB parlor: A mall neighbor that doesn't go out of business.
Regis Philbin: A chance to ask the Happy Handicapper some horse questions on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."
Mrs. H.H.: More of that apparently unlimited supply of patience and understanding. And, of course, more blue boxes from Tiffany's.