Here it comes, the dreaded holiday. Valentine's Day is on its way. All true horseplayers must now face the eternal dilemma: how to express our love to the women in our lives when we live with a hidden mistress. That's what horse racing is to us--an all-consuming, daily passion that starts with a scan of the entries and ends with the reading of results. News about breeding and racing on the Internet, days at the track away from the weekends with the kids, trips with the buddies to the Breeders' Cup and Saratoga--these are all pursuits which define the diet of our sport that wives and lovers live with, and only because they live with us. Gifts for Valentine's Day won't be enough, guys. That lingerie went out with the girlish looks, and those chocolate hearts are the cause of it. So here are seven secrets that women keep from men who have a love for the races. With a little bit of luck (and what horseplayer doesn't have some?), this information might help you escape the pressures of the calendar and make you a bona fide 21st century, sensitive man. She likes the track, but doesn't love it. Unless your wife is a true horseplayer, she probably loves being with you more than being there. Give her a break once in a while and treat her to dinner someplace other than the clubhouse. You don't need her by your side every minute to prove that you love her. It's OK to go to the races with the guys, provided you don't forget about her completely. If she loves the track, she loves it for some other reason than you do. You like the action, the betting, the thrill of winning. She likes the thrill of winning, the day away from the kids, and looking at the people. When you're with her, don't watch the races from the rail. Remember to wear a clean shirt, comb your hair, and reserve the best table in the clubhouse. If she brings a book or her knitting along, you're in trouble. Better that she brings friends instead. Pick up the tab. She believes in picking her winners with a hat pin. The colors of the jockey's silks, the horse's name, the appearance of the owners in the walking ring--these are all legitimate reasons for women to take a stab at a longshot. A woman's intuition works in many ways, and when it does, don't be surprised. Women can tell when owners and trainers expect their horses will win by some savvy sixth sense. She doesn't need to hear from you which horse is going to win on the basis of track bias. She knows how much you've won or lost without asking. Your face is a dead giveaway, to say nothing of the swear words coming out of your mouth. Forget about that horse who faded in the stretch to upset your exacta. Your money is her money, by the way. Giving her a hundred bucks to have fun with wouldn't kill you. The mortal mistake is to ask for your stake back after she's hit a winner. Consider it an investment in the long, happy ordeal of living together. To her, a little bit of racing goes a long way. Stay away from the last race and don't fret over missing the double. The pursuit of beauty takes time, so making the first post could be troubling. And she probably believes that a serving of cocktails is better than a shot at the final superfecta. Five or six races is really the extent of a day at the races for her.
She would like to have a horse of her own. So go out and buy one, but don't expect her to manage the stable. She wants to name her horse, to pick out his colors, and to wear a pretty hat in the paddock. One more thing, make sure the horse runs in her name, not yours. She has the name and number of a divorce lawyer on speed dial. And she'll probably call him if she catches you reading this. Whatever you do, don't tell her that you know her secrets. And above all else, don't tell her who wrote this article. Women have a network. VICTOR ZAST is president of Private Perfumery in Chicago.