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The Schmooze

Forget American Pharoah — This Yiddish Horse Made Me Win Big

I have always been intrigued by the inventive and unusual names of racing horses. A few years ago, I wanted to bet on what was supposed to be a sure winner — Rachel Alexandra — because my two youngest granddaughters are sisters Rachel and Alexandra. The horse lost.

Unable to attend the 147th Running of the Belmont Stakes, featuring American Pharoah” going for a Triple Crown, the next best bet was the invite to join “100 of New York’s elite” at international Geneva-based jeweler de Grisogono’s Madison Avenue headquarters to see the race, share the excitement and mingle with guests that included de Grisogono president Giovanni Mattera, Ivana Trump, designer Victor Luna and Nikki Haskell, who in past years touted her annual celebrity Pesach chicken broth. The race was exciting, historic and unforgettable.

My first introduction to ranks of unusual racehorse names was when decades ago, my husband Joe and I were looking for space for our fledgling publishing company. After months of disappointing dead ends, we chanced upon a “for rent or lease” sign in what we felt would be an ideal location. When we called, a brusque voice invited us to a Park Avenue penthouse office.

A rather flamboyant character, the man who sat behind a huge desk gave us the once-over and offered us other properties he wanted to unload. We insisted that we wanted the one we had seen. “Do you like horses?” he blurted out. We nodded.

“I own fourteen horses,” he said. “Look at these stables,” he pulled out a portfolio with photos of a large white painted compound with state-of-the-art stalls. Turning page-by-page he called out the name of each horse until he came to the last one.

“Read this one’s name aloud,” he told me. I articulated the sign on the stall which read “Fair-Dell.” He shook his head. “Say it a little faster.” I did. “Faster!” he ordered. I did: “Fairdell.” “Nu? What does the name mean?” he asked impatiently. I blurted out “It’s ferdl —  Yiddish for horse!” He sat back and smiled. “O.K. kids, now let’s talk tachles [bottom line].” We didn’t have to negotiate for a reasonable rental. He gave us a lease with three renewals without any increases and wished us luck. Without “Ferdl” we might not have made it. Until his death, the landlord remained a caring friend.

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