Get the picture? Another film on Ratzky's list is "Seven Days in May." Part of the plot, which is about the overthrow of the U.S. government from within, revolves around what Hitchcock would have called the MacGuffin--the raison d'etre. Those participating in the conspiracy were bettors in a mythical "Preakness pool," organized by Burt Lancaster's treacherous Army officer. Well, if Ratzky can do it, so can I, and here is my top 10:
9. "My Fair Lady" (1964). Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) takes Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to Royal Ascot. In the stretch run of a race, Eliza blurts: "Come on, Dover, move your bloomin' arse!"
8. "Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). The MacGuffin is the murder of a jockey at Golden Gate Fields. Nick Charles (William Powell) fingers the culprit by the final reel, but not after this conversation between a police lieutenant (Sam Levene) and Charles' wife Nora (Myrna Loy). Levene: "You know that jockey, Golez, the one who was caught throwing the fourth race yesterday? He was shot." Loy: "My, they're strict at this track!"
7. "Public Enemy" (1931). Off camera, James Cagney and Eddie Woods visit the stable of fellow mobster Nails Nathan (Leslie Fenton) and shoot his polo pony.
6. "The Godfather" (1972). John Marley, playing a Hollywood movie producer, wakes up in his bed to find the bloody head of his prized stallion.
5. Ben-Hur (1959). I don't know what the second-best sulky race of all-time is, but this is the first, by a country mile. There was no trifecta betting.
4. "The Late Show" (1977). Art Carney, a retired gumshoe waiting for a bus, is sitting on a bench with a big bag of dirty laundry. Bill Macy, in his Cadillac convertible, stops and says: "Where ya goin'?" "The Turf Club at Santa Anita," Carney says. "Where do you think, you crazy bastard?"
3. "Smart Money" (1931). The cops raid a gambling house run by Edward G. Robinson. "You got nothin' on me," Robinson says. "This joint isn't in my name." A cop says: "Oh yes, we do. Possession of illegal gambling paraphernalia." He points to a pocket in Robinson's overcoat, which contains a copy of the Racing Form. In the next scene, Robinson is seen being escorted to a train that will take him to a prison for a 10-year stretch.
2. "The Sting" (1973). Sitting in a bookie joint run by Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), mobster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) listens to a call of a race and says: "I put it all on Lucky Dan. Half a million dollars to win." Sitting next to him, Kid Twist (Harold Gould) says: "I said place! Place it on Lucky Dan! That horse is gonna run second!"
1. "It Ain't Hay" (1943). For my money, Abbott and Costello's mudder-fodder routine is every bit as good as "Who's on First?" An excerpt:
"Every morning, the farmer would feed Black Beauty," Costello says.
"Yes," Abbott says, "Black Beauty ate his fodder."
"Yes, and after that he would eat. . . He ate his fodder?
"Certainly, every horse eats his fodder."
"You mean he eats his fodder?"
"Yes! And his father eats his fodder, and his father eats his fodder."
"Pretty soon there wouldn't be no fodders left for Fodders' Day!"
Later, Abbott starts talking about a horse who's a good mudder.
"Modern mudders don't eat oats," Abbott says. "They eat their fodder."
"Here we go again!" Costello says. "What did you say?"
"I said he feeds his mudder his fodder."
"What have they got in the horse world--a bunch of cannibals?"