12/27/2002 1:00AM

Info-wise, the good old days weren't so great


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Fifteen years ago, a man asked me an important question. His distinctive garb left no doubt in my mind that he was fully qualified to ask me the question. And I had gone to the trouble of purchasing and wearing a tuxedo so that I would appear to be qualified to answer it. As I understood the situation, I would be given only one chance to guess what the correct answer might be, with absolutely no coaching allowed from any member of the audience. It promised to be a pressure-packed moment.

The question went something like this: "Do you take this woman . . . yada, yada, yada . . . sickness and health . . . yada, yada, yada . . . forsake all others. . .yada, yada, yada?" I must have answered the question correctly, since I received a standing ovation shortly thereafter.

As you might have guessed, some of the details of my wedding are a little fuzzy as I try to recall them all these years later. But I'm positive about one thing: At no point during the preamble, or during the question and answer portion of the ceremony was there any mention of a timetable for the discarding, recycling, or forsaking of my collection of Daily Racing Forms. If there had been I most certainly would remember it now since I am a very responsible man, and that is the type of important question that definitely would have grabbed my attention.

Nevertheless, a decade and a half later, my wife has gently requested that I part company with most of my stacks of old Daily Racing Forms. That seems like a risky move to me. What happens if we, as a married couple, suddenly need past performances for the 1989 Pegasus Handicap? What if, out of the blue, some radio station contest requires that we tell them how fast Le Voyageur, Bruho, and Dale's Shotgun worked before the 1989 Super Derby, with a big cash prize at stake for us? We would be up a creek then, wouldn't we?

My wife is unmoved by these arguments. Truth be told, she's probably right, at least from a handicapping perspective. A glance at the past performances from Sept. 22, 1989, shows that they were relatively primitive compared with the past performances we have become accustomed to in recent years. There was precious little detailed information about the various claiming and allowance conditions of races. There were no Beyer Speed Figures. No records containing wet track and fast track races in separate categories. No medication information, and only limited historical equipment information. There were no Tomlinson ratings. There were only four points of call in route races. There were no length margins between the first four finishers. No italicized names to indicate that a horse who had finished among the first three last time had won his next race. Only occasional trouble notes were offered. There were no trainer win percentages for any of the situations that pertained to the race at hand, or any associated ROI's. A maximum of 10 running lines per horse. No previous trainers of a horse were listed. There were no layoff lines, and no indication of how a workout ranked with others at the same distance that day. I'll spare you the other details, but the inescapable conclusion is that the good old days weren't nearly as good as I had remembered them to be.

As far as my need to hold on to many years worth of papers, I have access to a good library of Forms in the office, dating back about eight years, and if need be, I can dig up issues that are stored by our office that date back to long before I was born. Better yet, the Keeneland library is in the process of compiling a collection of every issue of Daily Racing Form since 1896 (what could our logo have said back then? America's Turf Authority for two years?)

The solution at the Klein household is that I can keep two years of past performances. Simulcast Weekly is much more compact, and contains so much useful information, that I have free reign to keep all of the issues I have, and all that will be printed for the next few years. My handful of issues of The Racing Times will be kept until they fall apart. They are special to me, and there is no room for negotiation on that point.

The bottom line is that a happy marriage is a matter of give and take. As long as I give up, and take the other papers to the recycle bin, my wife will be happy.