As many of you already know, May 7th is my last day as an employee of TVG. I’m leaving the network, but I’m NOT leaving the racing business, as I’ve accepted an offer to join the fantastic team at the Daily Racing Form. For many reasons, this is the right move for me, but it’s not easy to close the door on a 3 1/2-year run with TVG and the station formerly known as HRTV.
In addition to my family, my friends, and my girlfriend, there are many people at both stops that did a lot for me. Southern California has a reputation as a place where those who shake your hand are looking to stab you in the back the second you turn around, but I’ve been fortunate enough to deal with a lot of supervisors and co-workers that helped to mold me into the person I am. This column is my way of saying thank you to the following people.
Phil Kubel: We need to start here, because without Phil, there’s no way I’m in California. He met a 24-year-old kid from upstate New York in September of 2013, and despite having no obligation to help, offered me a job in HRTV’s digital media department. I gradually took on more responsibilities, and when TVG acquired HRTV a year and a half after my arrival, I was hired, in large part due to the body of work I put together under Phil’s tutelage. I’m grateful for him allowing me to get my foot in the door when he could have easily slammed it shut.
Jeff Siegel and Aaron Vercruysse: There are three on-air people I’m specifically going to call out. Although I consider many current and former TVG and HRTV hosts and analysts friends (Gino Buccola, Scott Hazelton, Kurt Hoover, Rich Perloff, Nick Hines, Joaquin Jaime, Christina Blacker, Mike Joyce, Simon Bray, Dave Weaver, and Matt Carothers, to name a bunch), Jeff and Aaron were the first two to give me a shot and let me help them on several key projects. I was a producer and fill-in talent for Santa Anita Uncut, which served as the predecessor for both HRTV/TVG Extra and XBTV’s live broadcasts, and being in that kind of an environment was one heck of an education. They didn’t have to bring me into the loop, or let me contribute as much as I did, but they did.
Caton Bredar: It’s story time. HRTV sent me to the 2014 Belmont Stakes to help cover California Chrome’s attempt to capture horse racing’s Triple Crown. While there, I assisted Jeff Siegel on a primitive version of the “Uncut” broadcasts from just outside the Belmont Park paddock. It was a good show (would’ve been better had Commissioner held on in the Belmont at ridiculous odds!!!), but what I remember most came after it was over.
I was in the rickety HRTV trailer close to the Long Island Railroad platform after the races were over when Caton walked in. We’d just met for the first time earlier that week, and we didn’t know each other too well, but she got my attention, looked at me, and asked, “Are you trying to steal everyone’s jobs? You were really good!”
In my brief career to date, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, both good and not so good, from some pretty powerful and/or well-known people. I can recite many pieces of hate mail from memory, including one from a Kentucky Derby-winning owner and another from upper management at a VERY prominent racetrack! There is no question that what Caton said to me is still the best compliment I’ve ever received from anyone in the horse racing business, and it’s something I won’t soon forget. Caton, if you’re reading: Thanks.
Kip Levin, Phil Dixon, Enrico Rusi, Bhavesh Patel: I needed to lump all four of these current or former TVG executives into one spot. We’ve all had bad experiences with higher-ups at companies at one time or another. However, I need to thank the members of this quartet for being an easy group to work with and/or for.
I’ll keep this short, but I want to point stuff out individually that marks how instrumental each person was in what I was able to do. Kip saw my passion for racing immediately, and he backed a lot of what I wanted to do on social media. Phil was always receptive when I had a line on a horse and never once tried to limit my enthusiasm for what I did despite having an office five steps from my desk. Enrico, the head of the TVG marketing department, was my second-line manager for a while, and the way he dealt with me following a key moment several weeks ago stands as a shining example for how to treat people in an honest, respectful way.
I ended with Bhavesh because there’s another story I need to tell. When I was hired from HRTV, he and Stephen Kennelly (more on him later) took me to lunch. Bhavesh’s management style was to ask challenging questions, and he asked what I felt the most pressing issue in horse racing was. Unbeknownst to him, I’d been asked that question many times before, so I had an honest answer ready about how the breeding industry commands racing’s best horses to leave the track earlier and earlier while also breeding for speed instead of soundness or stamina. As I recall, I did not take a breath for a solid minute when putting forth my answer, which may or may not have sounded like a sticking point in a politician’s stump speech.
My guess is that Bhavesh wasn’t prepared for that kind of reaction. Not only did he not ask me a single question for the rest of lunch, but over the next few months, I became the guy entrusted with growing HRTV/TVG Extra, as well as acquiring eyeballs on TVG’s audio-visual products through YouTube, Twitter, and other forms of social media. I need to thank him for acknowledging that I knew what I was doing, and also for letting me do it. This sounds REALLY simple, but sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot to manage your employees well.
Stephen Kennelly and Rebecca Somerville: If all managers were as talented as these two, all workplaces would be a lot more pleasant. Stephen managed me in marketing, Rebecca (also known as Becky Witzman) managed me in live production, and I’m grateful to both for the work I was allowed to do on their watch.
The reason you saw blog posts, videos, tickets, and Periscope broadcasts from me on TVG’s platforms for so long is because Stephen allowed it and, for the most part, didn’t tell me to stop. Meanwhile, under Rebecca, I’ve coordinated TVG’s Facebook Live streams and continued to grow our social media audience. For better or for worse, I wanted a career in media production because it just seemed more fun than 99% of the alternatives out there. In this case, my first-line managers did what they could to keep my fire lit, which made me more productive and also allowed me to enjoy what I did.
The TVG marketing department: If I seem wordy, or loud, or pompous to you as you consume this (or anything else I’ve written or produced), imagine dealing with me in-person in a bullpen-style setup all day. Not exactly a duty that inspires much enthusiasm, is it? Well, that’s the unfortunate task that was hoisted upon members of the TVG marketing department beginning in 2015, and whether you realize it or not, these people are some of the hardest-working employees in the world of online gambling.
If there’s a promotion happening, it’s their doing, from the planning stages all the way to when gamblers get paid out. Stuff changes all the time with little to no advance notice, and if technological failures arise, they deal with them as much or more than any other part of the company (quick aside: If you’ve tweeted mean things at TVG over the past two years, I was the one who saw them; if you got really mean, I accept apologies in the form of donations to your local no-kill animal shelter and gift certificates to sports bars). This cast of characters that includes Danny Kovoloff, Luciana Bach, Freddy Sundara, Tommy Gaebel, and Pedro “Cache Flush” Friere is among the best in the business at what they do, and these people don’t get anywhere near the props they deserve, either for doing their jobs or for dealing with my motor mouth as well as they have.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. From my standpoint, it certainly took a lot of people to mold me into the person I’ve become. I could go into the reasons why I’m leaving to take on a new challenge, but what’s more important is to recognize all of the people that helped me succeed in the jobs I’ve held for 3 1/2 years. Without the people I’ve mentioned, you’re probably not on this site right now.
To those I mentioned, it’s been a pleasure working with you, and this has been my way of expressing that.