INTERLUDE: A Letter to My Younger Self

Hey, kid! Yeah, you. I’m you, 15 years down the line. Scary, isn’t it? The thought that the future version of you is in any position to write a letter to his younger self? Trust me, I didn’t expect this, either.

Like with pretty much everything else, you can blame this on professional wrestling (yep, you’ll still be watching). One of the guys you grew up watching, Diamond Dallas Page, wrote one of these, and he did it so well that it brought up things I’d forgotten. One of those things is that you just came back from your ninth-grade orientation at Kingston High School, and in that folder you’re carrying was a copy of the next day’s Daily Racing Form past performances for Saratoga.

Here’s the kicker, kid. What if I told you that, by the time you’re 29, you’ll be working for them and doing a lot of the things you’ve always wanted to do? Cool, right? It is. There’s just one thing you need to know.

That family curse your dad talks about, the one where a Champagne can’t ever do things quietly? You’ve got it, and you’ve got it bad.

Because of this, your trip to where I’m at now will be a long, strange one, complete with many twists, turns, and crazy moments that you’ll swear can only happen to you. Just bear with me on this one, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

– – – – –

You know that audio-visual club you joined, KHS-TV? That’ll be one of the best things that’s ever happened to you. Your advisors, John Moriarty and Andrew Sheber, will learn a lot about you over the next few years, and they’ll be instrumental in forging the person you want to be.

It seems daunting as a nervous, pudgy high school freshman, but over the next few years, you’ll wind up being the main sports reporter for the club. Your junior and senior years will consist of traveling with teams, going in extra early the next day to cut highlights, picking up PA announcing work on the side, and ultimately becoming one of the most visible people at the school.

Your senior year, you’ll also write for the newspaper. Your attitude won’t sit well with some people. In fact, at the end of the year, the award you’ll win from advisor Sean O’Brien (one of the good guys) is entitled, “I used to be conceited, but now I’m perfect.” That won’t bother you, and it won’t bother you for a defined reason: Nobody can ever accuse you of not putting in the necessary work. Hell, there will be one newspaper where your grade for the journalism class that puts out the newspaper is something in the 210’s out of 100, simply because your name is on five or six different stories.

Opinions of you will vary widely. Some teachers (including your English and science fiction teacher, Mr. Stein, who you’ll co-host a game show with) will love you, and so will some students, including Ted King-Smith, your best friend since kindergarten (want to feel old? You’ll be in his wedding in 2018). As a senior, you’ll even mentor a kid named Ron Miles who reminds you a lot of yourself. Get ready for this: He’ll go into football coaching, win a national championship as a graduate assistant with Ohio State, and work for an NFL team. Others (namely some fellow students and an athletic director at a rival high school you almost get in a fistfight with) won’t care for your shtick. Some student-athletes will have other problems with you, namely the music you play at certain sporting events. If you’re disturbed by how much I remember, know that I am as well. At this point, there isn’t much I can do about my mind being Sicilian in nature. I apologize in advance, because this won’t get better.

When it comes time to go to college, you’ll get lucky. You’ll have two top choices, Ithaca College and Syracuse University. Syracuse will make your decision really simple, because they’ll reject you. Don’t sweat this, because you’ll wind up going EXACTLY where you’re supposed to go.

– – – – –

Be very thankful that you have two good parents. You’ve always been close to your dad, and he’s the one that took you to the track as a kid and to high school sporting events when he worked for a small local paper. You don’t share a lot of interests with your mother, and even today, she gets angry when you get frustrated about not picking a winning horse. That said, she’s always enabled you to do what you want to do, even when your desired career path isn’t glamorous.

All of that plays a large part in getting you to Ithaca College, specifically the TV/Radio program at the world-renowned Park School of Communications. The reason you pick Ithaca is the ability to do what you want to do right away, and you were right to do it. Immediately, you become the primary PA announcer for Ithaca College athletics thanks to associate athletic director Mike Lindberg and his staff, and you also pick up TV and radio work, too.

As good as Mike Lindberg, Ernie McClatchie, and his team are, though, there’s one negative constant, and it’s your first exposure to someone with actual power not liking you. The head sports information director will be a thorn in your side for the better part of four years, including once berating you in front of the entire press box for having the nerve to go to the men’s room during a delay in a football game. He’ll even go after your father when he shows up for a few games, solely because he thinks he can do whatever he wants without any repercussions (he can’t, but more on that later).

That one person, though, doesn’t cancel out all of the good things you’ll do and all of the people you meet. As a senior, you’ll become one of the voices of Ithaca College football on WICB, and you’d better bring it, because the people you’ll work with are GOOD. Your partner is Josh Getzoff, who’ll wind up calling games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Your sports director is Nate March, who, in addition to becoming one of the top minor league baseball broadcasters in the country in his mid-20’s, will become one of your best friends (you’ll be in his wedding, too). You’ll call a game with Josh Canu, who’ll work for NBC Sports, and you’ll have a story for years to come when his car breaks down 40 miles from campus. Someone a few years younger than you, Gavin Cote, will work at ESPN and name-drop your beloved 1994 Chrysler LeBaron in a speech at Nate’s wedding (somehow, by the way, that car will get you through college). The sports radio and TV staffs become one big family, complete with irrational blowups at one another and wars about everything from women to the intramural flag football team (spoiler alert: your team stinks), but you’ll meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have by doing that.

You’ll also make real connections with some of your professors. You’ll play golf with a guy named Stephen Mosher, who’s pretty much Robin Williams’s character from “Good Will Hunting” come to life. You’ll talk horses with Jack Powers, whose credits include consultations on a hit TV show called “Modern Family.” You’ll love Peter Johanns, especially since he won’t kill you for counting the number of times he says the phrase, “something along those lines,” during his Advanced Studio Production class.

Even better, you’ll get the experience of a lifetime in 2010. Crazy as it sounds, NBC uses student interns from Ithaca and Syracuse during the Olympics. You’ll intern at the Winter Games in Vancouver as part of the Highlights Factory. You’ll meet Lester Holt, Mary Carillo, Al Michaels, and Bob Costas. You’ll go to the women’s curling semifinals with Nick Karski, who will spend most of his time wondering why he went to a curling match with a guy who never shuts up (don’t worry, part of that is why you two get along splendidly). You’ll work side-by-side with high-level guys like Brian Gilmore, Eric Hamilton, and Gary Quinn, all of whom are tremendous at their jobs, but even better people. Furthermore, it turns out you’ve got distant family in Vancouver who will show you around, even taking you in for a home-cooked meal when they have no obligation to do so.

Those six weeks will be some of the best weeks of your life. You’d better enjoy them, though, because when you get home, it’s going to be tough.

– – – – –

For all of the shtick you put forth sometimes, you’re also pretty conscientious about planning things. You major in TV/Radio at Ithaca while somehow pulling off a double-minor in Sport Studies and Speech Communication and somehow do it in 3 1/2 years, allowing you to get a three-month head start on a job hunt once you fly back from Vancouver. Having said that, I need to warn you: These next few months won’t go well.

You’ll send your resume to every single college athletic department, TV station, radio station, and newspaper you can think of. You’ll get varying responses, including some very nice rejections and a few mean ones (one of which you’ll still have in a separate email folder in 2017 because it stuck with you). Finally, in October, you’ll get a call from Siena College, and you’ll go to work…pretty much doing everything in the one department you swore you’d never work for at Ithaca: Sports information.

(By the way, remember how I said there’d be more on the Ithaca SID? Yeah, he’ll get fired a few years after you leave, and by the accounts of some people you trust, nobody will stand up for him as his fate is decided.)

You’ll work there for two years, and you’ll bust your butt before getting a full-time offer from The Saratogian. That puts you back at the racetrack, and in the stands at high school and college games in the area. You’ll love going to games, and you’ll love the people you work with (some of whom you’ll be close to years after you leave that paper). People loving you, though? That’s going to be dicey sometimes. You’ll get yelled at by a few people for impersonating “The West Wing” communications director Toby Ziegler’s ball-throwing tendency when thinking, and one of your co-workers will act in an unforgivable way at the track in the summer of 2013. Still, nobody can ever logically accuse you of not putting in the work, and that’s what gets you through that summer.

The day after Labor Day, you’ll take a train to New York City. You’ll head into a lounge at a hotel and meet a man named Phil Kubel, who’s hiring for the digital media arm of HRTV. It’s based at Santa Anita, and after meeting you, he’ll fly you out to California. You’ll sit in on meetings with execs like Amy Zimmerman and Michael Canale, and ultimately, you’ll move west the next month, in need of a fresh start that the job provides.

You’ll get it, and then some. You’ll love what you do, you’ll love being at the track every day, and, six weeks after you move, you’ll meet someone you’ll fall head over heels for. Trust me, kid. As bad as things seem directly before your move, you’ll know instantly that you’ve made the right decision to move when you meet her. She’s infinitely better-looking than you are, she’s actually got a desire to do the dirty work 99% of Americans will never want to do, and even though she doesn’t know it when you meet her, she’s destined to be the best third-grade teacher anyone could ever ask for.

You’ll get sent to Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races, some of the most well-known broadcasters will take a liking to you (namely Caton Bredar, Jeff Siegel, and Aaron Vercruysse), and even after a brief hiccup in the summer of 2014 that you’ll save the full story about for your memoirs (to be written once certain people retire or die), things will seem to be going incredibly well…and then you’ll get a monkey wrench thrown into everything.

You see, the TV station you work for will be sold to its main competitor, TVG, in early-2015. There’ll be a few weeks of uncertainty with regard to future employment, and you won’t know where money will come from. Thankfully, two men, Bhavesh Patel and Stephen Kennelly, will bring you into the fold, and, even better, they know how to manage you. You’re going to stun Bhavesh into silence at a meeting when you display your expertise, and rather than micromanage you, he and Stephen will simply recognize that you know how to do your job and leave you to it.

You won’t just handle digital media for them. You’ll handicap for them, and bluntly, you’ll be surprisingly good at it. In an age where people will look for any reason to complain about public handicappers (if you think it’s bad now, kid, just wait a few years until something called Twitter comes along), you’ll post a $500 profit on Pick Four tickets in 2015 and pick winners at a 27% clip in 2016. You’ll also host online broadcasts for them and be in charge of getting eyeballs on online content. You’ll gladly go the extra mile for what you do, especially since you’re paid hourly. What’s more, they’ll let you handicap for The Saratogian, where you’ve ascended to the role of featured handicapper following the retirement of Nick Kling (one of the best to ever pick horses on a daily basis).

Better still, you’ll meet people like you. There’ll be a guy in marketing who you work next to, and you won’t know a thing about him when you start. However, on a random walk to the other side of the office in your first week at TVG, you’ll notice Danny Kovoloff is reading the same wrestling blog you read. You’ll exclaim, “YOU’RE A SCOTT KEITH GUY!!!,” and giggle like a schoolgirl, and that’s how you’ll know you’re going to be okay.

You’ll meet two different Italian versions of yourself. One of them is headed out the door of TVG as soon as you arrive, it seems, but you wind up getting so close after he leaves that you get a standing invitation to Gino Buccola’s family’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza. Two side notes: One, his family may consist of the nicest people on the planet. Two, the greatest play of your athletic career will come at a softball game hosted near his house. Pro tip: At some point between now and Fourth of July in 2017, learn how to slide into third base.

The other Italian version of yourself is a track announcer that knows every small track like the back of his hand, it seems, and one who you’ll become close with in a bizarre way. You see, he’ll call a race at Gulfstream Park featuring a horse named Fallen Leaf, who appears to be on her way to victory. He’ll say, “No antics of any kind…,” only for the horse to prop near the wire and throw the jockey. He’ll deadpan, “…and there we go with the antics,” and your crazy mind will deduce that this must take off as a Twitter phenomenon. By Pete Aiello’s own admission, the era of the Aiellobomb will be a very strange time, but the two of you will begin bantering back and forth, and you’ll be better off for it.

You’ll also meet another guy to whom you’ll owe a debt you can’t repay. See, in 2017, your job at TVG will change drastically, to the point that you realize it’s time to look around (this is another story for the memoirs that can’t be written until certain people retire or die). This guy, who has never met you and barely knows who you are, will listen as you look for someone, ANYONE, to talk to about your situation. You’ll ramble, all while trying to sound somewhat coherent, and, bless his kind, Midwestern heart, he’ll give you an email address for Jody Swavy, the editor-in-chief at the Daily Racing Form. Within two months of the change in status at TVG, you’ll be on a plane to New York City to train for a job in digital media at the publication you just spent your high school orientation reading, and you’ll have Joe Nevills (and, by extension, fellow DRF Breeding colleague/former Saratogian sports editor Nicole Russo) to thank for a large portion of it.

Some of these people probably won’t like being name-dropped. The fact is, though, you won’t get anywhere without them. You’ll put in the work, but life’s about the people you meet and the relationships you forge. You don’t do Christmas cards, because you find them too time-consuming and boring, so you naturally choose to write 3,000 words (exactly 3,000, per Microsoft Word) to express your gratitude to those who deserve it, from your friends and family to a girlfriend that you’ve been with for four years and love very much. Like pretty much everything else you do, what some people think of as ego or a strong personality is really just trying to do the best you can at all times.

I don’t have a lot of other tips for you, because as I write this, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. It doesn’t matter that the journey followed a circuitous route. I’m happy.

Do what makes you happy. Everything else will take care of itself.


P.S.: Avoid the organic ice cream at the casino you visit in Aruba your senior year of high school. Just trust me.

INTERLUDE: Standing Up for the Younger Crowd

…we were SO close.

I’m a pretty easygoing guy. Maybe it’s my California residence, maybe it’s that I have what I consider to be a dream job, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had a darned good year at the betting windows, but it takes a lot to tick me off, and for the first 35 days of the racing meet at Saratoga, that didn’t happen.

That was before Wednesday night, though, when I saw a post in a popular Facebook group called “Thoroughbred Racing in New York” that sent me over the edge. Full disclosure: I like and/or respect most of the group’s 2,600-plus members. I’ve met many of them on multiple occasions in various settings, and I consider the group’s chief moderator, Ernie Munick, a great ambassador for the sport and an even better person.

Here’s the full story. NYRA analyst Anthony Stabile, who I don’t know and have never met, went on TV after Arrogate’s second-place finish in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He remarked that he was a member of the “younger generation,” and that not only did he consider Arrogate to be one of the best horses he’d ever seen, but that he also considered the big grey to be one of the best horses of all-time.

As comrade and Gulfstream Park track announcer Pete Aiello would say, “…and there we go with the antics.”

Outcry from some racing veterans against Stabile’s comments got pretty harsh. Before we go any further, here’s the crux of my column: I’m not here to argue for or against Stabile’s opinion. What I’m crusading against is the belief of some in the game that the opinions of those younger than them don’t carry weight, simply because of when the people carrying those views were born.

Nowhere was that more evident than in a comment I saw from a few days ago. The comment said, and I’m quoting here, “Stabile is just like so many younger fans who are blind to the past.”

I was fine before reading that. Every other comment, I could shrug off and move on from without a second thought. For some reason, that one hit me hard. It’s probably because I’m a nerd who has devoured most of the books on racing history that have been published in the last 20 years, but that comment reeked of such ignorance and snobbery that I could not possibly let it go unchecked.

I’ve always been a believer that most aspects of horse racing revolve around one central mission: Use what’s happened in the past to your advantage as you work forward. Gamblers do it every day reading the Daily Racing Form. Trainers do it in their barns when making split-second decisions on how to train their horses and where to run them. Owners and breeders analyze pedigrees and running lines on a constant basis when looking to breed or purchase horses. Marketing and business-types analyze handle numbers from every conceivable angle using data that would make your head spin (I worked for an ADW/television network for more than two years; trust me, I’d know). Heck, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, an organization for which I’m proud to cast an annual ballot, is BUILT on that very concept.

Put simply, any claims that younger people in the industry don’t know their history are wrong. If we didn’t know our history, we wouldn’t have lasted five minutes, let alone thrived. I’m 28 years old, and I have no memory of seeing any great horse before the days of Cigar. Does that make me any less fit to express my opinion? Of course not.

I’ve won awards for my work in the business. I work for the leading authority on horse racing news in this country, and my resume includes stops at both HRTV and TVG. I’ve also been fortunate enough to continue my work for The Saratogian as that paper’s main handicapper, and I’m simply stating a fact when I tell you that any credible list of top public handicappers at that track (based there or anywhere else) has me on it. That isn’t arrogance, or bluster, or ego, or a strong personality talking. That’s a conclusion grounded in statistics and facts from the past several years.

So yeah. Forgive me if I took those comments just a wee bit personally.

I’m not alone in having a certain amount of gravitas in this business at a young age. The aforementioned Pete Aiello isn’t even halfway to social security, and he’s emerged as one of the top race-callers in the business. Joe Nevills, Nicole Russo, Matt Bernier, and David Aragona are similar-aged colleagues at the Daily Racing Form and TimeformUS, and I’d put their skills in their respective lines of work up against those of anyone else in the business. They’re that good, and they’re going to BE that good for a long, long time.

I’ve worked with Gino Buccola, Caleb Keller, Joaquin Jaime, Tom Cassidy, and Britney Eurton at TVG, along with a large number of people behind the scenes whose names you don’t know but who the operation would not work without. HRTV was much the same way. Once again, please let me stress that this is not a matter of if I agreed with those people all of the time. The point I’m trying to make is different, and it’s simple: You don’t get to bash the source of those comments simply because that source is younger than you’d like him/her to be.

I’ve heard this stuff before, and I’m tired of it. I’ve gotten hate mail from a Kentucky Derby-winning owner. I’ve been told by people that I’m not good at what I do, and in fact, being told that there were certain things I wasn’t good enough to do sparked the very existence of this site. Those who know me well will tell you that the best way to motivate me is to tell me I can’t do something. That flips a switch, and my priority instantly becomes to prove people wrong. Dislike me as much as you want, and I probably won’t care. Disrespect me, or try to discredit me, and I’m going to pull out all the stops to prove you wrong.

If it seems like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder sometimes, that’s probably accurate. The stuff about ego and bluster, though, is a bit overblown, and if you think my personality is that strong, understand that you’re seeing my competitive nature and a freakish desire to be the best at what I do, all the time. I know that doesn’t sit well with some people, and I’ve paid for that (for stories on that topic, check back in 30 years when I write my memoirs to pay for Pick Four tickets). I’ve come to terms with being labeled as “the motor-mouthed kid that doesn’t shut up,” but what I refuse to tolerate is the notion that anyone under the age of 35 or so shouldn’t be taken seriously solely because we’re younger than most of our contemporaries.

What was said struck a chord with me in all the wrong ways. I won’t speak for some of the people that I’ve mentioned in this column, but I will say that I refuse to be disregarded simply because I’m younger than most of the people in my field. I’ve done too much and worked too hard to be treated that way, and I know I’m not alone in putting in the time and effort.

To those who come here and value my input and thoughts: Thank you. You’re a large part of the reason I write this stuff. If you’re one of the people who thinks those younger than you are somehow inferior simply because of their age, think again. I won’t accept it, and I’ll be happy to tell you, and show you, that you’re wrong.

The First Ever Fantasy Horse Racing Simulcast Team Draft

A short brainstorm between myself and DRF compadre Joe Nevills resulted in what we felt was a genius idea: Take four degenerates working in horse racing, put them together, and have them draft their dream simulcast TV crew. Yes, we’re weird.

Having said that, we got two of our friends in on the game: Gulfstream Park track announcer Pete Aiello and TwinSpires/Brisnet grid connoisseur Ed DeRosa. Our basic ground rules were pretty simple. This would be contested in a “snake draft” format, where whoever picks first in odd-numbered rounds picks last in even-numbered rounds, and vice versa. Each roster consists of the following positions: Announcer, host, analyst, handicapper, field/paddock reporter, flex, and one bench spot. Finally, those drafting could not draft themselves, and were limited to drafting one current co-worker.

With that in mind, let’s get to the draft!


Yeah, I picked someone else in the league. Maybe I’ll put him in a costume, hand him some flyers, and make him the highest-drafted mascot in league history. Do something about it.

Beyond those simple trolling pleasures, Pete is the kind of personality and multi-tool player you can build a program around. No announcer’s star has risen faster over the past half-decade, and he’s proven to be a versatile on-air talent, both in announcing and pre/between-race talking head segments. Plus, he has experience running myriad behind-the-scenes positions at the racetrack away from the camera, so his value only increases.

A relentless handicapper, Pete knows what he’s talking about when it comes to identifying horses to watch, and he more than has the ability to keep viewers hooked whether he’s picking a horse to win or calling it down the stretch. Plus, his sense of humor and quick thinking will ensure he gets a race call to go viral every so often, which raises the profile of my fictional racetrack, Son of Mount Pleasant Meadows. I want my track to be fun, and he’ll make sure of it.

Perhaps the biggest draw for drafting Pete in the #1 slot is that he’s still a high-upside prospect. He’s among the younger announcers calling at a major track, meaning you’re going to have him for a long time compared to some of the more experienced names out there, and he’s only going to keep improving with time. He’s a long-term pick that’s already perfectly suited for a “win-now” franchise, and I’m happy to have him on-board. Now, get in the damn bear suit and pass out those Lyft vouchers!!!

PA: I have to write ALL THAT?!

AC: “…and there we go with the antics.”

I’m not at all surprised with that pick. I figured Pete would go fairly early, and in fact he was one of the top guys on my Big Board That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness (BBTTROA for short). However, I’ve got a different strategy in mind, one that involves a big name, an even better guy…and, for my money, the best hair in the game.


My background isn’t just in social media. I’ve been on both sides of the camera and behind a microphone, and I know that the toughest on-air job there is falls on the shoulders of the host. Hosts are traffic cops, weaving instructions from producers and directors (that are sometimes yelled quickly and filled with four-letter words) seamlessly with external obligations and the other pitfalls of live television. It takes someone with a ton of talent to do this in such a way that the show stays afloat.

Laffit’s one of the best in the world of horse racing at doing this. He’s composed, he knows both the subject matter and the world of television, and he’ll ensure that the long-suffering wives of those watching my simulcast feed don’t force their husbands to change the channel (thus ensuring we meet our handle goals). As long as we can afford the elixir that ensures Laffit’s hair stays perfect at all times, I think things will work swimmingly.

PA: What’s the metric here? “Getting over” with the racing public? Creating “must see TV?”

AC: It’s whatever you want it to be. Now get back in Joe’s bear suit that he may or may not have washed.


AC: Most important question: Bow tie on or off?

ED: Bow tie off. He’s more than just a pretty face. He also asks Perry Martin the tough questions.


Matt is a speed handicapper and a company line handicapper like me. He’s young enough to get some good longevity out of and is well known by the audience. He’s also a polarizing figure like myself, so I gravitate to that.

Travis is a pure value play. He can run any department at the track, do it well and could be selected in various capacities in this exercise. Age is an added bonus, and there’s zero downside here.


There’s a heavy international emphasis on Team DeRosa so far, and why not given we’re in this thing to make money? US fans have showed a willingness to bet more on international racing at all hours.

AC: I am beyond ecstatic that my next pick is still available.


Nobody is better than Caton at eying horses in the paddock and figuring out when certain horses will outrun their odds. She’s also tremendous at interviewing trainers, especially those who don’t usually open up to the general public. If you’ve never seen Caton interview Mike Maker, you’ve never seen art. Some may think it’s a bit early in the draft to address this position, but I wanted to make sure I got the best in the business.

JN: First off, solid pick by Ed with Nick Luck. He’s a dynamite addition to any team in this group, and his stock is through the roof on both sides of the pond after the excellent Royal Ascot coverage.


If this were strictly a draft of TVG talent, Christina would be my first one off the board without a second thought. She’s got background in both the equine and handicapping sides of the business, and does a great job delivering useful information to the audience while playing air traffic control with the rest of her crew. My team needs to be smart, loose, and conversational with a good sense of humor – more NFL on FOX than CNN – and Christina has shown over the years that she can hang with any variety of co-anchors. I need a talented jack of all trades in this spot, and Christina brings high stats into just about every area.

Also, she’s another pick on the younger end of the spectrum. This not only makes her one I’d hope to have on my team for a long time, but a team of younger people should help convince folks in their age bracket that the track’s not full of just middle-aged and old white guys.

Gary West is probably a reach in this spot, but ever since I first heard Gary during my first visit to Kentucky Downs, I’ve never been able to imagine a dream simulcast team without him on it. He just seems to look at the horses with a different skew from the typical paddock analyst, and is able to process that into something especially palatable and useful for handicappers. The guy not only knows what he’s talking about, but presents it in a way that you’re doing yourself a disservice not to listen to it.

Part of Gary’s appeal at Kentucky Downs is his back and forth with announcer John Lies, but I think Pete and Christina are more than capable replacements to get the best out of each other. I like my team with these three as key cogs.

AC: It’s time to fill the chair(s) next to Laffit, and my next pick is racing’s hottest free agent right now.


Richard Migliore is a flat-out steal in the third round. He was a very good rider who fit in instantly on whatever TV broadcast he worked, and any list of racing’s greatest ambassadors has him on it. He provides audiences with handicapping acumen and a unique perspective that not many people have, and I desperately need him on my team.


Horse racing is meant to be fun, and Rachel brings minor league baseball fun to the Indiana Grand signal with promos for the live audience while also being able to discuss handicapping with the rest of the team for those watching in Simo-land. She can help promote all parts of the racing game.


In a surprise move, I’ll take another announcer, a veteran, a great guy, one of the best in the business, a guy with a great sense of humor, and a good friend. I’ll also take Gabby Gaudet, who takes her job very seriously. I need someone who does that.


This is the type of guy that, when he makes a pick, people pay attention. He’s also a great writer both about the game and life in general. We share a lack of filter. He once wrote about his soapy sock. He’ll stir the pot, he’ll stew in it. He’ll do what it takes to make a buck.

AC: As I try to recover from the image caused by Ed’s comments about a soapy sock, one name sticks out, and it’s one I need to draft.


Much of this is about business. Millie is smart, experienced, talented, and fills many roles with her versatility (even if we need someone out there on horseback). However, I’ll always hold Millie in an even higher regard as a person for something I saw first-hand. I was at Santa Anita in one of my first weeks at HRTV when Points Offthebench, who was trained by Millie’s husband (Tim Yakteen), broke down during a routine workout ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The horse was euthanized, and it would’ve been understandable if Millie had taken the morning off. However, she stayed at the track and did her shift, even though people watching could tell it had been a terrible morning. That takes a LOT of toughness, which is a quality I want on my staff.

PA: We’ve got an HRTV mark here!


You can put Donna anywhere on the track, from the desk, to the paddock, to the back of a horse, to the top of the danged Churchill Downs big board and she’ll be an asset. She literally wrote the book on teaching new fans about the sport, but she has enough cred with the racing lifers that she can speak to them in their language and offer an experienced voice regarding the on-track product as a former jockey. A Swiss Army talent with a broad audience appeal? You’ve got a spot on my team any day.

I was thinking about making Donna my straight-up analyst until Andrew brought up the horseback element, and I realized she was capable of so much more.

I really struggled with finding the right person for the analyst spot. I wanted my analyst to fill a color commentator position on the desk, and I wanted someone who has been in the trenches. Someone who could comment on what goes on during a race with the experience of having a hand in the race, while also being a charismatic, likable figure. I wanted a Terry Bradshaw, or at least a Troy Aikman. In retrospect, I wish I would have picked Migliore when he was on the board and assumed my fandom for Gary West would have kept quiet until I could come back and grab him here. Mig is kind of the ideal guy for that spot in my eyes, and I’ve been told I can’t take Gary Stevens because he’s still an active rider. Drat.

AC: Sorry.

JN: Anyway, who better to be the voice of experience than the guy who founded an entire school to teach people about horse racing? McCarron has on-camera experience with ESPN and TVG, and anyone that’s had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with him knows he’s a character who is never lacking for words. He’s ridden, and won, at the highest levels, has a personality and presence that demands your attention, has experience instructing others (which an analyst should always be doing to some degree even if it’s not talking to beginners), and has worked with the technical aspects of both film and television. Put him in a spot where he’s just talking to you and the hosts about the game, and he’s my sleeper pick of this whole thing. He’s probably not the most polished guy I could have picked in this spot, but I don’t necessarily want polished. I want people who are intelligent, engaging, and entertaining. Chris has that in spades.

AC: My team is polished, but it needs a jolt of youth and enthusiasm.


Gino’s got the work ethic and knowledge I want in my handicapper’s chair, along with the added benefit of having tons of passion for aspects of the game that go beyond what you see in the program. He’s not a “hot take” machine, but he’s never afraid to passionately defend a controversial point, and having someone who can go back and forth with the Mig from time to time is a major plus. Between his insight and the fit he figures to be alongside the rest of my crew, Gino’s a guy I need to have at this point in the draft.


My first three picks bring professionalism and gravitas. Salvatore and now Beem bring irreverence to take down ivory towers. Jason calls a clean race, has fun doing it, and interacts with the racing community.


With delight in my voice and lead in my pencil, I proudly select Britney Eurton as whatever you want to put her as.

AC: You need a field/paddock reporter, so I’m putting her there.

PA: You boys have allowed me to draft a dream team. Hopefully the league doesn’t institute salary caps though.

With that in mind, I will take Mark Patterson as my handicapper. He will likely work cheaper than many others, is goofier than a cat on helium, can work with anyone, and knows his stuff.


When it comes to getting people to make action plays, nothing is more actionable than what’s seen in the paddock, and it’s really the last frontier of prices.

With an international flavor to my team, there’s also value to someone who can evaluate horseflesh on the fly. Yeah, NYRA is her strength, but what she does can be done in other paddocks as well.

AC: Maggie’s a good pick, and if I didn’t already have Caton, she’d have been high on my list. However, also high on my list is the most visible announcer in horse racing, one I’m surprised is still available.


With the retirement of Tom Durkin and the semi-retirement of Trevor Denman, racing needs a voice to carry it forward, and of the announcers left on the board, Collmus is the most logical candidate. He’s the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup voice, and he figures to be in that position for a long time.

JN: Curses, I was hoping Maggie might fall to me for one of my last picks. I’m floored she made it this far down the board.

Okay, time to round out my team. I’ve still got a handicapper and a bench player to draft. Here we go…


I honestly thought about taking Mike Battaglia here. His announcing style is an easy target, but I’ve got a lot of respect for his ability to handicap a race, and he’s another name that brings instant gravitas to a crew and is comfortable in front of a camera. That said, he looks to be easing his way out of the spotlight, so I might find myself seeking a replacement before long.

Joe Kristufek is the kind of person you’d want to hang out with and break down a card, and that’s what I want in my on-air team. He’s been the handicapping face of racetracks big and small, so he’s got a broad range of experience. He skews younger, but he’s been around and done enough that the simulblast lifers shouldn’t scoff too heavily at the kid on the screen who thinks he’s something making all these picks like it’s his job or something. On-air handicapper is a spot where mouth-breathers are going to open fire no matter what you do, but I think Joe’s strong enough to handle the assault, and does plenty to ensure the haters don’t have a leg to stand on. Plus, he’s another one that’s just a walking “Good PR Machine” for your track. Put him on the desk with Christina Blacker and Chris McCarron and you’ve got a dynamic and diverse booth heading up your broadcast.

Meanwhile, I have no idea how I’d fit Horowitz into the overall team. All I know is he gives a significant damn about what he does, and he’s a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to broadcasting, reporting, and generally doing anything within his abilities to make you care about Arapahoe Park. Oh, and he also calls the races. I need that guy on my roster. We’ll figure out the details later.

AC: I’ve got a bench spot available, and for me, versatility is extremely important. I ping-ponged between three people for this spot, but ultimately went with…


He works at a smaller track (Delta Downs), but this is a guy who can literally do ANYTHING I’d need him to do. He’s a strong announcer, of course, but he also serves as Delta Downs’s one-man simulcast show AND does all of their media relations work. I can plug Don Stevens in anywhere on this team, and he’d not only do the job, he’d do it exceptionally well. I couldn’t ask for a better “utility player.”

Honorable mentions for my last spot go to both Darin Zoccali and Dave Weaver, who both bring similar versatility to the table. Ultimately, I figured Larry Collmus would be on call for major events every now and then, and I wanted someone with more of an announcing background. That said, it was a very tough call.


She keeps with the international theme, and I like the degenerate vibe. Now that she has a TVG gig, the hours don’t seem as odd, but back in the day, she was picking races 20 hours a day and using the other four to complain about how bad the Tigers are.

JN: Alright, all we need now is the Mr./Ms./Mrs. Irrelevant. Pete, it’s your time to shine!


They helped give me so many opportunities in the business and it would be pleasure to give some of those same opportunities to someone else. Along those lines, by using the person as the resident “utility player”, they will broaden their skill set…a vital component to success in this industry in my view.

AC: I KNEW you were a softie at heart, Pete!



Announcer: Pete Aiello
Host: Christina Blacker
Analyst: Chris McCarron
Handicapper: Joe Kristufek
Field/Paddock Reporter: Gary West
Flex: Donna Barton-Brothers
Bench: Jonathan Horowitz


Announcer: Larry Collmus
Host: Laffit Pincay III
Analyst: Richard Migliore
Handicapper: Gino Buccola
Field/Paddock Reporter: Caton Bredar
Flex: Millie Ball
Bench: Don Stevens


Announcer: Jason Beem
Host: Scott Hazelton
Analyst: Nick Luck
Handicapper: Doug Salvatore
Field/Paddock Reporter: Maggie Wolfendale
Flex: Rachel McLaughlin
Bench: Candice Hare


Announcer: Travis Stone
Host: Gabby Gaudet
Analyst: Matt Carothers
Handicapper: Mark Patterson
Field/Paddock Reporter: Britney Eurton
Flex: Dave Rodman
Bench: Passionate rookie from Arizona RTIP

Ending a Chapter and Saying “Thanks”

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.

The Best Advice I Could Give Anyone

A good portion of this blog will revolve around horse racing, with content ranging from analysis and selections to lists, columns, and other fun stuff. However, I don’t want this website to be solely racing-related, as I’ve done a lot of other things that I’m very proud of.

From time to time, I’ll post retrospectives or thoughts on certain things for various reasons. Sometimes, it’ll solely be because I enjoy telling stories. Other times, it’ll be because I have experiences that could possibly benefit someone who’s reading and going through something similar. There may be other motivations behind this stuff that I’m not even aware of yet, but at any rate, this is one of those times where racing takes a back seat.

Every once in a while, I get asked for career advice from people looking to enter horse racing, or broadcasting, or the professional world in general. I think it’s the duty of people being asked to provide the best answer possible in this situation, and that’s not a responsibility I take lightly.

My responses have varied over the years. Now that I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser (or so I’d like to think), and a little bit more familiar with the way the world works, I’ve finally settled on a two-pronged response to the question, “What advice can you give me?” I’ll analyze both in detail.

1) Bet on yourself.

This sounds really simple, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put faith into your skillset. This goes for pretty much any discipline you can think of. I’m a believer that, if you’re willing to take chances for the opportunities you want, sooner or later, someone WILL take notice.

I gambled on myself in 2013, when, with the help of my parents (Dad and I took turns driving, Mom helped with a necessary car repair before making the trip), I moved cross-country. I knew nobody in Southern California except my boss, I knew nothing about any places to live, and it was downright strange getting accustomed to living 3,000 miles away from where I was born and raised. Well, except the whole “football games start at 10 a.m.” thing, which took zero time to get used to, but I digress.

I won’t go into the myriad of personal or professional reasons why I moved, but doing that opened up as many doors for me as anything I’ve ever done. Personally, my quality of life shot through the roof, due in no small part to one particular person I met shortly after moving west. Professionally, I went from being a local turf writer in a small city to becoming a respected handicapper on a national stage. If I hadn’t been willing to move cross-country and hit the “reset” button on my way of life, none of that would’ve ever happened.

Mind you, I’m not saying it’s wise to pack up and go somewhere on a whim. What I AM saying, though, is to be confident enough in who you are and how you live your life to take chances and do things that advance you to where you want to go. If you’re not satisfied doing what you’re doing, look at what you can control and do something about it.

2) Don’t ever let ANYONE tell you that you’re incapable of doing something.

Okay, gather around, it’s story time.

Back in 2010, after returning from my internship at the 2010 Winter Olympics, I sat down and plotted a course of action into how I was going to get my first-ever real job. My idea was to blast my resume to the athletic departments of every college or university with a Division I program, thinking that, sooner or later, a door was going to open.

We’ll get to the results of that in a bit. I got a myriad of responses to these inquiries, including several very nice messages of, “no thanks,” and a few interviews with some very nice people. By and large, the people who work in college athletics recognize the struggles of breaking into the business, and I was able to learn a lot by doing what I did.

I only got one response that made me question the wisdom of what I was doing. I won’t name the school in question, but I will say it was a major athletic department. I still have the email in my mailbox, in a separate folder off to the side, just in case there are days where I need some encouragement.

“I will be honest with you and tell you that, from my perspective in the radio broadcasting part of the business, your chances of getting your first job out of college on the air broadcasting for a Division 1 level network are nil.”

That hit me pretty hard when I read it seven years ago, and even now, the impact isn’t lost on me. I firmly understand that the writer of those words probably didn’t intend to come off in a negative light, and was probably trying to give a young kid some idea of how the business worked. For better or for worse, though, the words you see italicized have been a driving force in a lot of what I’ve done to this point in my career.

Fast-forward seven months. After searching for the better part of a year (as most 2010 college graduates were, given the economy), I finally landed an opportunity to show someone what I could do in a broadcasting/multimedia environment in exchange for a paycheck.

The place? Siena College. A school with a Division I athletic department, where I had a big hand in broadcasts for soccer, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse.

The writer of that email probably has no idea what I’ve been up to all these years, or how much what he said motivated me (inadvertently or otherwise). If he’s somehow out there reading this: Thanks for what you did for me…even if you didn’t mean to do it.

That concludes the first-ever full-on blog post here on It’s a big racing weekend, with two Kentucky Derby preps on tap for Saturday and a mandatory payout in Gulfstream Park’s Rainbow Six set for Sunday. I’ll have a few posts up looking at those cards in the near future.

Until then: If you’ve got a comment, or a suggestion, or a gripe, buzz me by way of this site’s ‘contact’ section, which you can go to by clicking here.