[image url="http://cdn.bloodhorse.com/images/content/tschrupp_large.jpg"]Todd Schrupp[/image]
With a father in the Marines, Todd Schrupp, born in Edina, Minn., lived many places during his boyhood. The place he remembers best is Camp Pendleton, near San Diego and not far from Del Mar Race Course. In the summers of 1975 and 1976 he and his father often went to the track. Todd taught himself to read The Daily Racing Form during those visits and developed his lifelong love of horse racing.
When Larry Schrupp left the Marines, he moved his family back to Minnesota where Todd became a good basketball player and an even more avid horse racing fan with the opening of Canterbury Downs (now Canterbury Park) at Shakopee in 1985. After his senior year in high school and before leaving for Buena Vista College in Iowa, he got a job at the track in customer relations.
While studying in Iowa, Todd missed Canterbury so much that he transferred from Buena Vista to the University of Minnesota. While studying there he took a job in the track's marketing department, which led to a full-time position as in-house analyst-handicapper. Eventually he became a backup for track announcer Tony Bentley.
Canterbury's finances were shaky, however, and in 1991, with Bentley's help, Todd found a job at Calder Race Course in Miami as the in-house handicapper and backup track announcer to the legendary Phil Salzman. While at Calder, Schrupp earned an Eclipse Award Honorable Mention for his piece on the accident in which Carla Wolfson, wife of trainer Marty Wolfson, was kicked and grievously injured by a horse named Mr. Angel. The upbeat story focused on her recovery and her unwavering love for Mr. Angel.
In 1999, Todd saw an ad in The Daily Racing Form for a new horse-racing network called TVG. He sent tapes, then auditioned, and was one of the first on-air people hired. His career highlight, he says, will always be his involvement in the launch of TVG.
We've seen some memorable spontaneous moments on TVG (usually involving you and Frank). What've been some of your favorites? Thanks for all the great work.
I have always wanted the shows I work on to be relaxed and comfortable. In other words, I hope the show comes across like the scene that is played out every day at various racetracks across the country, or what we are doing right now, a group of horseplayers just hanging out at the track and talking horse racing or whatever else might be on their mind. Because of this, each show is filled with spontaneous moments, and sometimes we can forget the power of the medium we work in and just how many people are watching and listening.
There was no better illustration of this than a Friday night at Hollywood Park about three years ago. The conversation between Ken Rudulph and I started to veer away from horse racing (I am sure that will not come as a surprise to many of you) and we started talking about Emilio Estevez. Given how he was one of the most popular actors on the planet during the ‘80s and early '90s, but had fallen out of sight over the last few years I concluded by saying, "Whatever happened to that guy ?"
About three minutes later Emilio Estevez came walking out of the Hollywood Park Grandstand, talking to someone on a cell phone and waving at Ken and I, to let us know exactly where he was. I have talked to Emilio many times since and it turns out he is one of us, passionate about horse racing.
There have been a lot of moments over the years, including a horse named Western Willy who got a little too excited before a race, and with Frank on the set I had no chance, but the Emilio moment truly surprised me. Thank you for your kind words.
I have been a huge fan of yours and TVG's since the beginning. Thank you for your contribution. What do you think is TVG's most important contribution to the sport of horse racing? And-can we please (pretty please) see The Works back on the air for the Derby season? I can't tell you how much I have missed the show these last couple of years.
For you to say you have watched TVG since the beginning is very humbling and very gratifying, thank you. Obviously you have seen not only TVG evolve, but myself and others who have been on-air at the Network when it launched in 1999, develop as well.
TVG will always be the first television network completely dedicated to the sport of horse racing. However, being first is not an accomplishment, TVG's innovation and unique programming will always be its lasting legacy. And if, "imitation is the highest form of flattery", then TVG has been given a lot of compliments over the years.
For example, think of the show you brought up, "The Works". Until TVG went to the Kentucky Derby in 2000 to show the Morning Workouts and give analysis, horse racing fans could only read about what took place in the mornings leading up to the Kentucky Derby and had to rely on someone else's judgment.
When Fusaichi Pegasus flipped over one morning our First year on the air for "The Works", not only was that video available for all horseplayers to see, but it was picked up by countless networks around the country. And that may be the most important point, while TVG is available to more than 60 Million homes worldwide, by covering the sport on a daily basis, we have become a source for the "Mainstream" Media, thereby giving horse racing more exposure.
This past spring, after the tragic death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby, TVG was the source the "Mainstream" media went to for information. Two good examples, Jill Byrne was a guest on Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, and Christina Olivares was a guest on ESPN's Jim Rome show. Before 1999 Horse Racing did not have an outlet for its message, and finding a competent guest to represent our sport was hit and miss.
Additionally, events TVG turns its programming spotlight towards have clearly benefited. Last week we did a "Works" show for the American Oaks Day at Hollywood Park and geared all of our original programming toward what was taking place at Hollywood Park on Saturday, July 5th. The end result? Hollywood Park had their biggest pari-mutuel handle day outside of hosting a Breeders' Cup or on a Triple Crown day. When tracks take advantage of TVG's resources and bring us on-site and help us promote their event, TVG becomes the single greatest marketing tool a track could have.
I truly could write an essay on TVG's legacy, however, there are other questions to answer and I must move on. However, one other point must be made about TVG and the new perspective it has brought to the coverage of horseracing, and that is the diverse make-up of our on-air talent. When TVG launched, our on-air team was the most diverse group of people; racially, culturally and depth of horse racing knowledge anyone had ever assembled to cover the sport. Through TVG, horse racing was finally a reflection of society at large, thereby giving us a chance to fulfill our mission statement of creating new fans and giving long-time fans a place where they could share their passion with others.
I personally believe drug use and synthetics have gone a long way toward ruining this game, and the thought of a good dirt horse having to run against a mediocre turf horse like Go Between on Polytrack for a division championship is nuts. What are your thoughts on these things?
It is a complicated time to be a horseplayer, and I have great empathy, because as a horseplayer I have seen the game go through these dramatic changes you are talking about and I find myself mystified many times. What is lacking in both areas you brought up is uniformity, and that is very frustrating because these two issues affect every segment of the industry.
Regarding medication, whether it is withdrawal times or banned use altogether, I don't know how trainers keep track of what they can use and when, especially if they are shipping horses state to state. To be honest, I am surprised there are not more positive tests given the size of stables and all of the shipping.
I was talking with trainer Ken McPeek at the American Oaks Post Draw about this issue, and he had an idea for getting the process jump-started, have the Graded Stakes Committee declare that all Graded Stakes must be medication free. As radical as the idea sounds, it would get everyone in line, and even if this isn't the right idea it is going to take a bold initiative to bring uniformity in the area of medication.
I am conflicted about Synthetic tracks, as a handicapper I don't mind reinventing the game in some ways, but what if Secretariat didn't like Polyfibers, wax and rubber? Looking at some of the horses who are winning Graded Stakes races on synthetic surfaces in California, and those who are not, you can't help but be left with the impression that the most talented horse isn't always winning, but the horse who handles the track is.
Also, there seems to be this impression made by proponents of synthetic tracks that if you question the viability of these tracks and just how truly safe they are, you don't care about the safety of horses. It was this painting of the opposition that led to our mess in California over the winter. On important issues like this, the industry as a whole needs to have an open dialogue and truly have room for all opinions. Most frustrating to me is that the horseplayer is often left out of the equation.
Floral Park, NY:
Will there ever be a day in hopefully in the near future where viewers can elect to stay at one track to watch and wager rather than have to jump around to the other tracks on your broadcast? Can't modern technology enable us to remain at one track of our choosing?
TVG was initially the Horse Racing Industry's Television Network period. I would love to revisit how everything became so fractionalized, because it would give great perspective to some of the statements being made now, but let's not stray too far from answering your question.
It was thought, once TVG proved its viability and grew to certain levels of success, it could than have regional broadcasts, much like the Fox Sports regional broadcasts around the country. There could be TVG West, TVG Midwest, TVG South, TVG East, etc. Obviously, not all of the industry committed to the original vision, but if they had, you might not be asking that question.
Technology might eventually be the answer. Digital set top boxes have made great advances, and are offering enhancements to programming on a lot of networks you are watching already, so one day you just might be able to pick the track you want to stay at. In the meantime, our producers do a tremendous job deciding when and where to go considering the difficulty in trying to please everyone. And especially considering there is no national racing schedule to make sure races do not go off at the same time.
Todd, you are a tireless promoter of the sport of racing. Kudos. If you were named "Racing Czar", what would your first three decrees be?
You are very kind, and if there is one responsibility I take very seriously it is bringing new people into our sport. Fan education or promotion of the sport has always been my number one priority, it is the only chance we have at ensuring our future.
I gladly accept your nomination as "Racing Czar" and herby make the following decrees:
- New Tax Code for Horseplayers - There is nothing worse than playing a Pick four ticket for $450 and having it pay $601 and you have to fill out an IRS slip. (Although it should be noted, lately I would love to have a signer of any kind.)
- National Race Schedule - I understand delays happen in between races and sometimes a race at Delaware Park might go off at the same time as a race at Suffolk, but we have to try and stagger races somehow. And there is absolutely no excuse in this new world of corporate racing that two tracks from the same corporate entity run there races at the same time, and incredibly I have witnessed Graded Stakes Races running on top of each other at racetracks with the same owner.
- A major race be named after a prominent horseplayer - I came into this game reading the books of Andy Beyer. I even made my own speed figures for a time. Most importantly, I am not alone, many horseplayers have stayed in this game because of the passion they read about in Andy's books and have experienced at the racetrack. While I do not agree with all of his opinions, (and he has directed some harsh ones at me) there can be no doubt about his impact. Naming a race for him, and honoring other horseplayers in this manner would not only be fitting, but the right thing to do. Just on churn, there are many horseplayers who subsidize the entire purses for numerous races alone. Calder Race Course came the closest to doing this with the Pete Axthelm Handicap. Shouldn't there be a Clem Florio Handicap in Maryland next year, and let's do this before these greats are gone.
Todd you keep TVG lively, and you are the best emcee. I think you should host the eclipse awards. My question, is there a beef between you and Mike Watchmaker?
Thank you for your confidence in my abilities. I am honored just to be able to cover the Eclipse Awards for TVG, and it is a real thrill to be able to present an award.
Lively discussion goes on at every racetrack, and horse racing coverage should mirror that. I have never understood shows where everyone has a different selection in a race, but yet no one disagrees. There is nothing wrong with mixing it up once in a while, I do that with Nick Hines quite often, and at the end of the day we are friends.
However, there is nothing to see through with Mike Watchmaker and me. When we are on the air together, each of us is just waiting to get the upper hand on one another. I can remember when he was giddy over me pronouncing Stuyvesant wrong, and I celebrated with delight when he thought Zenyatta had not won a graded stake before her win in the Apple Blossom (the El Encino is graded Mike).
There is not one incident that resulted in these feelings about each other, as one great philosopher once said, "We have to get it on, because we don't get along."
Del Mar, CA:
Why have you not bought or gotten involved in horse ownership?
I would love too, but I lack the resources and in some ways the courage. I have never seen an individual who puts more material resources and emotional investment into horse racing than the Owner.
I started doing this at Calder when I hosted the replay show. After each race I would mention the Owner first when reading the winning connections. An owner came up to me one day at the track and said it was the first time he heard his name mentioned in 10 years of owning horses. I never forgot that, and continue to mention the owner first when reading the connections on TVG.
I may not be part of the Owner ranks, and I hope some day that will change, but my hat is permanently tipped to anyone who takes out a license to become an owner and dreams of the Winner's Circle. A handful of times over the course of the year someone will come up to me at the track and say they became a horse owner because they watched TVG and saw how much fun it could be, you can't get a much better compliment than that.
Seems like on TVG announcers are really rooting for the tickets they give out on air. Do announcers play these tickets with their own money? Or does the network a pay for the tickets?
I would be so far ahead of this game if TVG put up the money for our tickets, but they don't. Also, I probably would do a lot better if I limited myself to $50 the way TVG limits our on-air tickets. Yes, I play, and most of us play.
If I play a ticket bigger than my on-air ticket, and this goes for anyone else at TVG, you can be assured all of the combinations on that smaller on-air ticket are included. And it should noted, none of us can play all of our tickets. There are many days where a winning ticket is given out, but the person who put it together didn't play it themselves. Regardless, my colleagues and I are just as excited, because we are nothing without the TVG audience and account holders, if they win, we win.
Enjoy your work on TVG!! Do you think the media should be tougher on trainers, owners who are making headlines for the wrong reasons?
I really expected the fallout to be worse from the "Mainstream Media" after Big Brown's last place finish in the Belmont. Instead, I think the bar is so low for our sport, when it comes to what the "Mainstream Media" thinks of us, that we were treated a lot better than I thought we would be handled.
I just don't think there are enough qualified members of the "Mainstream Media" who can ask the tough questions because they are only familiar with the sport of horseracing a few times each year.
Todd, I read so many of the horse racing forums and there is constantly Schrupp bashing. How do you deal with people who take shots at you and other TVG personalities?
Having gone through TVG's initial launch in 1999 and the over the top criticism we received, it takes a lot to get me worked up. One of the early reviews of TVG written by Bill Finley in a major New York Newspaper suggested that I would "single handedly" destroy horse racing altogether. (I carry that review in my brief case and plan on reading it on the air for TVG's 10th Anniversary.) Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form had the headline, "TVG, Home Run Ball Drifting Foul", after we had been on the air for just nine months. Even my hero Andy Beyer wrote a column in the Washington post assailing all of our programming from Day One. Stan Bergstein, of the Daily Racing Form watched Day One of our programming and suggested different people should be hired. I think you get the picture, TVG was not well-received by the Horse Racing Media.
Don't get me wrong, some criticism is fair, and TVG as well as me, has become much more polished than when we first launched. However, what has always bothered me about some of the aforementioned critics and the posters on some forums is the elitism that goes on. Have they ever considered that for just one moment, as remote as the possibility may be, they just might be wrong?
I truly appreciate someone, whether it is an opinion they had on a horse race, or in a discussion, can come back and say, "I was wrong". There are people in this sport who honestly believe they know better than anyone else what's wrong and what's right, who belongs and who doesn't. We cannot afford to be so close-minded.
Bottom line, it will never be as bad as 1999 and as much as I want everyone to like me I know that will never happen. The "Charles Barkley Rule" is what I subscribe to, in a room of 100 people you have to assume 50 people like you, and 50 people don't. My own addition to that is I try and change those 50 who don't like me, one at a time.
Hi Todd, I enjoy your work on TVG and especially admire your passion and sense of humor while on the air. How difficult is it for you, as an objective commentator, to separate your personal feelings about the outcome of races you cover?
It is not as hard as I thought it might be. I have been on the air many times when I lost a photo for a good score, or a stewards’ decision did not go my way, and I am positive only my really close friends could tell because they knew what I was alive for.
It all comes down to the realization that my investment is fleeting. Someone connected to the horse who just won or lost has far more time and emotion invested than me. Every winner of every race has a story of obstacles overcome many in the general public will never be aware of. Each winner and loser deserves proper respect and coverage, and through TVG we can get their story out there. This is the job that comes first for me, and it is more instinctual than my wagering feelings, and many times I will put right out there how I did, so we can all move on and give the winner credit.
Todd, I think that TVG could be better, but you and the other hosts seem to always talk more about the West Coast races and leave other races to be shown on tape. Do you think that you and the other TVG hosts put out a good product for other venues (i.e. Turfway Park in September)?
Turfway Park is a founding Track for TVG and has been an outstanding partner, so I would take issue with your example. However, we are a company based in California and we host a lot of our shows from California tracks when we are not in the studio, so it may seem like we are talking about California based horses because that is where are frame of reference starts.
Having said that, just looking at my travel last year, I went to Keeneland Spring/Fall in Lexington, Kentucky, The Met Mile and Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, Opening week Saratoga, Haskell at Monmouth in Oceanport New Jersey, back to Monmouth for the Breeders' Cup, Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, the All-American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in Ruidoso, New Mexico and Japan Cup at Tokyo racecourse in Tokyo, Japan. That's just me! And those are all just trips and events outside of California.
Clearly TVG is not just a California company. All the on-air people at TVG travel and cover the important events in horse racing no matter where they are. You cannot call yourself a television network if your programming is limited to a state or a studio and taking in track feeds, where I come from that is called simulcasting. And because TVG travels and spends money like a real television network, you cannot just lump them in with all the other ADWs out there.
Council Bluffs, IA:
Hi Todd, I enjoyed meeting you and Simon on Tampa Bay Derby Day. I also enjoy watching you and the others on TVG when I can. My question, what is/are the one or two pieces of information that you focus on when picking a long shot? Are you more concerned with trip handicapping or pace handicapping?
It is nice to hear from you again. I know it has been a rough spring in Iowa, and I have visited your area before when I went to school at Buena Vista, I hope you and your family are doing well.
To find a long shot I am willing to go further back in a horse's past performance lines than most handicappers. I am constantly seeking a repeating pattern in a horse's past performances. Also, do not get caught up in the statistics everyone has at their disposal, your experience trumps all of that. If a trainer is winless with their last 30 first-time starters, but you know this trainer usually shows up with a live longshot in this situation at least once-a-meet, then as they say, "Go with what you know."
Las Vegas, NV:
What is your most memorable Breeders Cup performance?
Great question, because I want to give at least five different answers; Personal Ensign, Manila, Ferdinand, Arazi, but I have to go with one I witnessed, Tiznow winning his second Breeders' Cup Classic. Not only the history Tiznow made by becoming the first to win back to back Classics, but everything that led up to that point.
I was assigned to report on Tiznow and the other California horses for "The Works". Tiznow was truly an individual, he did what he wanted to do, whenever he wanted to do it, and in this difficult circumstance his trainer Jay Robbins found a way to prepare him for what would be a grueling race against European Champion Sahkee. While most outside observers were put-off by the quirky morning behavior exhibited by Tiznow, Jay Robbins had him right where he wanted him. Aside from the obstacles Tiznow faced leading up to the race, Belmont Park being the backdrop for the event less than two months after the attacks of 9/11 created one of the most emotional Breeders' Cups ever.
Thanks Todd for the chat. Who does Colonel John take the Swaps on Sat? Which jockey (Gomez or Nakatani) do you feel fits Colonel John better and why?
The talent level by both riders is exceptional, and I truly think it is a wash. As you know by now, Garret Gomez will get the ride and he was aboard Colonel John in the Sham. Colonel John most likely will not win this race, because I believe he might be the third best horse in the race. Two Step salsa has been sensational and his speed will be even more effective at the Swaps distance. When it comes to finishing, Madeo would be the horse to beat if Two Step Salsa comes back to the field.
Todd, I have enjoyed your voice and opinions on TVG. I especially enjoy the Legends series. Will you be adding more/new episodes - soon? Also is TVG planning to air any basic programs that may educate betting newbies to wagering & strategies?
Legends is one of my favorite TVG programs, I am very happy you enjoy it so much. TVG's on-air programming is plotted out from January to March, and many shows like Legends will be produced and edited during the Month of April, and then air throughout the year. In the case of Legends, after that initial period of time, no new episodes will be produced until the process starts over the following year.
I am a big believer in fan education at all levels, and TVG has put together a series of handicapping vignettes with some of the top horseplayers in the Country. These quick insights are used at a Producer's discretion and usually show up when the handicapping topic fits a race we are covering.
San Gabriel, CA:
Have you ever hit a pick 6 before?
My biggest Pick Six hit came on a $576 ticket at Fairplex two years ago. I had a partner, and six of six returned $78,000. It actually is a decent story about not letting the game get you down.
The day before, I was in Las Vegas on vacation and there was a decent carryover at Fairplex, so I played a ticket that was four-for-four with a 20/1 shot, a 9/1 shot and Two 3/1 shots sprinkled in. I played the ticket on my own and decided to call a friend and tell him I was alive and had two horses in the next race, a field of five, and three horses in the last race, a field of nine. I proceeded to go 0 for the next two and was totally dejected, especially since the Pick Six carried over again.
I am at the airport the next day, having just returned from Las Vegas, and while waiting for my ride to pick me up, my friend calls and asks if I want to put a ticket in. I pulled my Form out of my suitcase and handicapped curbside and we agreed on the ticket. When I went home I was so exhausted from the trip I recorded the races and told my friend not to call me under any circumstances. When I woke the next day, I watched the recorded races and we were five for five when my recording ended. I went to the sports section of the newspaper to find out our fate, and saw that a 15/1 shot we both liked won the last race.
One follow-up, I have since given my half back over the two years since.
Arlington Heights, IL:
Who in your mind are the top announcers in the country?
Tom Durkin and Trevor Denman will always be the 1 and 1A in that discussion. What I especially love about Durkin is that he can capture the gravity of the moment or the lightheartedness, as he did the other day when he sang the winner's name at Belmont down the stretch, 'Doremifasollatido'. A Trevor Denman call that is not often heard but was awesome, is his call of the 1989 Preakness between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. While most everyone heard the call for a national television audience, Trevor made the call for the on-track and simulcast crowd.
I would like to mention John Dooley. He has many of the qualities Durkin and Denman possess, and most importantly, remains accurate while capturing the moment. He also has a cool personality to match his considerable ability.
North Randall, OH:
When you were at Canterbury Park, I seem to remember hearing you call a few races. Why is it you did not choose this as a career path and what was the catch phrase you used. I can remember it mentioned something about a Broadway play?
You have a tremendous memory. I still have the headline from the Daily Racing Form when our local Trackman, 'Chaucer', wrote a story about me, "If It's 'Showtime', It's Probably Todd Schrupp". 'Showtime' was my signature phrase, and I played off of it from there. If a horse was drawing away, "It's Showtime but this is all a one-act play", or if it was neck and neck, "It's Showtime and we have a drama developing".
I continued calling as the back-up announcer at Calder Race Course, but found television much easier. Race calling was very nerve-racking, and I admire anyone who takes it on as a profession.
What are your thoughts of combining TVG and HRTV for one unified network of racing?
It wasn't supposed to be like this, and that is very important for people to understand. It is hardly ever mentioned, but people should understand the past to truly know why the current situation exists.
TVG always started out, and through significant financial investment, has continued to be a true television network. We have always had independent studios, originally in Santa Monica, California now occupied by G4 Network, and currently our studios are located at the Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles. Additionally, TVG has gone out of its way to hire people with a Television News or Live Sports background heavy resume'.
The idea behind all of this has been to present Horse Racing in the same manner other 'Major Sports' are presented. TVG has always made itself through production and distribution the equal to NFL Network, the Golf Channel, NBA Channel, etc. This has been the goal from the very beginning and that is why TVG has had the backing and resources of some of the biggest corporate names in broadcasting.
Through TVG's initial launch Horse Racing had outside investment that had never been seen before, and now comes a very important point, the wagering side of TVG's equation was going to be initially handled by the NTRA. The NTRA was going to operate a National Wagering Hub in Oregon, and could use a portion of revenues for their industry and organizational goals. (Through this revenue stream, imagine an NTRA today that was autonomous and not membership driven, much like the National offices for the NBA or Major League Baseball. How much could they get done on a lot of the agendas brought up in this chat ?) Making this the ideal situation was the fact most of the major racetracks were signed on for multi-year agreements.
Aside from the outside investment, the industry had never rallied like this around one idea, the spirit of cooperation was inspiring. Then before it could begin, it all started to fracture. As racetracks started to be sold and moved piece by piece under corporate banners, issues were raised about the NTRA's involvement and they were forced to pull out. Then, tracks that were part of TVG's original line-up started to drop out as new owners of the tracks pursued their own agenda.
How this original vision never materialized is very important, because many of the same forces who blew it up to begin with, are now pushing an agenda under the mantra, "This is what the fans want." Given that the original plan was truly a fan-friendly and an industry wise course, before it was willfully disintegrated for an individual bottom-line approach, some of these voices seem revisionist at best and somewhat disingenuous to those of us who know what this was supposed to be from the very beginning.
Having said all of this, living in the past will not change this fissured present, but it does help in understanding this inescapable fact, TVG has always kept its promises. No matter the obstacles, TVG has always kept its goal of returning revenue to the industry that benefits owners, horsemen and horsewomen, as well as the host tracks, while at the same time becoming an internationally recognized television brand.
Crown Point, IN:
When you are an analyst on TVG and you give out a Pick 4 ticket, if the Fox Sports.com pick of the day is included in the sequence why is the horse not singled? If it’s your pick of the day shouldn't it be singled in your multi-race wager?
I look at the Fox Sports.com Pick of the Day as sometimes a 'Best Bet' of the day, and sometimes pointing out a longshot players might not be using. If it is a Best Bet, I will single, if it is a useable longshot it will be one of a few selections I use.
TVG is always promoting large Pick-Six pools with constant urging for bettors to "send it in". Isn't this type of enthusiasm embarrassing for TVG on-air hosts who are forced to increase TVG's handle?
My enthusiasm as well as most of my co-workers is very genuine, because we are playing right along with you. The frequent reminders while self-promotional are also a great way to make sure our audience doesn't get shut out.
Palm Coast, FL:
What are your thoughts on TVG and exclusive content rights to simulcast signals being shared? As a fellow handicapper your company is hurting all of us who would like to wager on multiple tracks.
For a better understanding about the situation please read my response to the query from Paris, Kentucky about a unified horseracing network. Also, as a Florida resident you can now be a TVG account holder, so I don't know how you are missing out on any of our track partners.
TVG would love to have many new track partners and has made many overtures to make that happen. In fact, TVG Management testified at the most recent CHRB meeting they have offered numerous deals to swap content, but there was little response and in some cases obvious unequal counteroffers.
What ever happened to Claudia Simon on TVG? She was a great part of the team.
Claudia was my first on-air partner, and some of the most fun I have ever had on-air at TVG was with her. Claudia is a mother now and still lives in Los Angeles.
Todd, Thanks for joining us today. It takes a lot of courage to put your picks out there on a daily basis. Why doesn't TVG post an ROI on each analyst?
Getting Frank Lyons to fill out the Official Picks Form is chore enough. I have taken it upon myself to keep track of my Pick Four total, and it really is an individual responsibility, doing it otherwise would require hiring someone in a full-time capacity.
Why doesn't TVG offer wagering in Pennsylvania?
It has always been the position of TVG to go into states where the law is clear allowing Advance Deposit Wagering. Other ADWs have made a broader interpretation and gone into more states, but TVG has always believed in the "Rule of Law".
Todd, I really enjoy you insightful comments. Why can't we have past horse heroes (with today's celebrities) goodwill tour certain tracks to promote the sport.
This Fall in California there will be a Legends Race, not horses, but Hall of Fame retired riders. TVG's Chris McCarron will be one of the participants.
How long each day does it take you to prepare for the on-air analysis?
Each of us is given a packet with all of the past performances for the races we will be covering during our shift the next day. I will spend two hours the night before handicapping, and then make adjustments for an hour after scratches come out in the morning.
Grants Pass, OR:
As a big fan of TVG for many years I am curious to know why TVG no longer has the Arlington Park and Churchill Downs daily racing. Also will TVG get the winter Santa Anita TV contract as well?
Churchill Downs Incorporated and the tracks they control made exclsuive deals with selected partners and pulled their product from TVG late in 2006. The same can be said for Santa Anita and its parent company, it should be pointed out, in our first year on the air we showed races from Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita until the signal was pulled at the discretion of the new owner.
Santa Monica, CA:
On this coming Saturday, there are 46 flat tracks running. Is there too much racing?
After visiting Japan, I think there is something to be said for "less is more". However, I assume your count includes other breeds aside from Thoroughbreds and in some ways the abundance of racing speaks to the importance of the horse to the fabric of America.
Some people might think I'm crazy when I say this, but I think Street Sense might've been better than Curlin. I think that if Street Sense were running as a 4 year old, Curlin wouldn't be getting away with the handicap division so easy. What are your thoughts? Do you think Curlin is better?
Throw in Hard Spun, maybe even Any Given Saturday, and what a three-year-old crop that was. Street Sense deserves credit for becoming the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to take the Kentucky Derby the following year. However, I can't imagine seeing another horse go from maiden winner in his three-year-old season to top three finishes in all of the Triple Crown races and Breeders' Cup Classic winner by the end of the year, Curlin was phenomenal. What Curlin accomplished in his three-year-old season may be eclipsed by what he is trying to do as a four-year-old, and after you see him in person, you will know why he is the best of his generation.
Throughout your time working with TVG, you've traveled to some very prestigious racetracks. Which track was your favorite? Why?
I have been an unabashed fan of Keeneland Racecourse ever since my boss at Calder, Mike Cronin offered to pay for me to go there and experience it. Having been there multiple times for TVG, my passion for this racetrack has grown even stronger. I have encouraged anyone who has not visited Keeneland to find a way to make the trip, I was especially gratified when my dad made the trip last year and came away singing its praises. The facility and the surrounding countryside make for the purest racing experience I have ever been around. Keeneland's success is not just a fortuitous location; a major part of the experience is the customer service and the management team headed by Nick Nicholson.
Last year I traveled to Saratoga for the first time and it did live up to expectations. I love the rich history of horseracing and it is on display everywhere you look in Saratoga Springs. Also, it is a great communal experience with racing fans, the reception by fellow horseplayers when we were at the track or going around town was incredible and so much fun.
Which track do you win the most at? Are there any tracks that you find hard to handicap? Easy?
When I was in Florida at Calder Race Course for seven years, that was my circuit and that was where I made the most money. Now that I cover a lot of California racing, this is where I make most of my money, and Florida is a mystery to me. In addition, I am pretty proud of my overall record at New York tracks. The lesson really is this, find a circuit that is best for your handicapping skills and concentrate your efforts there. It is very tempting to create your own card of races from the simulcast menu offered from around the country, but I have found it best to focus on racetracks not necessarily races.
Hi Todd, Could you take us through the process of your preparation for your broadcasts? Also, what would you look for in an audition tape? Finally, how do you see the market for television racing analysts shaping up in the coming years? Thanks so much for everything! Tara Cochran
Tara Cochran is the future of horseracing.
Saddle Brook, NJ:
Does viewing many races tend to improve your handicapping or does it give you too much information?
Trip Handicapping is essential. Also, I am big on identifying 'Key Races' and that can be a visual process as much as following charts. What I love about the visual art of handicapping is that everyone sees a race differently; therefore there is no bottom-line number or assessment that everyone can go with. True edges can be found by analytically watching races.
Todd, Every time I'm handicapping a claiming race where a recent claim is making a significant jump in its claiming price for Tom Amoss, Autrey, Asmussen, Lake, or Dutrow I go a little crazy. It seems that these guys and others are able to significantly improve a horse's ability dramatically in a short period of time. How can they do that? And conversely it seems, at least anecdotally that horses claimed from these guys don't fare as well. What's your insight on this?
The claiming game has clearly changed dramatically over the last 15 years. There is a major difference between the haves and have nots, and the percentages will speak to that.
On the California circuit trainers like Jeff Mullins and Mike Mitchell consistently improve horses out of the Claim Box, and very rarely does someone take one off of them with success. This takes place on circuits all across the country, Jamie Ness at Tampa Bay, Mike Chambers at Turf Paradise, etc. Name a circuit and a local horseplayer will be able to tell you about a trainer that wins at a percentage that would've been unheard of a decade ago.
It also would've been unheard of years ago to claim a horse for $32,000 and drop them to $10,000 in their next start, but that move is common place in the modern era. The aggressive nature of the claim game has more to do with these astonishing win percentages than anything else.
Most of these great claiming trainers have an owner who looks at their operation as a whole. Many of these owners who are backing these claiming trainers are realistic and will let them make the big drop with a horse who needs it, and are realistic enough to understand the "diamond in the rough" may only come along every 50 claims, but they will keep filling the claim box until they get there.
Also, on a simplistic level there is a competency factor and in some cases luck. It is very simple as a horseplayers to be paranoid about such form reversals, instead take advantage of what you know. Every trainer has a pattern or approach that tips their hand, as a horseplayer you need to decipher it and add it to your multitude if winning angles.
Todd, Can you give us some "Horses and Trainers to Watch for" at the Del Mar meet? Have you heard anything lately on the Del Mar surface and what they plan to do (water, something else)?
Look for the trainers who had average meets at Hollywood Park or even subpar, and expect them to rebound at Del Mar. No matter where the circuit heads in each state, the trainer who is coming off a huge meet needs a little time for their stable to recover and a slow start can be expected.
For Del Mar, you touched on the most important point, the surface. Rob Hennie has written about this extensively in his West Coast Handicapping Report and Steve Davidowitz laid it out in simple terms in a recent handicapping column for the Daily Racing Form. The Del Mar surface will look and be quite different from last year. It is my understanding, and I have to go on other people's observations since I have not been down there yet, the track has more of a brownish tint to it compared to the sandy beach-like appearance it gave off last year. This new look is a derivative of the increased watering that is taking place, and will be part of the daily routine. I believe we will see quicker times as a result, and more horses having a chance to go gate to wire.
Los Angeles, CA:
Why does TVG not try offering up superfecta tickets in large fielded stakes races?
We do, but usually into the guaranteed pools. Given the popularity of superfectas and in particular the dime superfecta, we probably should offer more tickets up. I will definitely bring it up at our Monthly Production Meeting.
Menomonee Falls, WI:
Hello Todd, Great work at TVG. My question is other than yourself if you had your last $2.00 and needed to turn it into a $20 which TVG handicapper you choose to bet it?
Absolutely Dave Weaver, he is a miracle worker when his back is up against the wall (which is most of the time). Conversely, if I wanted to turn $2,000 into confetti Dave would be my man too.
Panama City, FL:
As a former color analyst working for Calder race course how much pain did you feel for the horsemen running for purses that resembled Finger Lakes?
No Bueno. Having forged many friendships on the backside and frontside at Calder, the whole situation was heartbreaking.
Also, Calder's current President Ken Dunn is winding down his career at Calder and this was unfortunate that he had to preside over this difficult time. Calder has been one of the most profitable and efficiently run racetracks in America under Ken's stewardship, and these events and the corresponding business results should not even be considered part of his tenure. Ken is one of the best executives Thoroughbred racing has ever produced.
One of his chief deputies Sr. Vice President of Marketing, Mike Cronin, was my immediate supervisor for my seven years at Calder and from a marketing standpoint he has been put in an impossible situation. Mike is one of the most brilliant marketing minds I have been around, and to not have a chance to market Calder for the first two months of the meet was a real shame.
I would not have a career in horse racing if it were not for these two individuals and my overall experience at Calder with the tremendous horsemen and women there. I am glad to see they have gotten through this trying time, but I am afraid there will be lingering effects from an apathetic betting public and the still yet to be resolved ADW issue.
Golden Valley, MI:
Greatest horse you ever saw in person, and what you remember about the race.
Who Doctor Who, the best sprinter nobody on the West or East Coast has probably ever heard of. In the Midwest, Who Doctor Who based out of Nebraska at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack was a legend. He could blaze six furlongs or handle the demanding distance of the Cornhusker if asked. There has never been a better Nebraska Bred.
I was just starting my career in horse racing at Canterbury Downs and worked Customer Service where I taught people how to read the Racing Form, pointed people to where the bathroom was, and where the best food items could be found. I loved when Who Doctor Who came to visit, and always made sure I scheduled my lunch break so I could go to the paddock and see him, then go trackside and watch him thrash his rivals.
One year, the Doctor was in for The Chaucer Cup, Canterbury's richest sprint race and one of the richest sprint purses in the Midwest. As per usual I went down to the paddock and the Doctor was all business, following him out of the paddock and into the Post Parade, all laid back, was a horse coming in from California named Don's Irish Melody. (I am getting goosebumps just thinking about this right now.) In this six and half furlong race, the Doctor and Don's Irish Melody hooked up with each other just before the half mile mark and separated themselves from the rest of the field and neither one would let the other get more than a nose in front. They put up fractions no one had ever seen at Canterbury in a sprint race and hit the wire together in track record time (I am guessing it was 1:14 3/5, it has been nearly 20 years). A photo was definitely needed to decide the race, but I knew immediately what had happened, the Doctor had lost. I walked back to the paddock where my father always hung out with his racetrack friends, and I just stood with all of them in disbelief at what an amazing race we had just witnessed. My heart was broken and my breath was taken away.
It wasn't until years later that I had a point of historical reference for the race I witnessed that day at Canterbury. I imagine I was feeling what the fans at Saratoga felt after watching Jaipur and Ridan go neck and neck for most of their epic duel in the Travers.
I was wondering what the thought process was behind the newly instituted hidden selection on the pick 4 and 6. What is the advantage for TVG to have viewers look up the missing pick on the website? Not being familiar with the website, do you have to be a paid subscriber in order to get the missing selection?
In the same way we give extra production value to our track partners, so they can see a benefit, this new feature adds greater value for being a TVG account holder.
I was wondering who you enjoyed working with most at TVG and if you are ever annoyed with any of your co-hosts, because it always seems like you are harmony with everyone on the set.
Most of our on-air crew has been with TVG since the beginning and there is a kindred spirit there as well as a close-knit bond even if there are days where it is not so smooth. Ultimately, as a broadcaster your relationship with your on-air partner, whether you like them or tolerate them, should have nothing to do with the quality of the broadcast.
I never forgot a lesson early on. Where I grew up in Minneapolis there was a D.J. team that had the top rated Morning Radio Show for about five years. Their show was fun and entertaining and they played off of each other all of the time. Their producer burned out on his job and decided to work out at Canterbury, just for something to do. I asked him once about how good of friends the two D.J.s were, and much to my surprise he told me they couldn't stand each other. That is when I realized, the show comes first.
I have always admired you and Matt as handicappers and most importantly, fans of the sport. We are a dying breed! What does the Thoroughbred world need to do to intrigue people into the game, not only as fans, but as owners and breeders?
Horse racing is a true escape, and somehow creates its own world in the everyday world we all live in. It truly is a sport that needs to be experienced.
Having an outlet like TVG is needed to let people know at what level they can get involved and how to go about it. I am happy I am part of an outstanding team that brings horse racing into millions of homes, but ultimately my goal and the goal of TVG is to get people to visit their local racetrack more often, and take in a day of racing. We are all ambassadors for horse racing, and I am very fortunate to have an outlet that reaches the masses.
What’s your feeling on Surf Cat, can he be a Classic contender?
California horses always have an advantage when the Breeders' Cup is held out here, but ultimately I do not think of Surf Cat as a horse who will excel at a mile and a quarter.
Todd, Why can't they reduce the Pick 6 to something less than a mandatory $2? It seems to me that is discriminates against the smaller bettor.
Keeneland once tried a 50 cent Pick Six and it never caught on. The Pick Six is touted as an elusive prize that can yield a life-changing score, decreasing the increment would dilute the pools and change the very allure of the bet itself.
Your attendance and coverage of some of Quarter Horse racing's biggest events is excellent and appreciated. My question: What ever happened to the bust of you carved out of a tree and presented to you at Ruidoso?
I should have made that moment one of my biggest surprises on-air when asked that question during last week's chat. For those who may not remember or did not watch TVG at the time, our Executive Producer Tony Allevato got together with my on-air partner Dave Weaver and plotted a surprise for me following our broadcast of the All-American Futurity.
That year we went to all three races in the Quarter Horse Triple Crown, the Ruidoso Futurity, Rainbow, and All-American, all held at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Just before you make the turn into Ruidoso off the main highway through town there is a shop that has chainsaw sculptures, made out of logs, of local wildlife (there are a lot of bears as I recall). Unbeknownst to me, on our first trip there Dave and Tony stopped in and asked the chainsaw sculpturtist if he could carve a person's image out of a log, and he said he could. On our next trip they brought a picture of me, and the chainsaw sculpturtist carved my likeness. This was July, and Tony and Dave decided to keep the finished product in a plastic bag at Ruidoso until we returned for the All-American in September.
Unbeknownst to them, wood gets moldy when sitting in a plastic bag for months, and when they presented the sculpture to me at the end of the broadcast, Dave opened the bag to find a slimy likeness of me inside. With the accompanying footage of the artist taking his chainsaw and making the creation, it all caught me by surprise and left Dave and I in tears laughing through the close of the show. Eventually the carving was left on the roof at Ruidoso Downs, and nobody knows where it ended up.
One other quick point, I love going to Quarter Horse events. The power of a Quarter Horse up close leaves you in awe, but my favorite part of these events is meeting the people involved in Quarter Horse racing. The AQHA and everyone who has dedicated their life to being involved with the American Quarter Horse are such hospitable and gracious people.
Port St.Lucie, FL:
I watch TVG fairly often; I am 14 years old and I want to be a racing analyst really bad when I get older so can you give me any advice on how to fulfill my dream?
You are already ahead of me; I was the advanced age of 16 when I knew I wanted to work at the racetrack. The key to any endeavour you want to make your life's work is finding people you trust to give you advice, and honest assessments of what you need to do to make your dream happen.
There is a very long list of people I would need to give credit to for guiding me through the early part of my career, and all of them had words of wisdom that still resonate with me today. Whether it is family or it is someone you can mentor yourself after, those lessons will go a long way.
I do hope I am not painting this in too general of terms, so let me leave you with some specifics. J.G. Preston, Communications Director at Canterbury, once told me, "There is nothing in Broadcasting that you can't learn by just doing". Dark Star, the pre-eminent Horse Racing Analyst and Host in Minnesota racing, as well as a legend of the mid-80s, pulled me aside one day and said, "Find a life beyond the racetrack." (In other words be able to hold conversations about other things than horse racing, be well-rounded.) Tony Bentley track announcer at Canterbury gave me an incredible piece of advice, but that one I will keep to myself. Once you are on your career path and confident this is what you want to do, maybe I will share it with you.
Please know this, the industry is fortunate to have young people like you who have such a passion for this sport. If there is anything I can ever do, please do not hesitate to contact me.
How do you feel about the changes made to Breeders' Cup Day?
The indignation shown by so many with the announcement of 'Ladies Day' and the added races was very disappointing to me. Greg Avioli and the Breeders' Cup team are trying to take a horseracing institution and inject a new enthusiasm and create an excitement that will carry this event long into the 21st century. In order to do that, you have to be willing to take risks and you have to be forward thinking. These latest changes qualify on both counts.
Is Ken Rudolph always that positive or when you get off TV does he grumble and moan like the rest of us degenerates?
Unfortunately yes, he is Mr. Sunshine, and it really bothers me when I have been knocked out of one of my horizontal plays. Although, this year I finally have gotten him to pound the desk with his fists more and complain when he is out of his Pick Four or Pick Six. Now if I could just get him to stop uttering that loathsome, "Well, at least you are still fighting for Five!"
What do you think about the latest past posting at Tampa into race at Philadelphia?
Mike Maloney is one of the biggest players handle-wise in America (he hates that recognition by the way), and he is a tireless advocate on the issue. Mike, you may recall documented that he was able to bet a race at the Fair Grounds from his local racetrack after it had started. It says a lot about him that he has persevered on this issue just because he cares so much about the game. He has taken it upon himself to travel to seminars across the Country and share his views with racing officials.
I bring Mike up, because all of us can get involved at some level with how horse racing is operated in our State. Horseracing Board meetings are mostly Public Hearings, and this is where we as citizen horseplayers can make our presence felt no matter what the issue may be. There are some very good people working and advocating on this particular issue and it is vitally important because the scalability of our pari-mutuel system is the cornerstone to the legitimacy of the gaming side in horse racing.
I love watching you on the air. You are always informative and fresh. How do you think the retired jockeys Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens are doing as far as becoming broadcasters? I have enjoyed their perspectives.
Add Chris McCarron to that list, and what a triune of information. Having had Jerry on our set, and having worked with Gary and Chris, I am ultra-impressed with their talents. Each of them have very different personalities and ways of communicating their points, but they are all very effective in helping the audience understand what might be an intricate or very technical point. Also, despite their enormous individual accomplishments they do not talk down to their co-hosts and most importantly the audience.
Is Gomez returning to California a sign of the strength of the New York riding colony or a sign that 2nd call for Pletcher doesn’t warrant staying in New York anymore?
When you are Garret Gomez you have options, no matter what circuit he is on his business will be strong. His agent Ron Anderson is very calculating and will not make any move unless it will optimize his rider's chances of success, so I wouldn't buy into the theories you are advancing. Additionally, Gomez will certainly shuttle back and forth for any stakes races that come up on the East Coast. I must say, I am really looking forward to the show him and Rafael Bejarano will put on at Del Mar.
Do you think Lasix should be permanently banned in all countries, including the USA and Canada?
The introduction of Lasix to horse racing in North America has truly altered the sport on every level, and I just don't see how we can go back. The days where you would not breed a horse who bled in their career to another horse with the same problem, seems like it was not just from another time, but from another planet. Medication clearly has to be reigned in from the standpoint of a uniform policy, but I believe the opportunity to quantify the effect of Lasix and therefore limit its use or ban it altogether has long since passed.
Sierra Madre, CA:
If you had a horse running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and had to decide between Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey, who would you choose?
I know Gary Stevens has a place in Sierra Madre, "G. Money is this you putting me in a difficult spot ?" Either way, read how I escape this one. When I am on TVG, it's absolutely McCarron, if I am guesting on ESPN, it is absolutely Bailey.
Seriously, you can't make a bad decision, especially with those two in the Breeders' Cup Classic. In that particular race Bailey and McCarron are a dominant tandem. What separated both of them from some of their peers was their analytical approach, and how meticulous they went about preparing for a race.
Working with Chris, I have come to realize he will not answer a question without truly giving it some thought and taking into account all possibilities. When riding he was the same way, he has often talked about having a," Plan A" and a "Plan B", as a rider. No matter what situation came up in a race Chris had prepared for the possibility and could then execute his plan with his natural ability.
Bailey never took anything for granted, and many horseplayers always respected his awareness of where the best part of the racetrack might be. To further the point of not taking anything for granted, I can remember being on the same flight with Bailey to Hot Springs, Arkansas headed to Oaklawn Park. He asked if he could look at my Racing Form (You’re Jerry Bailey, I would give you my watch if you asked for it). Shortly after he started looking at the Past Performances for the Oaklawn Park Handicap, where he was riding the overwhelming choice Medaglia d'Oro in a small field, we hit some rough weather in our small plane. While I and everyone else on the plane gripped the side of our seats, he just sat calmly and intently looking at the past performances for his race.
West Palm Beach, FL:
I love watching Trackside Live. It gives me the feel of actually being around all those racetrack denizens we love so much. Is it in the best interest of racing to move people from the brick and mortar to the internet?
TVG has always been about creating new fans. Through shows like "All-Access" we try to take all levels of horse racing fans and take them into the sights and sounds of the racing world, with the hope it will be an impetus for them to visit their local racetrack in person.
This point must be clearly understood, or the current battles over Advance Deposit Wagering are going to be for naught and set the industry far back, Television coverage is the "Brick and Mortar" for the ADW Industry. I have read and even heard with bemusement the following comment, "We have started thinking about starting our own ADW."
My response to that is, "Who is going to show your races?"
Unfortunately, if the industry does not start to differentiate between ADWs and what TVG does, then that is where we are headed. Look at it this way, if I took out a business loan and after proper licensing put together the resources for my own Internet Betting platform and ran "Todd Schrupp's Betting Emporium" as a home based business, I may be an ADW, but am I the same thing as TVG ? Of course not.
Outside of horseracing, the bursting of the Tech Bubble in the '90s showed the vast potential of the Internet when it comes to commerce, while exposing the flawed mentality of the idea that businesses could just start up and be internet only without the crucial support a "Brick and Mortar" provides. In this unparalleled age of "new" media, Television is still the most significant medium to get your message out. When Television is used in concert with the Internet and other evolving Technologies (like the telecommunications market), then you have the formula for success, whatever your business may be.
Poker is often held up as the poster child for how an ailing pastime can turn their fortunes around. It is true, playing Poker on the Internet has made the game more accessible than ever before, but no one would argue that the Poker industry's biggest event, "The World Series of Poker" took off popularity when amateur and internet player Chris Moneymaker won the event. How did people find out about Moneymaker's amazing triumph? They watched it on television.
TVG gives horse racing a chance to be a part of this successful modern business model. Most importantly, TVG is an outlet for those who work in the industry, encourages the casual racing fan to pay attention to the sport more, provides a service to the year-round racing fan who may not be able to get to the track, and through daily exposure gives horseracing a chance to create fans and ensure its future.
West Palm Beach, FL:
Jeff DeForest once said he wanted to be buried at the 1/8th pole of Gulfstream because that's where all his horses died. Which track would you choose?
That was just one of many great 'Defo' lines. As a sportscaster in south Florida he actually worked a reference to the Virgin Mary into a hockey highlight once, but I won't tell you how.
Rather than answer that question directly I will try and top the 'Defo' horse racing line. I got married in the Calder Paddock, where I would make my selections before each race, every day on the simulcast television network. When my camera man heard where I was getting marrried he asked me, "Why would you want to get married where you picked so many losers?" I am happy to report, my wife and I will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary this January.
It seems as if the individual owner is becoming a thing of the past with the explosion of partnerships and corporations in racing. Is this trend helping or hurting the sport? Are they the only ones who can afford to play the game?
I think partnerships are a great way to become a horse owner. The expansion of the idea has generated so many partnerships that I am worried that many first-time owners might not be in a partnership that is right for them.
The advantage of an established partnership is clear, rather than having to line everyone up to acquire a horse and take on a majority of the financial investment, a partnership has done that work for you. However, I think the ideal situation is to learn everything through your local Thoroughbred owner's group and make the step towards horse ownership with a group of friends you share the same mind-set with.
In California, the Thoroughbred Owners of California put on seminars throughout the year for first-time horse owners. I have been fortunate to be able to participate in some of these seminars and they bring invaluable guests to speak on horse ownership, and provide all of the resources for you to start as an individual or a group. Most states have a group similar to the TOC and that is a perfect place to start.
West Palm Beach, FL:
Been a fan since your Calder Racing show. Do you see more young people becoming serious race fans and bettors? If not how can we improve our demographics?
I was told a startling statistic the other day by a racetrack executive, they told me a recent study found that the average horse racing fan is 59 years old. After working at Calder I knew it skewed somewhat high, but that is cause for concern.
I loved my time at Calder Race Course, and to read your comment remembering my work there is very gratifying. Having spent seven years at Calder I was very content, so it was going to take an extraordinary opportunity for me to even consider leaving for another job somewhere in racing. TVG turned out to be that extraordinary opportunity. Why ?
One my first jobs at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota was giving seminars to a 150 people, most of whom had never been to the races, packed under what we used to call the "revival tent" outside of the grandstand. At Calder, I wore many hats but my main responsibility was providing analysis on the simulcast network before each race or thoughts on the day's racing through the Calder Replay Show. Between those two tracks I worked 12 years starting at the age of 17 and the one thing that motivated me was the thought of providing the spark that made someone a life-long fan of Thoroughbred racing.
What became very disheartening after a while, was the realization my audience was limited. Let's be honest, how often can you even hear the pre-race analysis from a track out of state at your local betting facility? Additionally, many replay shows have been cancelled or relegated to midnight viewing.
TVG has given me an opportunity to spread the word about this "Greatest of Games" and tell the stories of so many wonderful people and magnificent equine athletes to millions of homes around the world. It is an opportunity I am always thankful for, and I believe it is horse racing's best opportunity to improve the demographics you referred to.
Why doesn’t TVG show the fractions permanently for a race while it’s running?
As you know, we do show the fractions once for various points of call. TVG spends a lot of money trying to get what are called "clean" feeds, in other words a feed from the track that has none of the graphics you would see if you were at the track. "Clean" feeds allow TVG to have a uniform presentation graphically, and the difference in quality of picture is amazing. I have watched some races on other outlets where it looks like it is being sent through someone's cell phone, the goal at TVG is to always maintain a "network" quality production.
The decision to put up the opening quarter mile, and then take it down, and then repeat that process for the following fractions is to allow for better viewing of the race and as little obstruction as possible. I have always maintained, you can say what you want about the on-air people like me at TVG, but there can be no denying TVG's graphics department headed by Michael Hanson has no equal in Thoroughbred racing. Many in the TVG graphics department work with other networks like Fox and put together graphics packages for MLB, NFL, Nascar, etc.
Hi Todd-enjoy your commentary on TVG! My question concerns the "other breeds" racing at the Calif. fair circuit...does each breed have its own jockeys, or are there jockeys who ride Arabians, Appaloosas, Quarters, and TBs? How big typically are their jocks?
It should be noted, Appaloosa and Quarters run against each other, also, Thoroughbreds do face Quarters around the hook at 870 yards, so jockeys on the circuits you mentioned ride a variety of breeds including the restricted Arabians races. The Los Alamitos jockey colony is a good example of riders applying their craft to many different breeds. It is true there are some jockeys who are better on the straightaway, but a jockey like Ramon Guce who is dominant around the turns has been known to win a race down the straightaway. The jockeys on these circuits do not vary much in weight from the jockeys who ride at the major Thoroughbred tracks (Joy Scott who rides on both circuits is a good example).
Hey Todd. I've been going to Canterbury since it opened in 1985. I heard by someone that Ken and Matt are coming up for the claiming crown. Are you coming up also?
Ken and Matt are coming up for the Claiming Crown. My travel schedule is pretty full and unfortunately it is a trip I will not be able to make.
In my house hangs a framed poster from the inaugural 1985 season, "History in the Running". We are both very fortunate to call Canterbury our home track, it has always been a beautiful facility and played host to champions like Bayakoa who ran on the grass there, Unbridleed who ran there as a two-year-old before winning the Kentucky Derby the following year, Broad Brush lost to 72-1 shot Cheapskate in the Saint Paul Derby, Lost Code rolled to victory under Gene St. Leon in the St. Paul Derby, Clever Trevor, Smile, Bad Wagon Harry, Hoist Her Flag, Who Doctor Who, Don's Irish Melody, John Bullit, Little Bro Lantis, Turbo Launch, Rampage...etc.
Yeah, I think about Canterbury every now and then. Say hello to Dark Star for me, tell shoe shine Annie I had a teenage crush on her, let Ron Uchman know they are serving chicken drummettes for lunch in the Press Box, and I loved it when Tony Bentley would turn off the Mic in the middle of a racecall to sing part of an aria, and then pick up the call where he left off. Also, if you see my dad could you lend him $100? He's good for it until the end of the month.
Las Vegas, NV:
Who have been some of the most influential people you've worked with at TVG? (both in front of the camera and behind the scenes).
It is a long list (and so, too, a long answer), and the people I am on-air with are more than co-workers there is a familial bond there when I think about someone like Greg Wolf who I auditioned with before either of us had a job at TVG. Greg and those who have been with TVG in-front of the camera or behind it from the very beginning have shaped my life and will be a part of it in ways they may never know.
You did say "the most influential", so I must mention two names behind the scenes because ultimately the people behind the scenes give those of us in-front of the camera our best shot at succeeding. I have succeeded at TVG from the very beginning because of the counsel and guidance of Executive Producer Tony Allevato and now Senior Vice-President of Programming Keving Grigsby.
In Tony Allevato you will not find a more loyal boss, a fiercer competitor, quite possibly a better horseplayer, and as Frank Lyons once put it, "He really is the best man for that job". I have always related to Tony because he came into horse racing when he was in High School, much like I did. It was that low-level entry into the game that instilled a tireless work ethic and his intense desire to be the best at whatever he does.
While working his way through Cal State Fullerton, Tony was a researcher for ABC on their Triple Crown shows getting a chance to work with legends like Jim McKay, Al Michaels and Curt Gowdy, Jr. He took his degree and went to work at Hollywood Park and transformed their television department and how tracks should generate media attention into a template all tracks should follow. He has brought all those experiences to TVG and passed them on to me and other employees, all the while deftly guiding this network through turbulent and placid waters.
Kevin Grigsby was my very first producer at TVG for what may have been the most ill-conceived and hated show for a new horse racing network, "Trackside Lite". It certainly was not for lack of talent, "Trackside Lite" had two of my favorite personalities to work with on-camera, Gary Mandella and Claudia Simon, and behind the scenes Stephanie Medina directing and Kevin producing. Ultimately the problem with the show was timing, I think it would be a tremendous show now, but I can only imagine what those poor people in Versailles, Kentucky were thinking when they saw our antics each night.
When you go through such a rough experience as "Trackside Lite" you cannot help but be close to those who shared the misery, but that would be simplifying it too much. Kevin is a television prodigy. Ever since L.A. Sportscasting legend Fred Rogan told him to,"Get out of my way kid", while Kevin was touring a local station as a Fourth Grader, he knew he wanted to be a producer. Kevin has already proven himself in the Los Angeles television news arena and could work at ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX, but he is at TVG and all of us at TVG are much better off because of it.
I have been watching TVG since it became available to DirecTV in 2003. What is Frank Lyons really like in private? Thank you for your time and consideration.
I am often asked that question, and the answer is right before your eyes every day. The Frank Lyons you see on-camera is the Frank Lyons you get off-camera.
Frank once admitted his philosophy on life to me and said, "You have two choices in Life. You can be Happy, or you can be Miserable. It's that simple."
Where it gets tricky, and I know Frank would agree with this, is when we make decisions that make us miserable. I grew up an only child, and Frank is like having a non-judgmental older brother. You know he won't criticize you too much for your shortcomings because he has plenty of his own.
What can we horse race fans do to earn the ability to advance deposit wager if we live in a state that doesn't allow it?
Letting your local state legislator know this is something you think would benefit your state. Power to the people.
Todd, I watch TVG from India often and have to say you are the most astute handicapper on the show. You seem to think 2yo are easy to handicap, why so, and what is it you look for most?
You are the definition of how TVG truly has a global reach, thank you for watching. Simply put, there really are no surprises in two-year-old races, often you can look back at the winner of a two-year-old race and there are plenty of logical reasons why a particular horse won.
When handicapping a two-year-old race there are three basic factors that weigh-in heavily towards who will win. One, start by looking for win-early pedigrees. Two, look at trainers who are capable of winning with a two-year-old. Three, look for consistency in the work pattern. These three principles are the foundation for my handicapping two-year-old races and were formulated during my seven years at Calder, the two-year-old racing capital of America.
How do you like the fact that you have two horses named for you, one named Toddtonthetv and the other named Toddtschruppolini?
I could not be more honored, but I am worried their performances will discourage other owners from bestowing me with this honor in the future.
With the possible closure of Hollywood Park after 2009 it would leave a big hole in southern Cal racing. What are your views on this and from a money standpoint would BMLC really benefit from redeveloping?
My friend Brant Allen, once said to me when we were both working at Calder and he was getting ready to leave for a job at Arlington Park (pre C.D.I. at either track), "Don't worry, one day we will all be working for the same company." He was not only prophetic in his case, but he was right on about the industry and the downsizing that is now in full effect.
It would be terrible to lose Hollywood Park, how can anyone dispute that? However, as urban sprawl is finding less and less space, just about every major racetrack in America would be more profitable as a Rick Caruso developed mall or some type of housing development. Every racing jurisdiction is going to face some gut wrenching decisions. I was in Florida when the unthinkable happened, Hialeah closed; there are no sacred cows when it comes to racetracks.
What kind of Kool-Aid does your colleague Matt drink, b/c he is a character?
I have known Matt since I started working in horseracing. Matt and I are both only children which might explain our kinship to a certain degree, but he is also one of the most thoughtful and analytical people I have met at the track. I honestly don't think the camera can truly capture all the aspects of Matt's personality that I find so engaging. Matt doesn't need Kool Aid to be cool, he just is.
South Pasadena, CA:
Why do you say "no bueno" all the time?
I tend to have a word or catch phrase I fall into month to month. "No Bueno" is what I am stuck on right now, the audio man at Hollywood Park said he kept track for the past month and I uttered it 139 times.
I have to give my former colleague and still good friend Gary Stevens credit or blame for it, he used to say it when telling stories. I do think it is a great way to describe how you feel, "No Bueno". How you are doing in the Pick Four, "No Bueno". It really does have a multitude of uses, and I think I have found them all.
Now that TVG has begun predominantly featuring the Meadowlands’ harness races, as well as spotlighting some other harness tracks, have you started to appreciate harness racing more?
I am from Minnesota, the home of the Legendary Dan Patch, so I have always appreciated Harness Racing. I was in the Canterbury Downs grandstand as a fan on a cold October night when Forest Skipper set a new track record. My only regret is not getting out to The Red Mile during one of my visits to Lexington.
Todd do you still consider yourself the "King" of 2-year-old racing?
After getting two weeks of 'Talkin Horses' and conversing with all of you, I now consider myself "King of the World". Thank you for all of the kind thoughts and challenging questions.