Life is about making difficult choices and back in December I made a gut-wrenching one when I decided to step away from my role as the horse racing publicist in Pleasanton after this Sunday, upon completion of the live racing at the Alameda County Fair.
As many of you know, for years now I have been the co-host of the free Daily Handicapping Seminar each day before racing during the Alameda County Fair, as well as the host of the $10,000 Putting Contest.
I also give private handicapping seminars to groups, as well as tours of the paddock before a race, giving people a chance to see the horses and the preparation up close.
I love sitting out there and talking about the nuances of horse racing with people who come only during the fair. It's the best way to grow the sport -- educate and make it fun. Conversation is a lost art but one I still embrace, and seeing families enjoying the races is wonderful and fulfilling.
At the Pleasanton Off-Track Betting facility, I have helped with promotions, run contests and built up many friendships with people that have become regular customers.
Simply -- horse racing in Pleasanton is my life and yet I have chosen to walk away.
I have been coming to races during the Alameda County Fair horse racing for 50 years. I started betting in fifth grade (I sold my parents on it being a great way to work on my math skills during the summer). At that point, the jumble of numbers in the Daily Racing Form just clicked in my head.
I've been hooked since and am happy to be able to make a living on horse racing.
So why leave Pleasanton?
There are many reasons, and if you want to grab a cup of coffee sometime in downtown Pleasanton, I would be happy to share them with you. The Reader's Digest version: I have serious problems and frustrations with the direction of the industry in all aspects.
I liken it to the movie "Titanic," with horse racing being the ship and I don't want to be Jack holding on in the freezing ocean while the ship sinks. I want to be in the lifeboat early on.
It's the most self-serving industry I have ever been a part of, and the backstabbing, as well as the unsubstantiated rumor spreading, is hurting horse racing to the point of no return.
As an industry we must think outside the box, both with live racing and the off-track centers. As someone that has been on both sides of the industry -- gambler and insider -- I have a unique perspective, but I felt my skill set was not being fully utilized.
Because it's such a cut-throat industry, people are afraid to rock the boat or else risk losing their jobs. As a result, the sport -- on all sides -- suffers.
It gets to a point where the frustration overrides everything else, and that's what happened in December and why I decided to walk away.
I would rather not leave behind one of my life's passion. I would love to see a renewed sense of energy and commitment to trying some new promotions.
The phrase "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is a perfect description of where horse racing is right now.
Horse racing in Pleasanton has been a big part of my life, and I would like nothing more than to keep educating people about the wonderful sport that is horse racing. It's fun, exciting and a wonderful way to spend a summer day at the fair.
I am humbly touched by the number of people who have come up to me the first three weeks of the fair and expressed their dismay of me leaving. To the fair board members that have vowed to keep me, I appreciate your thoughts and feelings more than you know.
I also need to thank Pleasanton director of racing Jeanne Wasserman, who has been a good friend for many years, and more importantly, a trusted colleague. Also, I have had the pleasure to work with Alameda County Fair CEO Jerome Hoban the last few years, and it is a joy to see someone that genuinely cares about the sport and the people involved.
To the racing fans -- both casual and serious -- hey I will still be here, probably just sitting in box seats next year during the meet.
Cheers! Now let's some cash some tickets!