Pleasanton Preps: Why I'm leaving Pleasanton horse racing | News | |


Pleasanton Preps: Why I'm leaving Pleasanton horse racing

Local industry has been my passion, but time is right to step away

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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!

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact Miller or submit local high school sports scores, game highlights and photographs for his weekly Pleasanton Preps column, email him at

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2 people like this
Posted by Claudette McDermott
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2019 at 10:04 am

One of the things I enjoy about horse racing is what you've provided over the years. You do make it fun and very informative. Those moments before a race when we gather together to listen to what the panel has to say and the fun giveaways. It gets everyone in the mood and off to a good start. I'm wishing you the best and just want to let you know, you aren't alone. Many of us get frustrated in our jobs and volunteer work.

I quit the other day myself (at a gallery) and was begged to come back. My frustrations were as yours is, trying new things to get a better result, and was met with bolders in my path, as expected and just got tired of it. But, with the promise that they would let me "do my thing" so we can all reap the rewards, I decided to give it another try. Wishing you the best ~

4 people like this
Posted by Horsepucky
a resident of Parkside
on Jul 3, 2019 at 6:03 pm

If the Pleasanton racing scene is as bad as Dennis claims, why wouldn’t he take steps to help instead of bailing out?

Like this comment
Posted by Roaddog
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Well 'Pucky, maybe you can get involved locally to help effectuate some measure of change yourself? I don't think any of us should cast aspersions about anyone else's decision making when said decision relates to the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment in their own life, do you?

3 people like this
Posted by Kindness to Animals
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 5, 2019 at 5:42 pm

2 Horses Joy of Saints and No New Friends died this season at Alameda County Fairgrounds. There may be more as this never got to the news! 45 horses have been killed at Alameda County Fairgrounds in the last 5 years. Jerry Hollendorfer who was banned from Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields transported 36 horses to Alameda County Fairgrounds this year where he is allowed to race! Horse Racing is not a sport it's animal abuse plain and simple! Is a life worth a $2 ticket!
Abolish Horse Racing!!

4 people like this
Posted by Dennis Miller
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 5, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Horsepucky -- believe me, I tried - multiple times. I am not in a decision making position, but I tried for over 10 years. Got tired of banging my head against the wall.

1 person likes this
Posted by Cassy Tschanz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2019 at 6:08 am

Reply to Kindness to Animals, Life is full of risks. No living creature escapes death. Horse racing as an industry has put in place strict no medication rules(except Lasix.) Unlike most California laws the no medication rules are strictly enforced. Horses are spot tested after timed works and races. The penalty for either a medicated work or race is the same.
I am curious about the 45 horses in the last 5 years. Does this include when the fair grounds was year round training? Is it only break downs or does it include sickness as well?
As to the Hollendorfer ban that was the privately held Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields who exercised their privilege of Exclusion Without Cause to which their is no defense. To his credit he has treated his many employees well throughout this major shift in their lives. He has kept his cool and is trying to do what is best for his horses, clients, employees and the many businesses that supply his barn.

1 person likes this
Posted by Kindness to animals
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 6, 2019 at 7:50 am

Reply to Cassy Tschanz. Life is full of risks, without exploiting animals for financial gain. The Horse Racing industry is very loosely regulated and enforced. Tis one of the reasons for all the deaths.
I attended the California Board of HR meeting in June at the fairgrounds. It was clear to me the owners know how bad the industry has abused drugs, run horses too young and too much. It proves fatal for the animal at the hands of humans.
It’s an industry about gambling and money at the fate of horses.
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2019 at 1:34 pm

Kindness to Animals..."Is Life worth a $2.00 ticket?" and/or "It's an industry about gambling and money at the fate of horses." It's obviously a passion of yours to dissolve racing. It may be coming but not for your reasons. What part of life is not about gambling and money? NFL football family of 4, $400-$800 per game. Baseball family of 4, $200 average. Parents who believe placing their children into sport clubs and out of life's harm will remedy everything. They are risking everything early on for what? A guarantee that their money gambled will prevent a better outcome.
That is what parents do, we risk and make mistakes. However, do not judge the majority of horse people as parasites, they are not. They are hard working and their "Love" of horses is only symbolic to your lack of good judgement. Generalizing is stupid!
If something requires fixing, government is not always the best way. People on the inside must help themselves...or no longer exist.

2 people like this
Posted by Kindness to animals
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Reply to Pete, Thank you for your response. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and agree. I’m not judging and generalizing but am a voice for animals suffering at the hands of humans. Society is recognizing that using animals for entertainment is no longer acceptable. (Ringling Brothers Circus, Sea World, Rodeo, Horse Racing) I look forward to a kinder world for the next generation.

1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:52 pm

We are fast approaching the point when it will be, that human football competition is determined to be brutish, beastily, and sub human, causing the sport to go away!

5 people like this
Posted by Agree with Horsepucky
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Yet another article from out-of-touch Dennis; telling us how wonderful things were in the good old days and what a saint he is. He doesn’t even explain what is so wrong with the Pleasanton racing scene. The ship is “sinking” due to backstabbing, cut-throat, afraid-to-rock-the-boat behavior; and he’s frustrated??! While he’s leaving things in Pleasanton, I wish he would do us all a favor and just quit writing in the weekly altogether. I can’t stand when he writes this whiny crap.

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