All of us ponder, ''where would I be today if I hadn't chosen this path?''
In 2006 I am at Santa Anita, in the press box, working on my deadline for Today's Racing Digest, and my 11 year old, at the time, daughter texted me:
Alessandra: "Dad can you pick me up in an hour earlier at school?"
[She and her sister went to school in Monrovia, adjacent to Santa Anita]
Me: "I am working right now!"
Alessandra: "Dad, all you do is watch horses goin' round in circles.''
Me: "See you in an hour''
I have been in the racing industry since 1988, 35 years and counting and Alessandra's text couldn't have been more on point.
Thus, wondering where I would be if I didn't watch horses going round in circles..... I actually had a great future, I was in senior management as a Loss Prevention Investigator, I had moved up quickly thru the ranks of undercover agent, to District Investigator in the South Bay Area in Los Angeles.
I was one of the youngest investigators for Carter-Hawley and Hale, Broadway stores, responsible for over 1000 arrest from misdemeanors to grand theft felonies in LA and SD counties.
I was hired by Arthur Blanks, Home Depot, soon thereafter, Home Depot was just exploding on the scene and there was good money, stock options involved, I lasted about 15 months as I left to follow my love of racing and The Racing Times.
Hired by Jay Privman, I was in charge of the day to day gathering of racing information, the 'Chart Caller', as this was all pre-equibase times.
What changed my entire trajectory was a meeting I had in November 1991 with Rick Lochner at Today's Racing Digest.
We sat down in the Trade Service Corporation conference room, in Torrey Pines, California, and we discussed the future, amid rumors of Racing Times and the late Robert Maxwell, pension scandal and demise.
"One thing you would be really good at is clocking'', Rick Lochner told me "we would be very interested if you are clocking at Santa Anita.''
That's how it started, I got my butt up early and started to clock. I had had some experience hanging out in the morning on the backstretch, and was surprised how quickly I picked it up. In the first week I was already pissing off official clockers, who don't like anyone clocking in their domain.
I recall two specific horses that fall meet at Hollywood Park:
Star of the Crop on 11.16.1991 winning after a big work, the Prevue Stakes, off a slow maiden win at Santa Anita, for Willard Proctor and a Julio Canani grey Claiming type who crushed its field after a good work.
Star' and the grey horse had been one of the first horses I clocked and identified, in my first week. Star' paid $9.60, the claiming grey paid over $10, but to me it was strictly '' you can do this''.
I have never been shy about having confidence in what I do.
Jay Privman wanted to see the opening day Santa Anita, December 26, 1991 issue of the Racing Times include a workout report, and there lay my first published workout report.
I cam up with a $20 winner, a first time starter from the Danny Velasquez barn.
In February 1992, the call comes in that the Racing Times will be absorbed by the Daily Racing Form, at that time Steven Crist was calling the shots. He didn't believe in a workout report, so I went to Today's Racing Digest.
There has been quite a few individuals in my journey that absolutely miscalculated the usage of workouts to promote the game and to provide handicapping information.
In 1998 I asked Cliff Goodrich, the head of Santa Anita, about doing morning work shows at the track. "Bruno, no one cares about workouts'', is the most famous one.
In 2002, Allen Gutterman at Hollywood Park started the Railbird Club, I became the host every Sunday morning, and we attracted over 100 individuals to talk about racing, clocking, etc on a weekly basis. When Allen Gutterman moved east, Mike Ziegler took over the marketing department, the Railbird Club was out every Sunday.
Allen went to NYRA now with Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Mike Ziegler is currently the Executive Director of Racing at Churchill Downs.
Yes, people did care about workouts and understanding horses, I laid the foundations of moving back East, and despite being told ''you'll never be able to clock on the East coast,'' or ''the official clockers won't allow you to clock at their track'', and ''they'll run you out of the building,'' we are still here.
I got the message that the official clockers had too much damn power, I was all up for finding their kryptonite.
The late Steve Davidowitz would tell me stories of the unpleasantries hurled at private clockers when the old Racing Form clockers ruled the roost.
Allies would go far but also being licensed as an owner at that jurisdiction and having horses on the grounds is the kryptonite. Cue the 'Mission Impossible theme', it worked. No one challenged us, no one tried to run us out.
Moving to the East Coast in 2011 after a 23 year career in California, was exhilarating. Saratoga, Churchill, Keeneland, Pimlico, Gulfstream, I have experienced it all and how the players responded, well, I am still here.
Throughout my career, I have fully understood, that the racing industry as a whole as little idea of what truly horseplayers want or needs to survive, but on the other hand, I also understand their view, ''they'll be back tomorrow ''.
Not because we are suckers, but because we truly love the game.
I have also realized that you have to put it on your shoulders sometimes, take your lumps, and keep chipping away, now every one watches works, everybody wants in the workout report industry.
Having almost four decades of experience it has to be a total package, as Robert Griffin III said, ""Stats are like bikinis: they show you a lot, but they don't show you everything", the application of stats in racing is overused, and I feel like one the pioneers of the last frontier in handicapping "the art of looking at a horse for its value" is they Key to making money at the races, after all, and all these years, I am still here, stronger than ever.
My racing career has been a school of hard knocks, live and learn, survive another day, another week, another year, but that's for every single soul, including the horses in this industry.
If you stop to ponder your place even for a minute, they'll start throwing dirt on you.
You are only as good as your last winner, what have you done for me lately, and the ultimate 'Gotcha' game.
in 2024 I am entering my 36th year in the industry.
So where would I be if it wasn't for racing? I wouldn't be watching horses go round in circles for a living.