Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Todd Schrupp
TVG Host/Racing Analyst

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Todd Schrupp

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.

Note to our Talkin' Horses readers:
Todd Schrupp received a very large number of questions for his July 10 chat. Because of this, Schrupp has agreed to do this second week as the Talkin' Horses guest. If your question did not get answered in the July 10 chat, Schrupp will do his best to get the remaining questions answered. We thank both him and our readers for supporting the Talkin' Horses chat.

Louisville, KY:
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.

Louisville, KY:
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.

Atlanta, GA:
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.

Phoenixville, PA:
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.

Willowbrook IL:
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.

Medford, NJ:
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.

Miramar, FL:
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.

Lexington, KY:
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.

Bronxville, NY:
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.

Coatesville, PA:
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.

Houston, TX:
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.

Inman, SC:
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.

Sykesville, MD:
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!"

Naples, FL:
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.

Alpharetta, GA:
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.

Fredericksburg, VA:
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.

Pomona, CA:
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.

Louisville, KY:
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.

Greenville, NC:
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.

Pittsburgh, PA:
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).

Shakopee, MN:
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.

Oceanside, NY:
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.

Phoenix, AZ:
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.

Mumbai, India:
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.

Alden, NY:
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.

Donnelly, ID:
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.

Memphis, TN:
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.

Lexington, KY:
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.

Lexington, KY:
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.


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