For most handicappers, you dream of the day when you’ll bring your son or daughter to the races. It takes you back to a simpler time as you held your grandpa’s hand, or walked along with Dad into the large building. As you slid under the turnstiles for free admission, and stood in line to get your program. The entire building was decorated and had a festive feel. Throngs of gamblers walked about in the most diverse melting pot in the world. Yeah, it’s fair to say I’ll never forget my first.
Usually, I stay away from using names, but not this time. I’m going to name names, and give you the low down as I best remember the story. Forgive me if I miss a detail or two, but I think you’ll get the picture. There are many people I have worked with, became friends, and some I didn’t mind if they took vacation days for the entire year. Two of the best guys I’ve met at the race track have many things in common. They are both beer drinking Irish-born handicappers. They have the same first name, and both are writers. Over the years they’ve become good friends, and I was allowed to join the fraternity working in the same office.
The first gent made his first trips as a young lad. He would go to the track with his uncle who was a butcher. He had one day off a week and would spend it at the track. He told me he fell in love with racing on one of his first trips. As they were walking in, the track announcer was colorfully bringing to life the beauty and pageantry of the race. The excitement was building into explosive elation as the horses neared the wire. When the horses crossed the finish line, the youngster looked way up high, and grabbed his uncle’s hand and asked the million dollar question. ” Does the man who announces the races get paid for doing that ?” – His uncle just smiled and answered “yes, they sure do.” Many moons later that little kid went to school and became a great athlete, and eventually his first love called his name. He has called races at Remington Park, Hazel Park, and River Downs. His main duties are working for Equibase as a chart caller. You have read his stories in the Daily Racing Form as he covers most of the mid-west racing circuits. You may have heard him as a guest handicapper on the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show, or on one of many racing radio programs. John Patrick McDulin is the kind of guy you can call in the middle of the night in a snow storm, and he’ll be the first one there to help a friend. I have enjoyed my friendship with John, and I would like to wish him a Merry Christmas. I hope he is enjoying the weather, and I can’t wait to catch up with him when he returns to Belterra Park in the spring. Here’s to my good friend, Johnny Mac!
I found out that Syracuse, New York and Dayton, Ohio were the crossroads for the beginning of humanity. Well, maybe he was pulling my leg as the first was where he was raised, and the second is where he has called home since graduating from the University of Dayton. His brother, Bob was a “White Cap” at Saratoga. His duties included running bets for patrons and taking care of their needs. He received good tips with money and horses, and Bob’s main duty was to keep an eye on his little brother. What a place to fall in love with the races! I’m not sure if his first trip was with his brother, or maybe it was his aunt who was a nun. But either way, the racing bug bit this young man. He’s always been an artist, and has a keen eye for capturing the moment at the races. I like to tease him and call him the “Silver Tongue Devil” as he has the gift of gab. There are not many dull stories that come from his mouth. If you buy the man a drink or two, you’ll learn more about life than you could learn in a hundred years in college. He was the track photographer at the defunct Beulah Park, and was the longtime publicity director at River Downs. He has had art exhibits in Washington, held elected positions for the Turf Publicists, and loves every second educating the public about the greatest sport. You can find him each and every Thursday evening on the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show, and if you take the time to join in you’ll be entertained and educated by the biggest names in racing. I never had the guts to tell him, but on my first day at Keeneland I was summoned by the track president into the hallway. I thought I was in trouble, and I hadn’t been there long enough for my car engine to cool. “Hello, Ed. Welcome to Keeneland.” – “Nice to meet you sir, and I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful opportunity,” I replied.”I met you three years ago at River Downs, you worked with John Englehardt.” There is no place in the galaxy that John hasn’t been. If they had racing, he could tell you all about the good old days. He taught me more about the sport just by taking care of the people who mattered, the players. He has helped many people in racing, and counting me you can add in two more calls on the phone to go to work. From his first days, I think he had a special place in his heart for racing. He fell in love with the equine athletes, and made good friends with the human connections. I would like to wish John Engelhardt a Merry Christmas, and I hope we’ll be talking horses for many years to come.
We all have stories on when and where it began. Many started the same, but many of the next generation may miss that old feeling of walking into a huge building filled to the brim. There are no cigar chomping men, long lines to wager, and most find themselves playing from home. Nothing ever stays the same, and racing is no exception. Since 2008, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the Winning Ponies team. By chance we met, and these past years have been some of the best of my racing career. I was the first host of the Winning Ponies Internet Show, and they have backed me since day one. – If you enjoy what your doing. Don’t stop, just keep going. I have no plans to round third and head for home just yet, and in many ways I feel I’m just getting started. Yeah, I’ll always remember my first love.