If you were a hit man, you’d have no problem finding me on a Tuesday afternoon. You better watch out when you see my cart coming. I have my grocery list in hand, and I’m planning meals, school lunches, and snacks in between. I even have a handful of coupons, but I’m lacking the pocket binder the soccer mom’s carry like a playbook. Maybe I’ll get there, but I doubt it…
On this day, I was greeted by an elderly man who has known me since I was a kid. “Eddie, how you been?” If you still call me Eddie, your one of my parents, or we went to school together. But, I still enjoy hearing the name I’ve known most of my life. “Great. I’m just doing some shopping for my son and I, and if he gets any bigger I’m gonna’ have to send him to eat at your house!” I replied. “I saw him a few months ago with your Dad, and he’s gonna be a big man. I would hate to have clothe or feed that young man!” He said. “But how have you bee? Are you going back to the track when they open?” For the many who have known me, that has been one of the constants of my life. You are reading the words of one of the luckiest guys in the world. How many people do you really know who love what they have done for work? I know, I’m not alone by any means, but racing is a passion that has defined my life and allowed me the privilege of doing what I love.
“Yes, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m looking forward to the meet and it starts in May.” We’re always hopeful to return. I’m looking forward to calling the races, and setting the morning line again this year. But most importantly, I’m looking to improve from last year. I listened to where I began and where I ended. I think they should’ve tossed me out the first week. But thank you for allowing me to get a bit more comfortable each day. I’ve been listening to others and how they’ve evolved, and like a musician I’m still looking for my sound. I’ve been working on being more patient, and not worrying about being so colorful. I have noticed good race callers stick to the facts, and only jazz up their style when the race calls for it. Sometimes we find ourselves getting caught up in action and wanting to re-write the dictionary.
“Eddie, I’ve known you since you worked in the parking lot. For a guy that loves the races, you’ve had some really nice jobs.” “Thanks! I’ve loved every minute.” There hasn’t been a day I’ve regretted my choice. I’m sure there are some that would tell me I’m not going to be rich, or won’t retire a millionaire. But sometimes there are more important things than money. Try taking it with you. That’s why there are so many people standing in line to make a bet. “Eddie, you have worked at Turfway, River Downs, and even got to work at Keeneland. You’ve done radio shows, TV, and written for Winning Ponies. Do you have a favorite job, or one that stands out more than the others?”
“They’ve all been great. I’ve loved them all, and it would be like picking a favorite child. But, I do have a real special job I was proud to be a part. It stands out at the top, and only a handful know anything about it.” Long ago at River Downs, I asked John Engelhardt what he thought about having an intern in our office. He didn’t object, and said we sure could use the help as we were a two man team stretched to the max. “No, John. Not one intern, but a few good people we could teach the business.” He smiled that wry grin and said see if anyone would be interested. That was the beginning, and before you knew it we had four interns that summer. I contacted local universities, filled out the needed paperwork, and interviewed the candidates. John was so sick of my power-pitch that he would put on a wool cap. He said it kept my words from bruising his brain.
I started in parking and had to work my way up. There were long hours, and not many were willing to give a hand up to get started. John may have been the lone exception, and was the one who called me to interview with the GM of River Downs. To this day, if you ask him the greatest shows he has ever witnessed. He would tell you tales of his beloved Dayton Flyers, the many incredible music acts he has photographed, and the day that Ed Meyer came in and interviewed. John sat in for the interview, and leaned back and took it all in. He said at first he was listening, but after about five minutes into the interview, he said he would have liked to put that wool cap on. “I’ve never seen a man sell himself so well for a job that was already his.” I wanted to give others something I rarely experienced; a hand up to get started in a tough business to break into. No matter what your major/minor, I told each and every one that when they left they would have a skill set that would transfer into anything they chose.
John and I enjoyed having the “kids” around since we were two old farts. They had energy and the gleam in their eye that gets lost as years go by. They took part in everything. Promotions, track events, working with patrons, and assisting John on the photography end if they had the desire. There was plenty of hard work, pizza parties, concert tickets for the interns, as well as the summer tan they earned sweating in the Ohio sun. I really emphasized speaking in public. They would be tortured to hawk events on a mega-phone, and go on-air with The Regular Guy Show. At first they would be shy and timid, and by the end of the summer I had a front row seat watching young people grow. This was the best job I ever had in racing. Helping someone build a resume, gain college credits, and watching that confident look go from a glimmer to a tanned gleam. I’m proud of each and everyone that spent time with us over the summers. Some went on to graduate school, others used it as reference, and some are doing extremely well in every facet of the racing industry. I can remember ending each and every interview the same. “After all said and done here at River Downs. I would consider it an honor to work for you someday.” I look back fondly on all of my jobs in racing, but the opportunity to help others get started is the winner.