Keith Jones

Dick Jerardi is an award winning sports writer as well as a radio/television host and commentator, and is arguably best known for covering the sport of Horse Racing.

Though his work as a journalist at The Philadelphia Daily News, Dick has covered every Triple Crown race since 1987 (he is a five-time winner of theRed Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage). Dick Jerardi famously chronicled the remarkable Smarty Jones during the Triple Crown chase of 2004 s the Thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Since 2011 Jerardi has been an on-air analyst for the live television broadcasts of The Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing, most recently for NBC Spots Philadelphia.

Many fans know of Dick Jerardi’s work from the long running Let’s Go Racing TV program where he works alongside fellow Parx Hall of Fame members Keith Jones and producer Bruce Casella.

Dick also continues to provide color commentary for the live broadcasts of Penn State basketball.


2018 Butch Reid

Butch Reid has been training horses since 1985. Like so many of his brethren, he led the life of a gypsy, going from track to track depending on the season and the horses in his barn. He has won 729 races with purse earning for his owners of $22.2 million, nice numbers but, once you start factoring in all the expenses, nothing that is going to make anybody rich.

When he heard a casino was coming to Parx, not all that far from where he grew up in South Jersey, he said “I decided I might beat the gate and get here as soon as I could.”

So he arrived with the slot machines. He had some good years and lean years before that, but his best years have been between 2008 and 2018. His stable typically wins between 30 and 55 races each year with purse earnings for his owners between $1.1 million and $2.2 million.

“I don’t think anybody could have imagined it turned out to be as big as it did,” Reid said.

His four main owners, prominent businessmen in the Philadelphia area, have invested millions in the horse business. His wife Ginny is right by his side at the barn every day, a partner in every way. Together, they won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Marathon with Afleet Again the year before their Poseidon’s Warrior won a Grade I stake at Saratoga. The out of town success is nice, but almost all of their business is at Parx with Pennsylvania people.

Reid keeps 20 to 30 horses depending on the time of year and has 14 full-time employees. His 2017 payroll was $430,000.

“They have apartments and houses in the area, pay their taxes, pay their unemployment,” he said. “I paid over $100,000 in workers’ compensation to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2017 so we are definitely contributing to the local economy and the statewide economy.”

Multiply Reid’s stable by hundreds statewide and the economic impact becomes even more obvious.

Why, Reid was asked, is that not well known?

“I think it’s a marketing problem,” Reid said. “It’s great that we have a casino, but we’ve been dominated by the casino. Several people don’t even know there’s live racing that goes on here.”

Reid knows it because he lives it. As do his owners who spent several hundred thousand dollars last year at a Maryland horse sale strictly on Pennsylvania breds.

“There’s so many phases to a horse’s life,” Reid said. “Most of them start out in a nursery and most of them are in the state of Pennsylvania. Horses are being bred and foaled there. Then, they go to another facility for breaking and training with more farm land being used and a bunch of employees there too. One thing about this industry is that it’s very labor intensive. All along the way, there are at least two people for each race horse.”

Contrary to popular opinion, Pennsylvania horse owners are not making a killing in the business. In fact, the vast majority lose money because it is so expensive to keep a horse in training.

“It’s sport,” Reid said. “They like the action.  It’s for the excitement and the adventure of it.”

One race horse, Reid said, costs about $3,000 per month to train. There are training bills, vet bills, feed bills, transportation bills, bills and more bills.

“There are at least 10 people that see each horse every day,” Reid said.

The increased purses at Parx actually give owners a chance, but it is no get rich quick scheme.

“It is imperative the horses are competitive, getting at least a part of the purse just to keep the business afloat,” Reid said.

Extrapolate that $3,000 per month over a year, factor in that 10 percent of each owner’s purse is deducted for trainer and jockey shares and Reid estimates $50,000 per year is the break-even point for each horse.

“It is not for the faint of heart,” Reid said. “It is a risky business.”

But it also a great business, Reid said, especially since they have come to Parx full time.

“We’ve set up here,” Reid said. “It’s been great. Year-round racing really helps. A lot of times, you are going to have pick up and move every three months.”

The Reids’ daughter Whitney went to eight schools by the time she was in eighth grade. A recent Drexel medical school graduate, Whitney will begin her residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, not far from where he parents live in Bucks County, a home that horse racing at Parx made possible.

By Dick Jerardi

 

 

 

Saving Lives: The Roger Brown Story

Roger Brown knew instantly something was wrong.

“I had acid reflux two days in a row,” the trainer said. “I said I have to go to the doctor because I had never had anything like that before. Had I not had the insurance here at Parx, I would have manned up and went and gotten a couple of pills over the counter. And I’d have ended up dying.”

But as a Parx-based trainer, he did have no cost medical insurance, funded through a portion of the proceeds from the slot machines at Parx Casino and administered by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

“So the doctor said ‘let’s go scope you,’” Brown said. “They scoped me and I had two tumors on my esophagus. Only a 5 percent cure rate. I was very lucky they caught it early. I did 30 treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, got operated on and I’m alive to tell you about it.”

Brown was diagnosed in June 2017. He was operated on at Jefferson Hospital Oct. 13, 2017. He is now cancer free.

He was telling his story on a bench just behind the Parx winner’s circle on April 28, the same winner’s circle he had inhabited moments before when Letthemooseloose, the 4-year-old filly he co-owned and trained, closed relentlessly to win the fourth race by a head.

Brown had bought the filly nearly three years before at Keeneland for $3,500. The win brought her career earnings to $56,120 and she was claimed from the race for $25,000, a racing success story, a perfect metaphor for Brown himself, a man who has beaten the odds.

The cancer was not his only health issue. He had an infected intestine, underwent surgery on July 4 and had a colostomy bag until Jan. 2.

“And the last 10 years, I went to the gym every day and worked out,” Brown said. “I was in the best shape of my life.”

He finally got back into the gym in March.

“I’m on the comeback, but man is it a slow trail,” Brown said. “I got stripped of 100 pounds of muscle. I’m just a rack of skin and bones.”

When asked to estimate the cost of his treatment without insurance, Brown said: “I had two friends that were diagnosed about the same time as me with esophageal cancer. They’re both dead. I was diagnosed really early because I had insurance.”

And because he had insurance, he was not worried about cost so he went right to the doctor. Before he brought his stable to Parx five years ago, Brown never had medical insurance through a race track program for a simple reason. It is only available in Pennsylvania.

“That’s why I’m here,” Brown said. “I drive an hour and a half a day to work.”

Brown, who lives five minutes from the North Jersey shore, trained horses 45 years ago, took 25 years off to drive a horse truck and then came back to training.

In 2012, he won with 25 percent of his starters. From 2012 to 2017, he had 120 winners. Then, when he was diagnosed, the stable really struggled, winning just two races in six months.

He has been back to the barn for 60 days other than the week he spent in the hospital with a heart ailment.

“Three weeks ago, my chest was killing me, went to the emergency room,: Brown said. “I had A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation). My heart was beating 200 miles a minute…I’d never been sick a day in my life until all this happened. I got whamboozled.”

Yes, he did. He is on medication for the heart situation. The drugs make him tired.

“But I’m going to get through it all,” Brown said.

He is now a self-described preacher.

“I preach about this insurance policy,” Brown said. “I preach to other trainers if there is something wrong with you, get your ass to the doctor. You can’t man up enough. You’re not that tough.”

– By Dick Jerardi