04/14/2014 2:18PM

Fornatale: Wrestling executive scores pin with Danza

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Before he won Saturday’s NHCQualify.com contest, lifelong racing fan Basil DeVito had never managed to compete as an individual in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship – this despite having played in the event and having qualified for the first time last year. How is that possible?

DeVito explained: “Last year, I had business commitments, and I couldn’t attend. Back in the day, I used to go every year and hang around, and one time, Jerry O’Connell and George Karl and I were all on a celebrity team, when they used to have those. But next year will be my first time playing in it in the traditional sense.”

DeVito has worked in racing in the past, but his main job since 1985 has been working with Vince McMahon’s WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), where he holds the position of senior adviser of new business development.

“On a sabbatical from WWE, I was full time at the NTRA at the start for around a year,” DeVito said. “When racing was starting a league office, it was something I just had to be a part of; I couldn’t just watch.”

DeVito credits the “Horseplayers” television show with helping him refine his approach to contest play.

“I amended my style of play based on the show – nothing specific really, more of a mindset,” he said. His approach accounts for the way things can change as a contest goes along.

“I’ll look at a race and get it down to maybe three horses, and then I look at the odds and make a final decision,” DeVito said. “And after the first few races on Saturday, a couple of longshots had won, so that dictated that I go to the longest price of the horses I’d picked out in advance.”

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Perhaps not surprisingly, given his recent success, DeVito is a real fan of “Horseplayers.”

“I think those producers did an excellent job,” DeVito said. This is no small compliment given DeVito’s background in television with the WWE.

“One of the reasons many of us fell in love with the racetrack was that our fathers took us when we were kids, and we were hooked on the experience,” DeVito said. “And ‘Horseplayers’ did a good job of conveying that excitement of being at the track, that camaraderie.”

Like any good wrestling feud, every story needs a bad guy. DeVito thinks Christian Hellmers played that role perfectly.

“Christian was the guy you loved to hate – doing the crystal thing, smelling his eucalyptus, always talking about karma,” DeVito said. “I’d have friends call me after watching the show and say, ‘What’s up with this guy with the tail?’ ”

Peter Rotondo Jr., also of the “Horseplayers” show, worked with DeVito years ago at the NTRA, and they’ve remained close friends. DeVito credits Rotondo with inspiring his win Saturday.

“Peter’s grandfather passed away last week at the age of 89,” DeVito said. “The last episode of ‘Horseplayers’ was dedicated to his memory. Saturday morning, I sent Peter an e-mail, ‘In honor of Whitey Rotondo, and in tribute to all the April birthdays in both our families’ – Peter’s father, Peter, my father, myself, my aunt, who just turned 100, we all had birthdays this week – ‘I’m going to show Christian some Italian karma. I’m going to win today.’ ”

And to make sure that prediction came through in style, DeVito tabbed a horse named after another April-born Italian – Tony Danza – to win the Arkansas Derby and secure the victory. “We really had the karma going, and we didn’t even have any eucalyptus!” DeVito said.

WWE is famous for its progressive approach to business, especially when it comes to technology. “Vince is an amazing guy,” DeVito said. “He’s always looking forward. Whether it was cable television in the early ’80s or pay-per-view in the mid-’80s, or the Internet in the ’90s, or the WWE Network now, every step of the way, the WWE has been at the head of the curve when it comes to the distribution of our intellectual property. That’s Vince’s leadership.”

Armed with his real-world experience and a master’s degree in sports management, DeVito sees lessons that racing can learn from the world of sports entertainment.

“In our case at the WWE, the clear lesson to me is that we have the luxury of coordination and control, and it’s safe to say that the racing industry would benefit greatly if there was more control and coordination toward a common goal,” he said.

DeVito sees a world in which such coordination could exist.

“You can’t tackle it all,” DeVito said. “But if the powers that be took the effort to be more collaborative at the very top, the sport’s presentation to the world could be a lot more organized in the manner in which content is distributed, both on television and online. If the people in the highest positions in the best corners of the industry did a better job coordinating racing’s content, everybody would stand to gain.”

Anthony DiMartino More than 1 year ago
Hey Peter Fornatale, I have an interesting proposition it seems many loyal DRF fans are insulted by having to pay to read the majority of articles now on the website. But why not pass along the options to pay a set price per article ( example 10-15 cents per article). A lot of readers do not have the time nor the interest to read each and every article anyway. Also, it will be a beneficial situation for both DRF who will receive a small fee in return, and the Customers, who are not willing to commit to pay for a full time subscription. I know your certainly not chiefly responsible for this decision, but possibly you can get this message across to the individuals who can weigh out this option for debate
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That's a shame if people feel insulted. Really it's just a way to try to properly monetize content in the 21st Century, it's certainly nothing personal. I think the easiest way to access all the DRF content is to become a DRF Bets member. I hope you stick around and thanks for commenting about a thorny issue in a civilized way.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Sorry, my ADW shows the only track that DRF Bets has listed as no live video.... Finger Lakes(Don't laugh)!
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
Hope Jersey Joe keeps the mount. That race reminded me so much of Volponi winning BC. The trrip, inside win and drawing off
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
that's a reasonable comp. . .
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
javier needs a ride,joe may be odd man out
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
3 days later still cant find out who won the real contest Sunday at Keeneland
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Great question! I'll make a phonecall down there and see what I can find out. . .check back in this space for an answer but give me a little time.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Here are the top ten from KEE's Sunday contest: 1 Trommer* 9,170.00 2 Fernandez* 7,668.70 3 Tammaro* 5,563.60 4 Rosette* 4,640.60 5 Anthony* 4,092.40 6 Gianforte* 4,050.50 7 Arsenault 3,568.60 8 Weizer 3,031.40 9 Gladdis 2,786.30 10 Graham 2,202.00 * Receives NHC berth
Harvey Hochberg More than 1 year ago
Let's support a merger of WWE marketing and NTRA Veterinary Services.
Harvey Hochberg More than 1 year ago
You are cheering for the WRONG people.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Well, that's a great thing about wrestling, racing and life in general: you are free to root for whomever you like. Personally, I don't really root for anybody except myself in the contests where I'm still eligible to play. But I will say this: if you can't get behind a guy like Basil DeVito, you don't like ice cream.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
Tough to read the homepage, and most of the articles seem to be for the DRF+ service.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
really tough to read. Confusing seeing all those DRF+ all over the page. Looks like someone spilled red jelly beans all over the home page. It would be a lot easier if all those DRF + were gone and the 3 or 4 articles that you could read for free were tabbed "FREE" instead of the other way around. Looking at all those DRF+ is just as confusing as how an 80 year old man feels sitting in a room with 20 children who just had chocolate and an espresso. My head spins looking at all those red jelly beans
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Interesting idea about reversing the branding on free vs DRF Plus. . .I'll pass that along.