05/31/2013 1:26PM

Hastings: Slagle ready to hustle as new racing secretary


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Stuart Slagle brings extensive experience in the horse racing industry to his new job as racing secretary at Hastings. Slagle began his job last week and said one of the reasons he was attracted to Hastings was the well-established racing community that exists in Vancouver.

“I’ve worked in jurisdictions that were just getting started and places where racing had gone and was just coming back,” Slagle said. “I like the fact that there is a strong racing community here and long history of people enjoying racing.”

Slagle, 45, graduated from the University of Texas in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and was working on a dissertation toward a doctorate in biophysics at the University of Illinois when he met David Block at an offtrack betting site. Block, along with his wife, Patricia, are among the top breeders in the midwest United States.

“It was right about then when I decided the life of academia wasn’t for me,” Slagle said. “Mr. Block invited me to see his operation at the track, and I was their guest quite a few times when they were running horses. I learned quite a bit from them. I became very interested in horse racing at a serious level and read every racing book I could to learn the game.”

Slagle was working as an IT tech at Motorola when he decided to move to California, where he became involved in start-up IT companies.

“Some went under and some are still going,” Slagle said. “I was in the paddock at Del Mar one day and met Tom Quigley, the publisher of The Horse Player Magazine, and all of a sudden I became their webmaster and IT guy.”

Slagle said he was getting a bored with his computer work and came up with the “crazy idea of being a jockey’s agent.”

“I fancied myself a pretty good handicapper and thought I would be a good agent,” Slagle said. “I wasn’t crazy enough to try and break in as an agent in Southern California, so I went to Sunland Park in New Mexico, where frankly I was not a very good agent.”

Looking for a new career in racing, Slagle found a position in the racing office at Retama. He not only worked in the office but also as a placing judge. From there, he has had a variety of jobs such as stints as the racing secretary at tracks that have short meets, including Arapahoe Park in Colorado and The Downs of Albuquerque.

Under his leadership in his first year at Albuquerque in 2007, the field size increased from 6.98 starters per race to 7.62. At Arapahoe, field size went from 6.98 to 7.90 in 2008.

The past four years, Slagle has been studying under racing secretary Georganne Hale at the Maryland Jockey Club. His official title was placing judge, but a big part of his duties was to try and encourage horsemen from other jurisdictions to come to Maryland to race.

“He was really great at hustling horses,” Hale said. “He went way above his job description and he was a great employee. I’m just sorry he had to go so far away to get the opportunity to be a racing secretary.”

“I enjoyed calling trainers in New York like Gary Contessa and Kiaran McLaughlin to see if they had horses to fit our program,” Slagle said. “The thing about hustling horses is being able to offer their connections a reason to come. For instance, some of McLaughlin’s well-bred Darley maidens might not be good enough to win in New York but could do well at Pimlico. I don’t know how many times I called Anthony Dutrow, but he was real supportive and brought a lot of horses to Maryland.”

Slagle plans to be active in trying to recruit horsemen from other jurisdictions to give Hastings a try.

“I’m not sure how much I can do this year, but I’ve already talked to some horsemen about coming here from Arapahoe after their meet ends and I am certainly going to be active over the winter,” Slagle said. “You have to have a thick skin because most of the people you ask are going to say no. I don’t mind getting rejected as long as there are some successes along the way.”

Slagle is just starting to get his feet wet in his new position and said he is counting on assistant racing secretary and racing analyst Matt Jukich to help him feel his way through the next few weeks.

“One of the things I have to work on is my understanding of the personalities of the local horsemen and what kind of horses fit at Hastings,” Slagle said. “Matt certainly knows racing in the Pacific Northwest better than I do, and I’ll be drawing on his knowledge and everyone on the racing office team to help get me up to speed.”