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Q&A: Doug Reed
Director of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program, which held its 37th annual Symposium on Racing last week in Tucson, Ariz.
Birthdate: Jan. 27, 1956, Audubon, N.J.
Family: wife, Tresa; sons Chad, Jon; daughter, Jessica
Got into racing because . . . “I grew up in Maryland. My dad liked to go to the races at the state fair at Timonium. It got in my blood.”
How did you make the transition from a fan of the sport to being employed in it? “I went to a track manager in Maryland who was actually discouraging. He said it was all who you know. I was in high school. I walked away from that discouraged but determined. I ended up getting a job in maintenance at Timonium. I knew the son of Eddie McMullen, who worked in the press box, and Eddie helped me get a job in the press box, and then I went to work in the racing office.”
How did you end up at the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program? “I first heard about the program when I was a junior or senior in college, but at the time, I was a racing official in Maryland. Later on, I was a vice president for Santa Fe Racing. I had been here as a guest speaker, then was invited back. Santa Fe Racing was for sale, so I had my periscope up. When I came back out to speak, they were making a change in the coordinator of the program. I really liked it, so I decided to go after it.”
How long have you been the director of the program? “Since 1994. My position was called coordinator at the time. Now it’s called director.”
What are the areas of racing in which students are educated at the program? “It really is well rounded. You come out of here with a broad-based knowledge of the industry. They know regulation, the horse side of the business, traditional animal science, the business of training and owning, track management, marketing and public relations. I teach a course on the racing office. If you take the business path, you get a lot of general business courses, too. If you take the animal-science path, you get equine nutrition, equine physiology. We have a farm, and we foal and raise horses that go to the Arizona sale. That’s part of the animal path. If you are on the business path, we offer internships.”
How long has the program been in existence? “It was established in 1973 and started in 1974. You get a bachelor of science degree in animal science. We also have a graduate program now. We get a lot of second-career people, and now we can offer them more than just another undergraduate degree.”
How many other universities have a program like this? “The only other one is at Louisville. They are not exactly alike. They are broader in the horse business. We are more niche racing.”
Who are your program’s most famous graduates? “The highest profile are trainers Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert. Trainer Chuck Simon went here. Some others include Jim Kostas, the president and general manager of Daily Racing Form. Luke Kruytbosch, the track announcer who passed away, was a great ambassador of ours. Dan Fick, who was with the American Quarter Horse Association and The Jockey Club. We have people in management at many tracks, like Bill Knauf at Monmouth. And a ton of racing secretaries − Martin Panza, Mike Dempsey, Allison De Luca, Rick Hammerle, Mike Harlow. Regulators like Joe Gorajec and Lonny Powell. Peggy Hendershot and Peter Rotondo at the NTRA.”
How involved are the students in the annual symposium? “They are as involved as they can or want to be. They help on logistics, like registration and audio visual. That gets them intermingling. We have two really high-profile things. One is a mentor lunch. Students invite someone coming to the symposium, have lunch, and spend an hour and a half visiting one-on-one with them. That is a great event. There’s also a senior capstone project, which is presented in an academic setting at a booth one afternoon. People can come by and see the capstone project.”
What would be a capstone project? “They do things we think are important, areas they are interested in, or that would be appealing to the audience. Some are on the horse side. One this year is various ways in which horses have second careers. Some are on the track side. This year, one student did a survey of what all the tracks are doing with social media.”
There is a popular conception that people go to week-long symposiums like this, say they will solve racing’s ills, then go back into their usual cocoons for the next 51 weeks. You’ve seen good come out of symposiums over the years. What are some of the successful concepts that were hatched at previous symposiums? “Some of the issues we put out that we think are important are not sexy. We’ve been doing things on animal welfare for as long as I’ve been here, and I know it’s been going on longer than that here. These things evolve or emerge. Very few are instantaneous. That’s because of the slow nature of change in racing. You’re not going to come out of the symposium and three months later have great change. It takes time, through regulation and consensus building.
“But there’s been a lot. Since 1994, we’ve had panels on protecting the four-legged athlete through horse retirement. In 2001, with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, we held a medication summit in conjunction with the symposium. Students did a study where they surveyed owners, trainers, and veterinarians on different medication issues. That clearly led to change. One of the students was Scot Waterman, who is now heading the medication consortium. There is more uniformity in that area than years ago.
In the technology area, in 1994, ODS and the Maryland Jockey Club made a presentation regarding interactive wagering that was a precursor to TVG and all the interactive wagering and ADWs. More recently, we had Paul Cross of Tabcorp in Australia present something on fractional wagering. Months later, Hinsdale introduced the 10-cent superfecta. In 2003, Ed Wray, the founder of BetFair, spoke here. I don’t think a lot of people knew about BetFair in 2003. In 2005, we had a panel on handling negative publicity, and in 2007, we had one on media training. Barbaro happened in 2006, and Eight Belles in 2008.
We do issues that are of importance and are informative, as opposed to driving change. Would it happen at another site? We are neutral. We think that’s a benefit of this particular event. It’s not run by a particular party that has its own interests at heart first. It’s at a site that is geographically neutral. It’s not East Coast, West Coast, or Kentucky. And when you bring folks together, things happen. It’s like a Petri dish. Sometimes by the time things change or evolve, due to the system it’s forgotten where the discussions started.”
Best horse seen? “Secretariat. The whole aura of him in the Belmont. If you saw that, not even in person, it was chilling. The 1970s were such a great decade. I never saw him in person. I was in high school. But I saw Spectacular Bid in person.”
Hobbies? “I’m the manager of the University of Arizona’s bowling team. We compete across the country. And I enjoy being outdoors − hiking, camping, fishing.”
Future ambitions? “I’m very happy here. Maybe someday I’ll go back into the mainstream, but only if it’s a position conducive to change. I like change. We constantly change things here. If I go back, I would want to try some of the things I’ve learned here. I’ve learned as much here as anywhere because of the broadness. It would have to be the right situation for my career and family. I’m looking forward to the adult years of my children. Our family is very close.”