Can you talk a little about what you did as an in-house TV host at Pimlico and Laurel in your early days?
I was the person on-camera in the paddock making selections and talking about the horses before each race, which is not only for the in-house fans, but also for the simulcast signal being sent out across the country.
So, I did that on a part-time basis, and actually the Maryland Jockey Club has been very good to me, because they allowed me to work there part-time while I was also doing ESPN work that would take me away. And they were so accommodating with my schedule. So, I feel at home here.
OK, let me ask you a philosophical question. From everything I read about you, it seems as if you are a true animal lover. And I consider myself an animal lover, too. And I get the beauty of horse racing and the epic nature of it and the way it resonates with some of the deepest places in our psyche. But, as I wrote in a preview of the HBO horse-racing drama, Luck, I hate seeing animals made to perform for our TV entertainment. And in the making of that show, horses died. And I just think that’s so wrong.
Me, too. Yes. I’m on Twitter, and somebody said to me in connection with the show, 'Well, we kill animals for food, so what’s the problem with the TV show?' And I tweeted back, I said, ‘We have to eat. But horses should not be giving their lives for entertainment purposes.’ I mean, I have a problem with people who hunt. Hunting for sport is so wrong on so many levels. OK, way back when, the cavemen, yes, we had to hunt to eat. But going out and hunting for the sake of saying you shot a bear is barbaric, and it’s almost beneath [being] human because we don’t need to do that any more.
But here’s my parallel question…
I know, how do you reconcile horse racing with your love of animals?
Yes, what do you say to people like me who ask you that?
I fell in love with horse racing when I was 12 years old – I wanted to be a jockey. I was so consumed with just the beauty, the athleticism, the nobleness of the athletes, the thrill of competition. And I started working at the track as a hot walker when I was 16 years old. So, I fell in love with this sport a long time ago ...
Now over the years, getting more involved in the business and eventually training on my own, you see some aspects of horse racing as a business on a daily basis, and you try to be objective about it. I hope I’ve covered the sport objectively in my 15, 16 years for ESPN. And I believe I have. ... But I still am in love with horse racing ...
I think back to my early years. When people say to me, ‘Those were the good old days,’ for me, those early years in horse racing were the good old days, some of the best times of my life. Being out early in the morning on a race track, galloping horses, it’s so peaceful and quiet, it’s just you and the horse. And there’s just nothing like it. I miss those days.