Keith Doleshel: Behind the Scenes on Racing's Big Day
Getting the opportunity to spend a summer with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) was a goal of mine once I realized I would have a full summer to work at a race track, thanks to a leave of absence from my job in Tucson. Although I was excited once my internship got approved, there was a level of apprehension that is natural when there are unknowns involved, especially when you are on the opposite side of the country from home.
I started my internship at Belmont Park during the spring meet. My focus at Belmont was to experience working in the racing department, which is a part of the racing industry that I have been interested in. The racing office staff at NYRA made me feel at home from day one. I was issued a computer and soon began to take entries and help fill races. I got to see first-hand how decisions were made about which races to use, which ones to bring back on an overnight, or perhaps not again until the next condition book. I also worked with the staff to proof the overnights and programs before being sent out to Equibase after the draw. Seeing how big racing days get put together was another part of my internship that I enjoyed experiencing. A great deal of work goes on behind the scenes to attract some of the best horses both domestically and internationally. A highlight of the Belmont meet was working with the trophy presentation team on Belmont Stakes day. In addition to being able to watch great racing next to the winner’s circle, we were responsible for the safekeeping of the trophies until they were presented to the winning connections at the conclusion of races such as the Ogden Phipps, the Manhattan, Metropolitan Handicap, and the Belmont Stakes.
An additional benefit of spending the entire summer with NYRA was being able to work at Saratoga Race Course for the beginning of that meet. Saratoga is a special place with incredible history and is a “must visit” for anyone who loves racing. It is the site of the summer’s best racing every year as trainers from across the country send their top horses to compete in the many graded stakes races offered. In addition, Saratoga draws daily crowds unlike anywhere else. I worked with marketing and sponsorships during this part of my internship. While with marketing, I saw how NYRA reaches out to fans through promotional efforts and social media. I helped get photos, video, and related content for use on a variety of platforms. The sponsorship department is a busy place at Saratoga, with local, national, and international companies involved as corporate partners of NYRA. It was interesting getting another perspective of the business of racing and interact with representatives from companies who are invested in the industry.
The best part of the summer came a week before I headed back to Tucson. I was offered and accepted a position in the racing department with NYRA upon graduation in December. I’m grateful for the opportunity and excited to know where I’ll be headed to start my career in a few short months.