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By HorseplayerNOW.com Night School host Joe Kristufek

I turned my hobby into my job.

I consider myself lucky, but at the same time, I know I’ve more than earned my spot and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished……so far. 

Whether you’re a groom, placing judge or track announcer, horse racing is a passion.

Succeeding in most professions takes hard work, and reputation building. Working in horse racing, whether it’s on the backstretch or the front side, is no different.

Night School, the racing industry's national online fan education program, offers fans a glimpse at what it's like - and what it takes - to make "Careers in Racing" in this evening's session. The season's 33rd of 40 Night School lesson plans begins at 8:30 p.m. (ET) and will include panelists Doug Reed of the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program as well as HRTV on-air hosts Joanne Jones and Peter Lurie.

Set a reminder and join FREE horse racing Night School fan education here. 

The 90-minute program will be co-hosted by Jeremy Plonk and me, and it includes an extended video discussion between Plonk, Night School regular instructor Caton Bredar, and I. The video gives personal accounts of the trio's introduction to their careers and advice on converting your passion into a paying job.

As Program Director for the Race Track Industry Program (RTIP), Reed is responsible for the coordination, administration, promotion and fund raising for the RTIP. His classroom teaching covers areas including Organization/Administration of the Racing Department, Race Track Organization, Structure and Financial Management, Racing Business Strategies and Global Perspective and Senior Capstone: Current Issues in the Animal Racing Industry.

The RTIP’s alumni includes Eclipse Award winning trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, Bill Knauf (Monmouth Park/Meadowlands Assistant General Manager & Assistant V.P. Marketing Operations), Rick Hammerle (Santa Anita Park Racing Secretary), Kathleen Berkey (President of Berkey Bloodstock Services, Inc.), R. Peter Aiello IV (Hialeah Park and River Downs Director of Marketing, Publicity, Simulcasting & Group Sales, Track Announcer), Dr. Scot Waterman (Veterinarian, Prior RMTC executive director), Sophia Mangalee (Emerald Downs Marketing Director), and Jim Kostas (Daily Racing Form President), to name just a few.

Check out a list of some of the other successful RTIP alumni here.

The RTIP helps place students in internships, and jobs, and I don’t see too many negatives in attending school in Arizona!

Jones and Lurie are on-air hosts for the racing channel HRTV, based at Santa Anita Park, and often work together on the Race Day America program. 

Jones has been with HRTV since 2003 and became the first female paddock host on the West Coast when she debuted at Hollywood Park in 1991. She's also done television work with Gulfstream Park and Fairplex Park, and raised female awareness of racing with "Track Diva Days" around the country to promote the sport. 

Lurie has been with HRTV since the network was unveiled in 2002 and also is a Thoroughbred owner/breeder through his Black Diamond Racing LLC partnership. When he's not at the racetrack, Lurie is also a veteran actor of over 30 years, lending his voice to campaigns for Dairy Queen, Bud Light, McDonald's, Shell Oil, and the E! Channel. You might also recognize his "voices" in numerous animated shows and video games.

There are pluses, and minuses, to working in horse racing.

Unless you get an upper management job at a top racetrack, or train a stable of million dollar horses, you’re probably not going to break the bank.

It can be a nomadic lifestyle. Many of the jobs are seasonal, which means no paid vacation time, medical benefits, 401K and constant relocation. 

On the other hand, there is no price tag you can place on loving your career.

I do a lot, but I love what I do. Fan education and the health of the industry is my quest.

I feel like I make a difference. It’s satisfying, but I’d also like to work about half as many hours as I do and make the same money!

Just like every race is its own puzzle, working in horse racing is the opposite of monotonous.

My resume is legitimately eight pages long. I’ve been a writer, handicapper, researcher, marketer, publicity assistant, chart taker, producer, on-air talent, educator, morning-line maker……the list goes on and on. 

If you’re interested in working in horse racing, in most cases, you’ll need to work your way up the ladder. Be willing to pay your dues. It’s a specialized field, and you can carve out a niche for yourself.

Some basic advice if you’re interested in working in horse racing…..

  • Find a mentor.
  • Get your foot in the door.
  • Impress people.
  • Network.
  • Build your brand.
  • Be willing to re-invent yourself.

One of the absolute best parts of the working in horse racing is the people you meet. You share a passion and love of the game with the majority of them, and if you have the opportunity to travel like I have, you make friends in many places.

Like I always say, racetrackers are like a great, big, extended, dysfunctional family. You cross paths with genuinely great people, and some true characters!

Do you want to get in the game?

Join us for tonight’s FREE Night School session, and find out how!

Presenting title sponsors for Night School are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Inc. and Daily Racing Form. Tuesday's session will be the 33rd of 40 Night School lesson plans throughout the 2012 season, which continues through November.

This week's study materials, courtesy of Horse Player NOW.

 
This week's Night School preview video Joe Kristufek and Jeremy Plonk

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park, Indiana Downs and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park, Indiana Downs and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

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