Paul Lo Duca grew up a baseball and horse racing fan has been able to realize his dreams by working in both professions. He spent 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, primarily as a catcher, and made four All-Star Teams before retiring with a career batting average of .286 and 1,112 hits. After his baseball career, Lo Duca paid his dues in the horse racing broadcasting world, and he currently serves as an analyst with NYRA’s television team. He reflected on his careers and offered some opinions on the state of horse racing in this recent Q&A.
What I do for a living: I cover horse racing for NYRA and I also write about horse racing and baseball for the Action Network. So I try to give people winners (lol).
What I like about Thoroughbred racing: Everything. I grew up going to the track with my father, and just fell in love with the animals first. I think people don’t realize they truly are athletes and the trainers’ job is to get the best out of their horses’ abilities. I also find it fascinating that just like other sports, each athlete in horse racing has a different personality.
If I wasn’t in my current job, I would be: That’s a great question! Probably a math teacher. Everyone hated math in school besides me. No wonder I ended up writing and playing in numbers games.
Best advice to someone considering becoming a Thoroughbred owner: Do your research. Some entities and partnerships are great and some are awful. Let’s be honest. I would start in the claiming game and see if it’s for you. This way you have some skin in the game and you can’t get hurt financially. It doesn’t take a million-dollar horse at a sale to make money. In fact, they are more of a losing proposition in the long run.
Should the Breeders’ Cup rotate from coast to coast or have a permanent home: I think it should stay in one spot. I get the people that want it to move venues, but Mother Nature in November is always a crapshoot on the East Coast. And then you have owners and trainers spending a lot of money to run their horses on a rainy day or a soggy turf? The people spend a lot of money to walk in their heels and suits and hats. It’s always a risk. You want a fair playing field. I wish I wanted it to move around, but it’s logic. They wrote a song about it! It never rains in Southern California. Simple.
Most influential person in my career: My mother was the most influential in my baseball career and life in general. She took me to every game and she was my batting coach. I would of never sniffed college baseball, let alone the big leagues, without my mom. Heck, she negotiated my contract at a Denny’s! My father worked two jobs but always showed up for my games. He’s my mentor when it comes to the horses because he taught me everything I know.
My out-of-the-box idea for Thoroughbred racing: Free parking and free forms and programs. By the time you get into the racetrack you’re stuck $25 to $40. Let people in free and give them some kind of form with references to the horses. It’s gambling! They will bet that money anyway. It will increase handle. I just think the public has gotten the short end of the stick for so long. You see the difference when it’s dollar hot dog day or dollar beer day. The racetrack is packed! Imagine if you let them in free?
Other sports/teams I follow: I follow the New York Mets first because that’s the team I grew up liking. I also root of course for the Los Angeles Dodgers because I grew up as a professional in their organization. My only other team I truly root for after that ... is the one I bet on! (lol)
My favorite athletes of all time: Dwight Gooden and Paul Molitor were my two favorites. Angel Cordero was up there. Paul Molitor is a favorite because I chased him in his car when I was 12 and he stopped traffic to sign my baseball.
What book(s) I am reading or have recently read: Daily Racing Form! (lol)
Favorite magazines: I really don’t read magazines. Maybe GQ to keep up on some fashion, I guess.
Hobbies away from Thoroughbred racing: Golf. Trying to handicap other sports!
Favorite movies: “Goodfellas,” “The Shawshank Redemption” (the end)
Favorite TV shows I watch: “Shark Tank.” Can’t get enough.
Favorite foods: Italian! Take a guess. (lol)
Favorite vacation spot: Bali
Favorite musician/band: Bee Gees!
Favorite actor: Kevin Costner
Five websites I visit daily: drf.com, bloodhorse.com, sportsinsights.com, fantasylabs.com, actionnetwork.com
I’d like to have dinner with the following three people outside of racing: Dave Chappelle, Will Farrell, Seth Rogan
Best racetrack food can be found at: Keeneland has the best racetrack food, although you would be surprised that Los Alamitos is not bad.
Accomplishments I am most proud of: My childhood dream of making to the big leagues is up there, obviously. Making it in this industry is another. I think a lot of people thought I was a joke and didn’t know the game. I hope I’ve changed that ... but the birth of my daughter trumps all. You never think you can love someone so much.
My philosophy on life: Quality over quantity.
Things I collect: Sports memorabilia, mostly bobbleheads. I have over 300 from my travels.
Favorite author: Kurt Vonnegut
Favorite animal other than a horse: Dogs. I grew up with a dog named Mookie after Mookie Wilson. I think my dad bought him right after the ball went through Bill Buckner's legs in the ’86 World Series. Haha!
Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended: The Phoenix Open. You just have to experience golf on 99 Red Bulls! (lol) It’s an awesome atmosphere.
Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Athlete, speed, adrenaline
Top three fashion brands you prefer to wear: Well, we are always wearing suits on TV. So Hugo Boss of course, and Calvin Klein non-iron shirts are great for long hours. Ties you can find anywhere. Joseph Abboud makes nice affordable jackets. I like to mix and match rather than wear traditional suits all the time.
Favorite month of the year: November. My daughter was born on a Breeders’ Cup Saturday in 2004. I held her in my arms while watching the races. So I get that and her birthday at the first of the month.
What apps are on your phone: Too many apps. Instagram and Twitter I use the most. Action Network and the ABR Stay Lucky app as well.
Favorite summer cocktail: I’m a bourbon on the rocks guy any time of the year.
Favorite winter cocktail: See above.
Favorite all-time racehorse: Alysheba
Favorite race horse currently competing: Imperial Hint
Favorite international racing event: The Japan Cup
Three ways to attract more fans to the sport: 1) More giveaways; 2) Like I said earlier, free parking and admission; 3) The drinks cost more than a bet! Make the drinks cheaper.
What do you drive for a car? Lexus
What’s your favorite gym exercise? Legs ... because a lot of guys won’t do those. Maybe it’s a catcher thing, but squats have me, haha.
Who will win the Super Bowl this year? Kansas City Chiefs
Esports: Yay or nay? Nay
College or pro football: College!