by Frank Cotolo
Harness racetrack public relations (PR) do the right thing when their biggest feature racing events are dedicated to the sport’s human element, people come and gone. Those events have great value, even when the betting has little to no idea about the people for whom the races are memorializing.
Once in a while, racetracks applaud their own by naming and re-naming races after dedicated but not necessarily popular public figures within the industry, mostly as a remembrance of those who have passed. Industry people appreciate the memorials most and that is perfectly acceptable in our business as it is in any business. It is imperishable gratitude when the memories of such people are earmarked with a race and without regard to making another buck off of the act.
Those of us who have been employed in the industry were, for instance, touched and spurred by the renaming of a traditional summer stakes event after a contemporary—seasoned race-caller Sam McKee. I was personally pleased when the California harness community gave its greatest supporter, Alan Horowitz, a similar tribute. Without exception, I was delighted when Plainridge Racecourse initiated a special annual race named after Stanley Bergstein.
Many industry figures are already memorialized in the titles of state- and province-bred stakes races across North America. And believe me — because I have asked at racetracks everywhere over the decades — few to no fans and/or bettors have a clue about the namesakes.
Again, it is all right, it is not done to capture the praise of the public. It is for us. Yet, I do not understand why memorial races have not yet been awarded to certain people who were eminent contributors to the industry; especially a pair I knew and worked with and will always be grateful to for sharing their expertise.
John Bradley was the most generous of teachers. When I left broadcasting to work full time in harness racing journalism, John was my guide to the dramatics of yearling sales. I was his editor at TIMES: in harness magazine, where he wrote a bloodstock column and we spent many sleepless nights covering major yearling sales and always making our deadlines.
John was recognized worldwide for his pedigree knowledge. Over the years he was a general manager of the Tattersalls Sale Company, a full-time consultant, market breeder and the author of “Modern Trotting Sire Lines” and “Modern Pacing Sire Lines,” (Russell Meerdink Co) companion volumes still available and used as major bloodstock references.
For decades, I have asked, in print and in person, influential people in the industry, why is there not a John Bradley Memorial Trot? A score of replies about it being a great idea were noted but has never inspired such an event. Maybe I should have contacted those Russian breeding experts he knew well and visited to share his insight about the Orlov trotting line?
I won’t forget my last conversation with John. He was in the final stages of cancer but he sounded bright and involved and in full command of his acumen for the details his subject ensconced. I missed him the moment we ended the call.
When TIMES: publisher David Dolezal made Marv Bachrad the senior editor of the publication, I was introduced to and worked closely with Marvin, who everyone in the business knew — except me. Most of the modern generation of harness racing journalists were at one time or another under the tutelage of Bachrad. As I worked with him, I realized he created the templates, so to speak, on how to write everything from press releases to race reviews to advertising copy. His students all became professionals and loved the guy who became one of the sport’s most influential public relations forces. Regardless of our distinctively different backgrounds as writers, Marv and I got along famously when working as well as when socializing in the business.
After a few years he left the magazine, returning to his most comfortable role, as a public relations manager. He went to Dover Downs just as the Delaware track became one of the first “racinos” in the country. It was to be his final job. Last year, the inimitable Marvin Bachrad passed.
One thing I asked immediately after Marv died is something I ask again: Why is there not a Marv Bachrad Memorial? Two of the tracks he worked at for years — Brandywine and Liberty Bell — are gone, but Dover is still active and certainly owes Marv the gift of a namesake race run annually in remembrance.
Of course, there are many others deserving races named for them and it costs a track nothing to create them posthumously. It does not have to be a stakes, it could be any particular race at any track at all because no matter how large or faint a shadow an industry member did cast, a dedicated race to him or her punctuates the legacy of devotion to harness racing.