The knowledge and passion of owner, bettor and fan Dr. Howard Perlmutter

The knowledge and passion of owner, bettor and fan Dr. Howard Perlmutter

September 4, 2022

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by Murray Brown

Dr Howard Perlmutter is a dentist by profession. By avocation, he is a horse owner and one the most fervent and knowledgeable fans of harness racing. He began getting interested in harness racing in his mid-to-late teens. At the time, he had no knowledge of horse racing, let alone harness racing. He was interested in just about all sports with the exception of horse racing.

Q: How did this all come about? You told me that you had never even seen a harness race until you were 15 or 16.

“I spent some of my youth in Brooklyn. My family migrated to Marlboro, New Jersey. I would go by this place called Freehold Raceway almost every day. I really wasn’t at all interested in finding out what was taking place there. My best friend then and now is a fellow by the name of Joe Giaquinto. Joe was a fan of the sport, primarily, because in terms of betting it was then mostly the only game in town. He fancied himself as an astute handicapper. Indeed he was. Now decades later he still is at it and is in my opinion one of the most knowledgeable guys you will find at a racetrack. Joe is one of the few horse gamblers who have been able to stay afloat over a period of many years. He is still doing it After some urging, he took me to Freehold. It was equivalent to a guy finding his first love. Within a relatively short period of time I became almost consumed by the game. I quickly discovered The Meadowlands and I became a follower of The Meadowlands in particular and harness racing in general. I read everything on the sport that I could possibly find. I made some friends who were in the same boat as I was. Some have fallen by the wayside. A few are still around and still punching. I tried to learn from most of the people with whom I was in contact. I’ve now reached the point where in gambler’s lingo ‘I have an opinion.’ Most of the guys I hung with back then have been beaten up or have switched to the thoroughbreds. Trying to wager on horses can be a most humbling experience.”

Q: You not only were a fan, you were also a horse player and you are now a horse owner.

“I started as an owner quite a few years ago. Jerry Silverman was my first trainer. I owned a Sonsam filly named Snappy Dream with him. She was alright, not a world beater, but alright. The one thing I remember most about her is going up to Vernon Downs with Seth Rosenfeld. He had a Nero filly named Sweet Dahrlin that was in with her. Little did I, or I presume did Seth know, that she was going to become a great foundation mare for him. Her lineage produced horses like Sweet Lou(($3,478,894), Captain Crunch ($1,561,940), Bettor Sweet ($2,782,353), Moonliteonthebeach($519,102) and Nutcracker Sweet($511,765).

“Right now I own pieces of 15 horses. Doug Dilloian has six racehorses that race mostly at Yonkers. He has trained my horses for seven years now. He is honest, hard-working and really does everything he can to achieve the best results. We have a few 2-year-olds with Tony Alagna and Casie Coleman. We get most of our older horses from Down Under. Mark Lewis, was over here for several years before returning to Oz is our scout down there. He is very helpful when it comes to picking horses which he believes will be suitable and adaptable to race at Yonkers. He has an excellent feel for the job to which he has been entrusted. That combined with a good knowledge of North American racing gives us an edge, I believe.

When it comes to picking yearlings, my wife Sarah and I put a lot of work into it. Sarah has a wealth of experience and knowledge. We read the catalogs from cover to cover. Although all of my holdings right now are pacers, I also scout the trotters. We watch the videos and look for things about them that we hope will be useful. I also rely on our trainers to steer me on to prospects that they like and think will be to my liking. Right now we think our best horse is a 2-year-old Hungry Angel Boy that we hope will be special. He has been sidelined with some sickness. From what we’ve seen thus far, we think he could become very good.

Q: You go to The Meadowlands fairly regularly, how do we get others to do the same?

“I do it because I truly enjoy watching live racing. I love the racetrack, both in front in the grandstand and also behind the scenes. The trick is how do we expose others to the joys of harness racing? That is something that requires better brains than I possess. In order to get folks to enjoy harness racing we first have to let them know that we exist. There are some people who believe that we are beyond the point of no return. I am not one of them. Look at the numbers from Saratoga on Travers day — 49,672 people there and they bet a staggering $55,559,315. I’m not saying that we can challenge those numbers but there have to be ways in which we can improve our dismal numbers. One thing that shocks me that we don’t have is our sport being part of sports wagering. If that isn’t a natural, then what is? We are a sport and people wager on it. Our very essence as a sport is dependent on wagering. It also could be a means to getting the casinos to work with us. Most of them have sports wagering on just about everything EXCEPT horse racing. It staggers my mind that we are not part of it.”

Q: Although harness racing tops your sports likes, you are very much a fan of just about all the major sports and a few that might even be considered a little below them.

“I love pretty much all sports and have from the time I was exposed to them. Unfortunately, the teams I root for have been mired in mediocrity for what seems like forever. I’m a huge New York Rangers fan and often go to their games. I’ve been a New York Mets fan since the team came into being. They used to be horrible. In recent years, they’ve improved to be considered somewhat middle of the road. I think that under present ownership they are reaching the point when we can dream of the World Series, although I fear that lack of depth in their bullpen might trip them up. I’m a Knicks fan and you know what they’ve accomplished recently. My football team is the Raiders. It’s been a long time since their glory years.”

Q: Are you planning to do some yearling shopping this year?

“I will be going to both Lexington and Harrisburg as I’ve done in recent years. I got a short look at the Lexington catalog. Man, is it ever loaded. I’ve pretty much discounted day one for two reasons. The first is in the areas where I do my shopping, the horses being offered are not to my pocketbook’s liking. The second is that the offerings are pretty much trotter oriented. I was told that 74 per cent of the yearlings selling on Day One are trotters. At this point, I’m pretty much exclusively a pacer guy. I’ve looked at some of the Day Two offerings. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between some of them and a lot of what is being sold the first evening. When shopping, I tend to focus on what I think the big spenders are not looking to buy. For example, last year there was plenty of value to be found among the yearlings by Stay Hungry, International Moni, Father Patrick and Cantab Hall. Stay Hungry and International Moni had their first crop out. In the case of Father Patrick, he had two years where his performance on the racetrack wasn’t quite comparable to previous ones.

“With both he and Cantab Hall, they had proved beyond a doubt that they are capable of siring greatness. I realize that that Father Patrick and Cantab Hall are trotters, but the same mindset exists with trotters as well as with pacers. All four of those horses have had excellent years. I would expect that they will likely be a little more difficult to buy this year. As Bill Wellwood was fond of saying when everybody else is zigging, I try to zag.”

Q: Let’s talk about horses. Which were the best ones that you’ve seen?

“Overall, I would say that the best was Niatross. He raced everywhere — half mile tracks, five eighths and mile. He started early and finished late. He came to play whenever and wherever he raced. Some might say Somebeachsomewhere. I’m not really prepared to disagree. It’s certainly not the horse’s fault that he didn’t race in the Jug. Nevertheless, he wasn’t there and Niatross was. SBSW was managed as well as a great horse might be. But some of we purists might be inclined to take a couple of brownie points off his resume. A horse who might have been as great at a given point in time and doesn’t get the credit for being so was Sonsam. His Meadowlands Pace performance just might have been the greatest single race that I’ve ever seen. There are so many different criteria in play here. There are horses who were great at 2, but not at 3. There were others that really didn’t come into their own until 3. Then there are those who absolutely dominated as an older horse as Bulldog Hanover is doing this year. His four-race winning streak in three weeks at The Meadowlands was beyond belief.”

Q: Name me in order the five best drivers that you’ve seen.

“That’s tough. There are so many of them. Nevertheless here they are: 1. John Campbell. 2. Buddy Gilmour. 3. Tim Tetrick. 4. Herve Filion. 5. Mike Lachance. Ronnie Pierce absolutely belongs on that list, but I just couldn’t find a place for him. I’ll have to settle for him being also eligible number one.”

Q: How about trainers?

“Rather than give you the dominant ones like the Burkes, the Alagnas and the Takters. I’ll name some who have fantastic credentials but somehow get lost in most conversations — Jimmy Campbell, George Teague, Dr Ian Moore, John Bax and Joe Holloway. They neither buy nor train that many, but they have had more success than most trainers who have had more with which to begin.”

Q: Let’s talk about who are the best handicappers that you have been around.

“Just the fact that these four have survived for decades and are still doing it seemingly well means a lot. Trying to bet horses to make a living just might be one of the most humbling experiences that can be found. There are a few others who have migrated to the runners that are still in action is also meaningful. In alphabetical order the ones that I’ve thought were the best — Andy Berg, my still best friend Joe Giaquinto, Glenn Goller and Les Stark.”

Q: What is it you like the most about harness racing?

“I guess just the fact that is often unpredictable is part of its appeal. You can always dream about that future champion.”

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