Like a Hollywood movie or a Broadway show, a large team and support group works behind the scenes to produce a live horse racing program. Racing officials’ duties, titles, and positions differ slightly between harness and thoroughbred tracks, but both are closely regulated by the state. Beginning inside the racing office at Pennsylvania’s three thoroughbred tracks, Parx Racing, Presque Isle Downs, and Penn National Race Course, the stewards, racing secretary, assistant racing secretary, and bookkeeper create and implement the daily show, while numerous officials outside the office work closely with the horses and jockeys. The racing secretary publishes a condition book for trainers listing possible races and their conditions for the upcoming racing days. As an employee of the race track, his job is to offer competitive, fair, safe, and exciting races to the public.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, which falls under the state’s Department of Agriculture, represents and regulates the state’s horse racing industry and promotes horse racing and breeding in Pennsylvania. Its laws govern the state’s 6 race tracks in order to insure the integrity of the sport.

The Stewards overlook the track from the press box, located high above the grandstand.

Appointed by the state, 3 stewards who represent the Commission at each thoroughbred track oversee and enforce the racing laws in Pennsylvania. The stewards, similar to the police and judiciary of the track, supervise the racing officials and all licensed personnel at the track. Everyone affiliated with a race track or owning a horse that races in Pennsylvania is required to be licensed by the state, and the stewards have jurisdiction over all racing officials and licensed personnel including horse owners, trainers, track employees, jockeys and grooms. According to Michael Melendez, one of the stewards at Parx, “we enforce the rules according to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission track rules, and since Parx is private property, we enforce their rules on the front side and in the barn area. We may have to deal with someone speeding through the barn area or smoking in the shed row, or we may have to decide the outcome of a dead heat or issue a disqualification in a race. On race days we review films of the previous day’s races for any violations, and we monitor the live races. On dark days, we usually hold hearings and take care of other business.”

Essential to preserving the integrity of horse racing, the stewards hold the power to issue reprimands, investigate possible illegal activities, impose fines, suspend licenses, or even revoke licenses. Like an oversight committee, they facilitate the smooth running of the race meet as directed by the racing secretary.

Similar to a producer and director, the racing secretary creates and writes the condition book that lists the upcoming races for the meet, and he is responsible for putting on the show. As explained by David Osojnak, director of racing/racing secretary at Parx, “my duties include writing the condition book, organizing all races, taking entries, managing the horses on the back side, and allocating stalls. My objective is to present good competitive races with full fields and horses that are equal in talent. It’s challenging to orchestrate all the moving parts. The other racing officials report back to me, but I oversee the live show. We publish the program, assign weights, and handicap the races. Another official, the assistant racing secretary works collaboratively with me and assists with planning the racing schedule and analyzing the workouts and past performances.” Racing secretaries form liaisons between trainers and management to present competitive races beneficial to both. “I know the horses on the grounds and keep track of their conditions, so I try to offer a wide range of suitable races and remain impartial when dealing with the trainers,” explained Osojnak. “Also, we work on creating possible new wagers for the horseplayer so they can enjoy more betting options, and twice a year, we take stall applications and allocate stalls to trainers for the spring/summer and the fall/winter meets.”

Another important component of the racing office, the horseman’s bookkeeper keeps track of all financial transactions. The bookkeeper handles accounts and makes disbursements, distributes purses, and pays jockeys. These key racing positions play essential roles in the smooth functioning of a race track, and in the next part of this article, I will describe the duties of other essential employees including the state veterinarian, placing and patrol judge, clerk of scales, track superintendent, and starter.

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