Live racing depends on the TV department, and without them there would be no show. While watching an afternoon or evening of exciting live horse racing at Pennsylvania’s race tracks, a whole crew of talented cameramen and directors work behind the scenes to shoot and produce the live racing and handicapping shows. They are responsible for capturing the official results and times. In case of an objection or a photo finish, the stewards rely on the steward’s tape to make their official decision concerning the outcome of a race. They review the close up shots and wide angle shots to determine the result. Security needs them too in case of suspicious behavior or accidents at the track.

Kim Pratt Photo

The TV department at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA, headed by the TV production manager, Sarah Henry, consists of eleven employees, eight full-time and three part-time crew members. The pan camera is operated by a cameraman positioned in the control room on the sixth floor of the grandstand by the finish line. He shoots the whole race from start to finish which is shown on the TV monitors. “We have three sixty-five foot towers around the track manned by cameramen to capture every section and angle of a race. The cameramen climb up those ladders in the wind and the rain, or the snow, or lightning. They have a tough job,” said Sarah.”There is another camera in the paddock that shows the horses being saddled and another one, weather permitting, in the winner’s circle. The director, working with a headset, calls the shots from the control room, and next to him, the steward’s tape operator records all the feed from the towers and plays it back to the stewards when there is an inquiry or photo finish. He is responsible for an overview of the whole race for the stewards to replay,” explained Sarah. “Also in the control room, the graphics operator adds any graphics for the races. He provides the director with the graphics for changes, odds, results, and ads for events.”

Kim Pratt Photo

“Every month we also produce a show called “On the Rail” which is an educational show about horse racing that includes features and trivia and racing highlights that is broadcast by NBC Sports Philadelphia. On live racing days, we tape the live show hosted by our announcer, Jessica Paquette. She gives her opinions and information about the horses and handicaps the races and gives her picks,” said Sarah. “During the week, we shoot packages for the week with Jessica out in the barn area where she interviews trainers or owners, and we use them during the week in our shows. Sometime, we are busy seven days a week because we shoot the live shows and entertainment at Parx Casino. They have live bands and concerts and comedy acts.” For big events, the TV department tapes fillers and short segments which are used in their shows and advertising campaigns for upcoming events. The TV department is also responsible for sending the signal to the company that sends out the simulcast show. 

“I’m proud of our very talented crew. We are a diverse group that includes men and women of all ages. This is a great place to work and gain experience in TV. I started out in television doing the 10:00 news at Fox 29, but I’ve been here for twenty-five years,” said Sarah.”This is a unique environment, and people learn all aspects of TV production here. It’s a team effort to create the live racing show.” Several past employees in the TV department at Parx have moved on to jobs with major news networks and with shopping networks.

Career opportunities at Pennsylvania’s race tracks are not limited to jobs with horses. Race tracks generate jobs in graphics, advertising, and television, and the TV departments are essential at all six tracks to provide coverage of live racing to the public around the country.

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