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At the Races - Wehrman enjoys whirlwind of activity

December 09, 2007|By LARRY YANOS

Randy Wehrman's involvement with thoroughbred horse racing is literally a year-round affair.

Over the years, Charles Town's former racing secretary has owned many job descriptions, including assistant racing secretary, paddock judge, stakes coordinator, placing judge and claims clerk.

"I love all aspects of racing and I enjoy having the different responsibilities at various racetracks," Wehrman said.

The 48-year-old Alexandria, Ky., native starts the year in Florence, Ky., completing his duties at Turfway Park's winter meet before heading to Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., and Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., where he acts as racing secretary.

Then, he heads back to Keeneland to become paddock judge for the spring and fall meets before heading to Turfway to finish the year.

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"The Turfway Park meet started Nov. 25," Wehrman said. "I'm stakes coordinator and placing judge."

In the late 1990s, Wehrman enjoyed his stints at the Penn National in Grantville, Pa., and Charles Town but returned to his roots in Kentucky in 1999 when things didn't work out.

"I was an assistant racing secretary at Penn National from '87 until '97 and spent two years at Charles Town before returning to Kentucky racing," Wehrman said. "I worked with (racing secretaries) Pete Kosiba and Steve Kasperski at Penn National. I liked it there but I decided to give Charles Town a shot, thinking it would be a step forward."

The Kentucky native was at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval from February 1997 to Aug. 1, 1999.

"I have to laugh when I think about the sequence of events," Wehrman said when discussing his departure from Charles Town. "I had a toothache and missed work that morning. I got back to the office that evening and they had a severance check waiting for me, I was dismissed. I had a house built and a young family. I was heartbroken. There is an old saying 'When a door closes, another usually opens.'"

Wehrman thoroughly enjoys his involvement with Kentucky racing but is excited about the situation in Virginia because he says Colonial Downs is one of the up-and-coming racetracks in America.

"I've been the racing secretary there for two years and I see definite improvement in the quality of racing," Wehrman said. "We're getting better horses and the turf course is great ... one of the best in the country. It is attracting quality horses. Management has made a commitment to improve racing. When I first started, we had one graded race and now we have four. It's a great facility and I'm very encouraged at its potential."

He said Penn National Gaming presented him an opportunity to develop job skills at Penn National and Charles Town and to work with horsemen from up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

"My goal was to get more horses from the south, like Florida and Kentucky, and get more horses from Maryland involved," Wehrman said. "And I see that happening."

The current Turfway Park meet is long for Wehrman.

"We go from now until the day before Keeneland opens in the spring," Wehrman said. "I then work Keene-land from that week until the week before the Kentucky Derby. Then I come to Virginia to start hustling horses for the Colonial Downs meet."

Wehrman's involvement with horses started when he attended the University of Kentucky. He later earned a Bachelor of Science and Business Management degree at Northern Kentucky University.

"I worked a harness meet at the Red Mile while in college and I liked it," Wehr-man said. "I was the identifier."

He then landed a job at Latonia Race Course (now Turfway Park) in 1983 and served as a patrol judge and claims clerk.

Earlier in his career, he worked at Rockingham Park in Salem, Mass., before accepting the position as assistant racing secretary at Penn National.

Honored again

The Turf Publicists of America announced last week that thoroughbred horse trainer Carl Nafzger - whose Street Sense became the first horse to win both the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby - has been chosen as the 2007 winner of the organization's Big Sport of Turfdom award.

The award is presented annually to a person or group that enhances coverage of thoroughbred racing through cooperation with the media and the publicists.

Nafzger is now a two-time winner of the award. He was selected in 1990 with Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Unbridled. Nafzger joins Laffit Pincay Jr. as the only two-time recipients.

"This wasn't the first time that Carl Nafzger was thrust into the national spotlight, but he was just as gracious and generous with his time as he was when he won this award 17 years ago, and the turf publicists are proud to bestow this honor upon him once again," said TPA president Eric Wing.

Nafzger will receive the award at the 42nd annual Big Sport of Turfdom luncheon on Jan. 21, a few hours before the Eclipse Awards.

Nafzger scaled back his training activities and turned over the day-to-day operation of his stable to longtime assistant Ian Wilkes in 2006.

Among the other top horses he has trained are champion Banshee Breeze and Grade 1 winners Fairway Phantom, Home at Last, Mayo on the Side, Super Abound, Unshaded and Vicar.

Previous winners of the Big Sport of Turfdom include former Charles Town, W.Va., resident and thoroughbred horse trainer John Servis, longtime Daily Racing Form columnist Joe Hirsch, Penny Chenery, Jack Klugman, Jim McKay, Tim Conway, Chris McCarron, Laura Hillenbrand, Sackatoga Stable, Pat Day and Dr. Dean Richardson.




Larry Yanos covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at larryy@herald-mail.com

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