Reaching for Roses: The Beginning of the Journey

April 21, 2011

The Job Search is Over

At the end of January, I received a Facebook message from a friend that heard there may be a potential job opening at Churchill Downs in the Media/Communications Department. She told me that I should contact Darren Rogers, who is the Senior Director of Communications & Media Services at Churchill Downs. I immediately sent Mr. Rogers an e-mail with some information about myself and to inform him that I would be very interested in any job openings in his department. He informed me that there may be a job opening soon, but that currently there were no available positions. I assumed that I had struck out.

Over the next several months, I spent a large majority of my time trying to find a job. I e-mailed a dozen Thoroughbred farms in Lexington, applied for positions at various racetracks around the country, and searched daily for “horse jobs” on websites like Monster.com. I didn’t have any luck.

My job search continued into the month of March and frustration was beginning to set in. I can recall lying in my bed on the night of March 8th and thinking, “I graduate in two months and have no idea what I’m going to do.” Needless to say, I didn’t get very much sleep that night. In fact, I wasn’t sleeping very much on any night.

A few days later it was suggested to me that I should try to meet with Mr. Ted Bassett to get some guidance. Julie Balog, the Keeneland Director of Communications, my former boss, and dear friend, was able to set up a meeting with me and Mr. Bassett. I met him at the cottage on Keeneland’s property and I can remember trying to steady my hand enough to turn the handle and open the door. If I knew how the conversation was going to go then I never would have been so nervous. Mr. Bassett is a wonderful person; a true gentleman. We talked for hours, but the one thing that I took away from our meeting was that I needed to market myself better. I needed to begin telling possible employers what I would bring to their company that they don’t already have and also what sets me apart from other people applying for the job. Before leaving his office, he gave me a short “pep talk” of sorts. The last thing he said to me was, “Travers, you have found something that you are passionate about. If you want to be in this business, then nothing is going to hold you back as long as you don’t give up. Promise me you won’t quit.” I promised him, we shook hands, and I was out the door.

The next day I had a meeting with Keith Kleine of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The graduate advisor of my fraternity works for the AAEP and recommended that I speak with Mr. Kleine for some additional guidance. I had a great talk with Mr. Kleine and found out that he knew Darren Rogers from Churchill Downs. I told Mr. Kleine that there were no openings at Churchill Downs, but he encouraged me to contact Mr. Rogers again to see if the situation had changed and if there were any positions available.

After meeting with Mr. Kleine, I got really busy with school and it seemed like I had a test or paper due every day. Eventually, things calmed down and I had the time to send Mr. Rogers an e-mail to check in on the situation at Churchill Downs. He responded to my e-mail rather quickly and asked if I could meet with him. We worked out a date and time and I went to meet with him on April 3rd.

We talked for a couple of hours about all sorts of things. I talked a lot about myself, obviously, but we also talked a lot about horse racing in general. It was a good discussion and, before I left his office, Mr. Rogers informed me that a position in the Media/Communications Department was available. He told me that he would speak with John Asher, Vice President of Racing Communications, and then contact me in a few days about whether or not I would be invited back for a second interview.

About a week and a half later, I received an e-mail from Mr. Rogers asking if I could come meet with him and Mr. Asher on April 17th. Of course, I said that I could meet with them. I traveled back to Churchill Downs and my meeting with Mr. Asher and Mr. Rogers was very similar to my meeting with Mr. Rogers a couple of weeks earlier. Basically, I talked a lot about myself: how I got interested in horse racing, my educational background, work history, etc. We also talked about some Kentucky Derby history and the Triple Crown trail.

During the meeting last Sunday, Mr. Rogers casually mentioned that he would like to hire me. Unfortunately, before any specifics could be discussed, he had a personal matter to attend to and our meeting was cut short. I had a dentist appointment scheduled in Louisville on Tuesday and so we arranged for our meeting to be continued on Tuesday afternoon after my appointment. When I arrived at Mr. Rogers’ office, he was on his way out to the backstretch to watch the arrival of a couple of horses pointing towards the Kentucky Derby. He invited me to join him and said we could discuss the job specifics along the way.

On our journey to the Churchill Downs’ backstretch, Mr. Rogers offered me a job as a Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. I would be working closely with him on Media and Communications’ matters, as well as doing a lot of writing of feature stories, stakes wrap-ups, and barn notes.

And…

I accepted the position! I graduate on May 8th and I am scheduled to work my first day on May 12th. I am so excited to have a job when I graduate and relieved that the job search is over. I am thrilled to begin this next chapter of my life and look forward to being a member of the Churchill Downs team.

A very special thank you to all that helped me during my job search; especially, my family, Julie Balog and the rest of the Keeneland team, Dr. Bob Coleman, Dr. Mary Rossano, Meg Levy, Keith Kleine, Ted Bassett, and Alicia Wincze Hughes. I also want to thank God for continuing to bless me so much. He has blessed me with a great opportunity and I am so thankful. I wouldn’t be where I am today without His love and guidance.

Moving on…

To conclude today’s post, I have included a few pictures that I took on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy them and that everyone has a fantastic Easter weekend!

Multiple Graded Stakes winner, The Factor, arriving at Churchill Downs

Nehro on his way to his stall upon arrival at Churchill Downs

The view from my future office in the Joe Hirsch Media Center

April 12, 2011

Sky, Keeneland, and the 2YO Sale

Sky Bred Last Thursday

Sky was scheduled to be bred last Monday on April 4th; however, I was informed by my veterinarian the night before that she would not be ready. So I woke up extra early the next day and called Airdrie to cancel Sky’s appointment. I rescheduled for Thursday afternoon and was told on Wednesday that she would be ready to go.

After my morning classes on Thursday, I headed out to Airdrie to be there for the 2 o’clock breeding. At about 1:50 I got a call that the van with Sky was running a little late. Sky is incredibly protective of her foals, which is usually a good thing until you try to get her on a van and leave Faith behind. Needless to say, Sky was not the easiest horse in the world to load and so the van ran a little behind schedule. While I waited on the van to arrive, I took a couple of pictures with my phone. One of Stevie Wonderboy and one of the big man on campus at Airdrie, Indian Charlie.

The van made it to Airdrie around 2:15 and Sky was bred just a few minutes after that. Stevie was a professional and everything went smoothly. Sky then got back on the trailer without a problem and headed back to her home at The Croft, where she was happily reunited with Faith.

On Friday, I received word that Sky ovulated after the breeding. Now the waiting  begins. Sky will be checked 15 days post-cover for pregnancy. I should know if she is in foal by Easter weekend. Everyone keep their fingers crossed!

My Final College Scholarship Day

Last Friday was my last college scholarship day at Keeneland. College scholarship days are held once every meet and I attended all eight that were held during my time at UK. Unfortunately, while I went 8 for 8 in attendance, I went 0 for 8 in winning a scholarship. Although I didn’t win a scholarship, I still had a great time as always. I began my final college scholarship day by handing out flyers for TVG’s “The Late Double” show that will be filmed at Keeneland this Friday. Some people hate handing out flyers, but I had fun with it and distributed about 1,000 flyers in three hours.

After I finished working for TVG, I teamed up with the Keeneland “notes team” to get quotes from the connections after the Transylvania Stakes. My job was to interview the jockey of the 2nd place finisher, which happened to be Julien Leparoux. I always interview the connections of the losers, while Mike Battaglia interviews the winning connections. I actually joked with Julien the day before that he should hope that he doesn’t have to talk to me much this meet. It was very funny that my first interview of the meet was with Julien. He was not thrilled to see me, but he laughed it off.

Keeneland’s April 2YO in Training Sale

This afternoon I decided to head out to Keeneland for the April 2YO in training sale. I always enjoy the excitement of Thoroughbred auctions and I was also curious to take a look at the lone horse by Stevie Wonderboy in the sale, hip #48. The dark bay or brown filly out of Quanah County was consigned by Kirkwood Stables, agent, and sold for $70,000 to Side Management Ltd. Hopefully she turns out to be a nice runner and I wish all of her new connections the best of luck with her.

I stuck around for another couple of hours after the Stevie Wonderboy filly sold and wandered around the sales pavilion. It was a lot of fun to simply enjoy the excitement of the sale. I also got to speak with some of my friends in the industry that I do not get to see very often. After socializing a bit, I went to the dining area to eat a chicken salad sandwich from Turf Catering. I decided after eating the sandwich in about five minutes that Turf Catering will be catering my wedding. To my future wife: this is non-negotiable.

While trying to decide if I could eat another whole sandwich, I noticed trainer Mike Stidham sitting a few tables away. I needed to get some information from him about Willcox Inn for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes post position draw on Wednesday, and so I approached him. Mr. Stidham was one of the trainers that I wrote a short biography on for the Breeders’ Cup website and so we had spoken many times before. I got the information that I needed and then we began talking about other things. He was curious about how I got involved in horse racing, how crazy my parents are for naming me after a horse race, and what I wanted to do with my life. We even talked about the future of horse racing, breeder awards programs, and race day medications.

He probably had a lot more important things to attend to; however, he took some time to talk with me and I really appreciate it. I have had to talk to a lot of people in the Thoroughbred business over the last two years through working on the Breeders’ Cup Bio Book team and the Keeneland notes team. Very few, if any, have been as enjoyable to talk to as Mike Stidham. He’s never treated me with anything but great respect and kindness and has always made time to answer all of my questions. Cheers to you, Mike Stidham.

 

April 4, 2011

It’s Time for Keeneland

Friday is opening day of Keeneland’s 2011 Spring Meet and also College Scholarship Day. Keeneland holds a College Scholarship Day every year during the fall and spring meets. After attending the races this Friday, I will have attended all eight Keeneland College Scholarship Days that have been held during my time at UK. If you are unfamiliar with Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day, or you’re just interested in my cinematography skills, you may watch the video below. I produced and filmed the video for Keeneland’s YouTube page to give fans a glimpse of the event.

I will no longer be making videos for Keeneland (at least I don’t think); however, I will still be highly involved during this meet. On Friday, I will be handing out information for TVG to college students, and this weekend I will help organize the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes post-position draw event. Also, every Friday and Saturday of the meet I will be tracking down owners, trainers, and jockeys to get their thoughts and opinions following stakes races. This can be a very interesting and exciting job; however, it’s not always great fun to interview the connections of a beaten-favorite in a stakes race. I’ve been chewed out a couple of times, but it’s part of the job.

I will be at Keeneland just about every day that there is live racing. If you are planning on making a trip to Keeneland, let me know and perhaps we can meet up. There will be beautiful horses, beautiful women, beautiful scenery, great racing, and hopefully fantastic weather. It’s not something you want to miss!

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