May the Horse Be With You

Pack at the Track

Harvey Pack’s autobiography, written with freelancer Peter Thomas Fornatale, is exactly what it should be: an honest, entertaining reflection of a unique New York racing institution.

The book is just like Harvey: funny as hell, outrageous, insulting, and insightful. Parts of it may be fictitious. From first page to last, Harvey doesn’t hesitate knocking friends, enemies, celebrities, family, and of course, himself. He’s never taken himself very seriously and that attitude has allowed him to build a loyal legion of fans throughout his fascinating career.

He’s been the host of the popular Paddock Club on-track at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga; host of his successful New York cable TV race-replay show, and a handicapper/wise guy for NBC-TV on its Breeders’ Cup broadcast before the Breeders’ Cup switched stations on ESPN.

Each of his books begins with a handicapping/betting rule gleaned from losing and winning thousands of dollars at racetracks for most of his 80 years. Harvey’s first rule should hit home with every bettor: “Every time the starting gate opens, expect to be humbled.”

Not what you expected to hear? Welcome to horse racing reality, one which Harvey readily accepts. His perspective came from his horse-race loving dad, who made his living selling imported rabbits from Australia for hats and fur coats.

Harvey says, “He was a horseplayer, not a gambler. A gambler is trying to make money and usually loses. A horseplayer is happy to survive and enjoys his sport.”

Maybe nobody in the long history of horse racing has enjoyed it more than Harvey, who was born on the upper West Side in Manhattan and never left.

Harvey was a racetrack lifer a long time before he was drafted into the Army, but his appreciation for the sport grew exponentially when it led him to a military career unlike any other: squiring his superior officers to the track and advising them on handicapping and betting.

After he got out of the Army, racing allowed him to spend a lifetime not working, but going to the track. How do you beat that? Along the way, he met a long list of celebrities who shared his affection, or addiction, depending on your point of view.

Harvey follows one great story with another while documenting his career path culminating with this popular shows pm-track and on television.

What viewers will remember forever from his television show was the ending when Harvey flung his program at the camera and said, “May the horse be with you”, a line he admits he shamelessly stole from Star Wars.

It’s worked for him for decades.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.