[../../../_private/magazine_tmp.htm]Racing on the Air
XTRA Sports Picks A Winner With Roger Stein's 'Trackside'
INGLEWOOD - It's nearly that time of year again. Time to go "where the surf meets the turf." Del Mar's racing season will take off July 28.
Bettors interested in gaining an inside edge at the seaside oval may want to tune in to XTRA Sports 690's "Trackside" hosted by thoroughbred trainer Roger Stein.
Trackside airs Saturdays and Sundays at 8 a.m. for an hour. The show features interviews with jockeys, trainers, professional handicappers and horse owners from the Southern California thoroughbred racing circuit. Listeners are encouraged to call in with questions and comments. Stein, the energetic host, bills himself as a friend of the $2 bettor and doesn't pull many punches with his guests. He prides himself on his ability to ask tough questions and to get the facts. Horseplayers aren't guaranteed to hit the Pick-Six after listening to "Trackside," but they will come away with a better understanding of the game says Stein. "I don't like people being misled by the business I love," the trainer said. "People have a right to ask questions, a right to know. That's what this program is geared toward. Years ago, I said I was a friend of the $2 bettor. I still think that way. I'll never forget what it was like." Stein, 39, began his racing career as a bettor. Fascinated by the sport and passionless about his father's clothing business, Stein became a groom and a Standardbred owner. "I thought like most gamblers," Stein said. "If I could get an insider's angle, it would be easy [to win]. But I realized from hard work it doesn't work that way."
It didn't take Stein long to gain success. He took out his harness license in 1979 and quickly dominated the circuit. Between 1979 and 1984, Stein won 10 percent of all harness races in California and notched17 straight training titles. In 1987, Stein switched to thoroughbreds and he has continued to be a force.
Last year, he earned $789,578 in purses, which included wins in the Bay Meadows Handicap with Forty-Niner Days; the Cal Cup Distaff and the Sandcastle Stakes at Del Mar last summer with Southern Truce. Stein has a small string of 10 horses, including Southern Truce, a mare he claimed for $16,000. Since then, Southern Truce has won more than $500,000 - most of it with an unlikely victory over Sid and Jenny Craig's champion mare, Paseana, in the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap. "Lately, it's been very quiet for me," Stein said. "I had some of my owners fall on hard times. I want a few more horses; but I'm happy. It used to be that good by my scale was to be better than everyone else. Now it's that I'm content."
As far as radio goes, Stein admits he's not a polished announcer. He's a horseman first and foremost; however, he's quite comfortable behind the mike. "I'm talking about something I know about," the horseman said. "I'm an expert." Stein's radio career began three years ago on KGRB He did the show by phone from Santa Anita Park. Two years ago, KBLA in Los Angeles aired his "Trackside" show. However, the station was sold and changed to an all-Korean language format. "I couldn't learn Korean quick enough," Stein quipped.
XTRA picked up "Trackside" at the beginning of last month. Stein has a one-year contract with XTRA. "I like radio," he said. "People liked it and that gave me a lot of confidence. Look, I'm no great radio personality; but nobody has more knowledge than I do." He has also never been afraid to voice his opinion. "I have the gift of being talkative," Stein said. "It comes easily to me." Too easily for some. Stein has rankled some of his fellow trainers who disapprove of his show. He's had his share of battles with racing officials who frown on his casual wardrobe and his willingness to speak out. A recent article in the Daily Racing Form tagged Stein with the label "maverick." Others call him controversial, a rabble-rouser. Is he?
"I don't think so; my attitude is the truth never bothers me," Stein said. "I tell the truth. If I'm somebody's pain in the ass, too bad. I'm not trying to do a show to please anyone else."
KCEO 1000 AM will begin broadcasting its Del Mar Race Report, hosted by Felix Taverna, on Opening Day - July for an hour starting at 10 p.m. until the end of the meeting. The show consists of a recap of the race day's events. Listeners can hear information on mutuels, scratch reports, track news and racing tidbits, such as hot horses and shippers. Taverna also interviews jockeys, trainers, owners, jockey agents, racing officials and even grooms. "We'll also replay some races for people who couldn't make the races," Taverna said.
Like most racing people involved with the Southern California circuit, Taverna, a former disc jockey and TV sports announcer with local cable companies and Prime Ticket, looks forward to the Del Mar meeting.
"Del Mar's so much different," he said. "It's so much more relaxed. It's sort of an escape from Los Angeles and all the pressure."
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