John Perrotta is an accomplished author/writer and a lifelong horseman with experience in nearly every aspect of Thoroughbred racing. Perrotta’s new book “At the End of the Bar and Other Stories” came out in May and now is available for purchase.
A University of Miami graduate, Perrotta in 1978 became one of the first professional racing managers in the U.S., coordinating business affairs for the John Forbes Stable, one of the leading barns in the country, before accepting the position of general manager with Robert Brennan’s Due Process Stables in 1981.
During his 15-year career as vice president and general manager, Due Process Stables consistently was one of the leading stables and raced such champions as Deputy Minister and Dehere, plus 45 other individual stakes winners. Due Process Stables also bred two-time Eclipse Award winner Open Mind. Since the Due Process dispersal in 1995, Perrotta has raced multiple stakes winners in his Star Stable and was the co-breeder of 1996 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold.
In 2004, Perrotta created the Thoroughbred Racing Radio Network, acting as president and executive producer. Beginning in March 2009, Perrotta was employed as a producer and screen writer/executive story editor/co-producer as well as technical consultant for Red Board Productions, working on the pilot and subsequent HBO series “LUCK,” which premiered on that network in January 2012.
Following the cancellation of “Luck,” Perrotta subsequently wrote “Out of Luck” — a depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story that included some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated series — for America’s Best Racing that later was also published in print. Perrotta also is the author of “If Wishes Were Horses” and “Racetracker: Life with Grifters and Gamblers …”
Perrotta took some time to chat with America’s Best Racing about his new book and his career in Thoroughbred racing.
Can you explain and share your long history, career and love affair with horse racing?
My story is a typical one … racing was one of my father’s favorite pastimes. He took me to the races at Monmouth Park and my first bet was a winner, on Parka trained by Jimmy Croll, and I was hooked. I worked on the farms in Colts Neck until I was old enough to get a license at the track and later had a career as a jockey agent, stable manager, and general manager of Due Process Stable. We had a great run through the 80s, topped with ’92 Champion Juvenile Dehere. I got to experience management as VP of Operations for Frank Stronach’s Magna Entertainment and later was the GM/VP of Santa Anita. And in between those, David Milch enlisted me as a screenwriter, story editor, and co-producer of his HBO racing series “LUCK.” I guess you could describe me as either quite diverse or just another guy who couldn’t hold a job.
What are your currently doing?
I’m currently on deadline for my book “Thoroughbred Investor’s Bible,” planned to be published in early fall by University Press of Kentucky. It’s a departure from my usual fiction, intended to provide a door for folks interested in entering the racing and breeding world.
How did “At the End of the Bar and Other Stories” come about and why did you write it?
“At the End of the Bar and Other Stories” is a collection of some of the stories I wrote over the past few years while working on “Thoroughbred Investor’s Bible.”
The book includes short stories from jockeys to racehorse owners to gamblers and even hotwalkers. How long have you been collecting these stories?
A few of them are quite old, stashed away. I have dozens.
Where can people find and purchase “At the End of the Bar and Other Stories”?
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, some track gift shops, and the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga.
You refer to yourself as a Racetracker – what does that word mean to you?
Racetracker is the moniker I’ve heard over the years, attached to folks who work on the backstretch … those who eat, sleep, and breathe racing. Proud to be one.
You’ve traveled the world and seen many a race. If you could only visit one racetrack and spend a day there, which track would you pick and why?
Monmouth was my first love …
You’ve written other books, “Racetracker,” “If Wishes Were Horses,” among others, where does this book rank?
That’s like asking which one of your kids is your favorite …
The talented artist Jen Ferguson, who has collaborated with you and America’s Best Racing in the past, provided the cover art for this book. Jen has a unique way of illustrating and capturing the scenes at and around a racetrack. How did you meet and how did this particular collaboration arise?
I’m not alone in thinking that Jen is a wonderful artist. We met when her sister Amanda worked as one of the writers on “LUCK.” I think her whimsical style is perfect for the track.
You wrote for the hit HBO series “LUCK,” which sadly was cut short. Yet, the characters in that show were rich and dark, and accurately reflected the diverse personalities and characters that one can only meet at a racetrack. Can you share a few favorite memories from your time as a writer on that show?
Working with writers like Bill Barich, Jay Hovdey, and Eric Roth, actors Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, John Ortiz, Richard Kind, Kevin Dunn, Ritchie Coster, Ian Hart, Jason Gedrick, and Jill Hennessy was magical. … We had regular get-togethers and quickly became a family. When I took John Ortiz to meet my trainer, Joe Orseno, John had never been near a horse before and we had him walking hots the first morning. And now he’s hopelessly hooked … as was Nick, hanging out with Jack Van Berg at his barn at Hollywood Park.
What was your favorite racing gig of your career?
“LUCK” was supposed to become a beacon, reaching out and grabbing new fans. We had the arc of the first three seasons and it could have been a classic had not the forces of evil intervened. And it wasn’t canceled over horses dying …
Do you have a favorite all-time racehorse?
No contest. I have the original oil painting of Dr. Fager with John Nerud, by Charles Manley Tyler hanging on the living room wall. Prized possession.
What is your go-to bet at the track?
I’ve come to appreciate the Pick 3. Four, five, and six are too many for me …
Can you share your biggest gambling score ever?
My favorite score was the $20 parlay I hit for $13,000 at Saratoga. One of the things I accomplished at Santa Anita was to re-institute that wager on the betting menu, and many fans have thanked me for doing so.
Summer racing in America has two amazing destination venues for fans to experience: Saratoga Race Course on the East Coast and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on the West Coast. Do you have a favorite memory or anecdote from each racetrack?
If you haven’t been to Saratoga and Del Mar, you haven’t fully experienced American racing.
Where can the best racetrack food be found?
A bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll is my favorite backstretch breakfast, found at every track kitchen.
Who is the best racehorse you ever witnessed in person?
I followed Dr. Fager when I was a kid in college. His performance in the 1968 United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City was icing on the cake. Deputy Minister was a great one, too, and went on to be both an outstanding sire and broodmare sire.
Do you have a favorite all-time jockey?
I was around the greats of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
What is your favorite movie ever made about the sport?
“Let It Ride” for comedy, “Boots Malone” for drama …
Any chance “LUCK” or something similar could become a Netflix series? There’s an avid audience awaiting your next TV series involving the characters, equine athletes, and venues of horse racing.
Don’t I wish…