For The Love of the Game

By Ray Wallin

There are a lot of characters you find at the track. Many people blend in with the thousands of other track patrons on any given day, from the casual fan to those who are making their living playing the ponies.

Recently I found myself playing hooky from work and hanging out on the grandstand apron of Monmouth Park on a sunny, gorgeous August Friday afternoon. While trying to get away from Rail Guy, I recognized a friendly face and fixture at Monmouth Park, Bobby Bulger.

As the favorite in the first race returned to the paddock for a shoe change, I hustled over to Bobby as Rail Guy was giving his usual dissertation as to why “da seven horse has no chance in dis race” to anyone who would listen. Amazingly, this time he was right.

Bobby and I are from the same town and graduated the same high school in different years. We know a lot of the same people and are both “lifers” in our small town. I was greeted with a huge smile, handshake, and a hug. We hung by the winner’s circle chatting about the race, the weather, and or course horse racing before heading back over to the rest of the crew.

With his wife Lisa, Bobby also runs two great Facebook pages called Horsing Around with Bobby and Lisa and Monmouth Park Racetrack Memories (now and then), the latter of which has surpassed 1,800 followers.

I ended up spending a fun the day with Bobby, Lisa, and their crew. We were in the paddock for a couple of races in between camping out near the tent on the clubhouse side of the paddock with some trainers and owners and then rushing off to the winner’s circle at post time. These guys know everyone at the track from the security guards, to the backstretch workers, outriders, fellow patrons, media, breeders, and the horsemen.

Bobby and Lisa started their Facebook four years ago with the goal of positively promoting not only our home track, Monmouth Park, but the sport as a whole. They want to make sure that the sport that they love is accessible to future generations and that they understand not only the rich traditions and history, but what makes the sport tick. Not only does their group include racing fans, but a lot of the jockeys, trainers, and workers that make a day of racing look so easy.

For Bobby and Lisa it has always been about the horse.

One of the biggest challenges that Bobby and Lisa feel we have with our great sport right now is perception. The news, regardless of the subject, is growing increasingly negative. What Bobby and Lisa highlight from their early morning visits to the backstretch is how well the horses are cared for from the trainers down to the countless folks that are tasked with the care of each horse. They have spent time with the veterinarian, outriders, and gate crew and see the side of racing that the media fails to show. From trainers retraining and rehoming horses to owners that are proud of where their former racing stock have found new homes and purpose.

After the San Luis Rey fire Bobby and Lisa rallied the group along with their friends on the west coast to provide support to the backstretch workers that lost everything, raising about $2,000 and shipping items to Robyn Cosio which she distributed along with Art Sherman.

“Ultimately racing needs to come together as one to band together to form a stronger product and stronger base of support” says Bobby as we walked towards the winner’s circle for the next race.

Recently Bobby and Lisa were featured on Louisa Barton’s “The Horse Talk Show” (starting at 28:49) where they talked about the Haskell which featured local horse Maximum Security and local trainer Jason Servis, for whom they organized “Roses for Max” to honor the effort of the local connections after being disqualified out of the win in the Kentucky Derby. They also talked about the awareness regarding the sport we love to the casual racing fan.

Bobby and Lisa are always posting pictures and videos of the smaller local trainers and backstretch workers. They give you a personal connection to the unsung heroes that make the races happen and show the great care the horses receive on the Monmouth backstretch. After all, these small local trainers and nameless backstretch workers are the lifeblood of this sport.

While racing in New Jersey will wind down this fall, there is no rest for Bobby and Lisa. They spend the off-season promoting the history of the sport, Monmouth Park, and following up on where some of our local runners and horsemen are now.

“Our goal for the group is to see Monmouth Park survive and thrive and to also see our sport survive and thrive. We ultimately want to reach the younger generation, educate them, and positively promote our sport,” adds Bobby. This is exactly what they are doing as people of all ages, genders, and walks of life found Bobby and Lisa this day. They both made time to talk to everyone while trying to get a couple of photos of the winning connections and even trying to place a wager or two on a horse.

The sport needs more “super fans” like Bobby and Lisa. They are not backed by any group with an ulterior motive. They are funneling their passion for the sport into their positive efforts on track and through social media. While I couldn’t hang around for the finale and had to decline the invitation to head down to the Blu Grotto for even more introductions to fans and horsemen, I know that I won’t have any trouble finding them when I am at the track next time – ready for sharing more racing talk, history, laughs, and our passion of the sport.

So next time you are at Monmouth Park, wander over to the clubhouse and find the tent and chairs on the clubhouse side of the paddock. You’ll recognize Bobby with his million dollar smile and Lisa will welcome you right into the fold, before the crew heads down to the winner’s circle for the next race. If you can’t make it down the Jersey Shore, be sure to join the on their Facebook page where they are tirelessly supporting the sport we love!

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