Two-Minute Lick - Gary Contessa
Trainer Gary Contessa has been a mainstay on the tough New York circuit since 1984. He has racked up more than 2,000 career victories and for four consecutive years—from 2006-2009—he was the leading trainer by wins at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. The one thing that has eluded Contessa thus far in his career is a starter in a Triple Crown race. He will take a big step toward trying to fill that gap in his resume when he saddles Palm Beach Stakes winner Rydilluc in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Name: Gary Contessa
Birthplace: Merrick, N.Y.
Most influential people in my career: Frank Martin, Jennifer Contessa
My out-of-the-box idea for Thoroughbred racing: I would sell pick six tickets through the lottery system every day. Your average non-racetrack person could buy a random pick six ticket for one dollar and then they would be able to follow races to see how they do. Pools would increase considerably and people who would normally ignore racing would now be following racing.
My favorite racetrack: Saratoga
My fantasy job: CEO of NYRA (I would absolutely revive racing in New York.)
What I like most about my job: Working outdoors and developing athletes.
Other sports/teams I follow: New Jersey Devils
My heroes: Our soldiers, police and firefighters
Something about myself that would surprise those who know me: I play bass guitar and have played on stage with some top musicians, including horse owner David Cassidy, among others. I’m also a certified skydiver.
My favorite athletes of all-time: Jackie Robinson and Scott Stevens
Most treasured possession/memento: A personal letter sent to me from then-President Ronald Reagan
A pet peeve: People who make the same mistake twice
What book(s) I am reading or have recently read: The Hunger Games trilogy; A Wilderness of Error; and The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.
Favorite magazines: People and The Blood-Horse
Favorite websites I visit daily/weekly: Daily Racing Form and ebay
Gadget I cannot live without: iPhone
Hobbies away from Thoroughbred racing: Musician, collector of autographs, and hockey
Last concert I attended: Jon Bon Jovi at the Mohegan Sun
Favorite foods: Pizza and bagels
What I drive: Mercedes ML 350 diesel
If I could be a guest on any TV talk show it would be: "Talking Horses" or "Talking Dead"
If I could appear on any television show it would be: "The Walking Dead" or "Justified"
If I could be a guest on any talk radio show it would be: Howard Stern
If I could be on stage I would play what instrument: Bass guitar (but that is cheating.)
Favorite musician/band: Bon Jovi
Favorite actor: Errol Flynn
Newspaper I read daily: Daily Racing Form
I’d like to have dinner with: The person who is deciding the next head of NYRA
Best racetrack food can be found at: Keeneland track kitchen
Accomplishment I am most proud of: Working seven days a week away from home and still raising five great children.
My philosophy on life: Keep it positive. Think positive, live positive and you create your own good fortune.
Favorite quote or motto: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Things I collect: Autographs and memorabilia
Celebrity/prominent personality friends include: David Cassidy is like my brother.
Favorite authors: Suzanne Collins, Cot Campbell
Favorite animal other than a horse: Deer
What actor would play me in a movie: Brad Pitt - who else?
Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended: Everyone in my family is a complete hockey fanatic.
What historical figure do you most identify with: Ronald Reagan
What living person do you most admire: All of the wounded warriors that fought and gave so much for us.
Twitter Handle: @GaryContessa
People I follow on Twitter: Andy Serling, Teresa Genaro, TVG, HRTV, and most racing personalities
No. 1 bucket list item: Before I die, like any horse trainer, I would like to win the Kentucky Derby. But even more importantly, I would trade winning the Derby for a chance to make a difference in the life of a child.