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ADAMO TRIES THE DIRECT APPROACH IN ATTRACTING OWNERS TO HORSE RACING

Thoroughbred racing may be nicknamed "the sport of kings," but trainer Tony Adamo would like to see his game portrayed a bit differently.

He'd prefer something like "the sport of Western New York boaters, golfers, dentists and people with good jobs."

Perhaps you've seen Adamo's flyers.

In an effort to drum up new clients, Adamo, a Buffalo resident and 1989 Kenmore West graduate, has been dropping them all over the Buffalo area -- they are in country clubs, yacht clubs, OTB parlors, restaurants, bars and all sorts of bulletin boards.

The flyers get right to the point, as they use big bold type to proclaim, "If you ever thought of owning a thoroughbred racehorse, now's the time to get one!"

"I'm trying to entice Western New Yorkers to get into thoroughbreds," Adamo said the other day near his barn in the Fort Erie Race Track stable area.

"With the (Canadian) exchange really good now and with the slot machines coming in (to provide additional purse money for races), I really think if anybody at all was thinking about getting into the game, at least they could call me and I could talk to them about it."

Adamo, of course, is trying to attract clients for himself. But his arguments make sense, no matter the source.

With the American dollar at near-record highs ($1,000 is worth about $1,500 in Canadian funds), owning a horse in Canada can be extremely attractive to Americans with some disposable income they are willing to spend for recreation.

"I'm not taking about a person who makes $15,000 to $20,000 a year. I'm talking about people with sporting money, money you spend to have fun with," Adamo said.

Adamo thinks racing is an ideal way for a group of friends to have fun and perhaps make a few dollars.

"It's tough to get newcomers into this game because they might be leery of going in by themselves. But if they had a partner or two or three, then they'd feel better," he said.

"Like guys at the country club, a foursome. They might throw in a few thousand and grab a horse. It would be their thing to do, to come to the racetrack."

Adamo said a person or group could get into the game with about $5,000 (U.S.). That's enough to buy a "4 or 5 claimer" (a horse worth $4,000 to $5,000 Canadian) and pay training expenses for a couple of months.

"If a horse wins a $5,000 claiming race, the owner gets $4,500 (of the $7,500 purse) out of which the jockey and trainer each get 10 percent. If the horse wins once and runs second, you're pretty much even and you've got yourself a free horse," Adamo said.

"It's a lot of fun. With the money difference, you could pick up a nice horse. It's a good game," said Chuck Orlando, a Buffalonian who owns the "Big Daddy Stable" across from Adamo's barn.

"People who don't understand (racing) . . . think you need thousands and thousands of dollars. There are a lot of guys (trainers) over here you can work out deals with on a percentage basis. They'll train for a certain percentage of the purse. You get so much, so you don't have to come up with a lot of money. . . . You can work out a 60-40 basis, where the trainer gets 60 percent and the owner gets 40, so you don't have to worry about it too much," added Orlando, whose horses are trained by Sam Belsito of Lockport.

Adamo, who has been racing at Fort Erie for six years, said he was bitten by the racing bug when he was very young.

"My father came to the track one day. I think I was 12. He brought me and my brother (John) here," he said. "I won about $15 and I've been hooked ever since. My brother lost and he's never been back to the races since that day."

After high school, Adamo worked at Fort Erie for a year, then went to State University College at Morrisville and earned a two-year degree in animal science. After that, he worked as an exercise rider in Kentucky, where he passed his trainer's license test at age 20.

Adamo specializes in claiming (purchasing out of a race) and running older horses with "back class." His 11-horse stable includes veteran campaigners Plein D'esprit (co-holder of the track record for 5 furlongs on the grass), Do's and Don't's, Nick's Bet and Orange Lasso.

He entered last weekend with a record of seven wins, four seconds and four thirds from 28 starts. His win percentage (29.2) is among the Fort's Top 5.

Adamo said his flyer campaign already has proved fruitful.

"I already picked up a dentist in Kenmore," he said. "I handed out the flyers at some of the businesses and I got a call (at 876-2254). I met with him and the guy wanted to spend $10,000."

Even dentists can be kings at the track.

"When you own a horse, that's when you're the king," Orlando said. "It's a rush. It's the happiest feeling you have -- no matter if your horse runs first or if he runs sixth. That feeling that you have having your horse go to post that day, wearing your colors. It's just an enjoyment, a real enjoyment."

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