In this edition of Here's The Deal we get to know Pocket Aces Racing partner Rick Venenga.
HTD: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Profession, family, where you’re from and where you live now, etc.
RV: I have grown up in the Midwest here in Iowa my whole life. I grew up in a little community of about 3,000 residents where most of my family either lived on or was part of farming. I currently live in Waterloo, Iowa. I went to College in Missouri and after receiving my degree came back to Iowa to start my professional career. Currently I own with another business partner a counseling agency called Families First Counseling that provides service for children and families all across Eastern Iowa. We are one of the largest Counseling agencies in the State. I have been part of working with children and families in Human Services for over 28 years now. I have been married for 23 years to my wife Tammy. My wife also works in the profession of helping others as currently she is employed by the State of Iowa as a counselor at a local college.
HTD: How were you introduced to the sport of thoroughbred racing?
RV: My father introduced me to the sport on weekend trips to some of the thoroughbred tracks that were close. We would go for the weekend and have time together as a family. Through the years we would go to different tracks across the country such as Arlington, Canterbury Downs, Keenland, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream, and others where you got to see the horses up close. The sport has always been part of our family discussion and has been close to us over the years.
HTD: Who is your all-time favorite male and female horse? Why?
RV: My favorite male horse of all time is Barbaro. Barbaro captured the country with not just his spectacular win in the Kentucky Derby but his will to survive after his injury in the Preakness. The rallying cry and support from the fans and the team around Barbaro became a inspiration to all of us even after his death. The first time visiting Churchill Downs and seeing the Barbaro memorial statue meant a lot to me.
My favorite female horse of all time besides of coarse being a little biased with Turbulant Descent, Dixies Hope, Mirador, and Kaminari is Zenyatta. I believe Zenyatta with all the excitement she brought with her magical streak created a big buzz around the sport and brought in many new fans as evident by the fact if you go to youtube and see all the videos created by her fans, the power pink that came out at the tracks, and the media coverage. Zenzatta brought that enthusiasm back to our sport and has given the thoroughbred industry a lot of new fans.
HTD: You’ve participated in the sport for awhile now, what would be your best advice for someone who is considering the transition from racing fan to owner?
RV: I did a lot of research and phone calling asking a lot of questions to a lot of people. I found all though there is many types of Thoroughbred operations out there you need to identify for yourself first what your budget and amount of control you would like to have. For me the idea of being part of a partnership that has professional people who control the horses operations and being a part owner has been a wonderful blessing. I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people in this industry that share my passion for the sport and over the coarse of time have become my friends. On race day the anxiety and excitement of seeing a horse that you are part of run in a race where ever that is, is such a natural high that I cant describe the feeling unless you are part of it. Three big pieces of advice I would like to give to new owners coming into this business once you have formed your budget.
1. Like purchasing the correct breed of a dog for your family pet, you have to have the right partnership with thoroughbreds for you. There are so many different partnership operations out there that offer different things so know what you are looking for, do your research on them, and call them directly and see if they treat you with great customer service. For me Pocket Aces offered it all for me. Reasonable share prices in quality thoroughbreds, location of where they do their racing, and the great customer service I have received from the beginning all the way until now as a current owner with Pocket Aces of Mirador, Posso, and now looking at Kamanari.
2. Don't expect you are going to hit the jackpot on every purchase. To put it in perspective My friend Mike who is a co-owner of some horses has told me there is 30,000 new thoroughbreds born every year. Only 20 run in the Kentucky Derby. Make sure you are in it for the fun and life style. Hey, and if you happen to make some money along the way fantastic!
3. Enjoy the opportunity to go see these great athletes in action on and off the track! Enjoy the great ride with your horse and new friendships that you will form along the way in the right partnership!
HTD: In your opinion, what are some of the most difficult challenges facing the sport of thoroughbred racing currently?
RV: The economy of coarse has been tough but some tracks have suffered with the lack of support from local governments to supplement the local track with other forms of gambling such as slots which increase the purses and make a bigger draw of people coming out to the tracks. However, with all that said I always notice the local tracks making it more family friendly with games, prizes, lots of music so the whole family can enjoy.
HTD: What’s your favorite race track? Why?
RV: My favorite track is where I have seen live racing is called Canterbury Downs in the Twin Cities. It bills itself as the friendliest track in the country. Give it a try sometime-they make it very entertaining and you are right on top of the horses with your seats. Churchill Downs is my all time favorite track. Although I have visited there I have never seen live racing there. I will be changing that real soon hopefully this summer. The history of Churchill Downs is second to none.
HTD: Other than thoroughbred horse racing what are few of your other hobbies and interests?
RV: When I am not working I love to play golf, follow sports, enjoy my time at home with my two cats Nipper and Lipton, and every moment I can get with my wife Tammy, family, and all the friends I am so blessed to have.