Harnessing a Passion

Class of ’80 | Bob Glazer W’80 WG’81 is standing behind the grandstand at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, wearing shoulder-length blonde hair, wraparound Gucci sunglasses, rattlesnake-print pants, and tennis shoes. He doesn’t look like your typical harness-stable owner. They’re usually stout older guys, good businessmen whose success in other fields lets them go into harness. Glazer is 46 and has already been in the business 16 years.

Regardless of whether he looks the part, Glazer is one very successful owner and a dominant figure in the world of harness racing. At present he owns some 260 horses, which earn, after expenses, roughly $6 million to $8 million. His harness business is conservatively valued at over $60 million.

“I became passionate about horses as a teenager,” says Glazer. “While I enjoyed handicapping and betting, I often went to county fairs just to watch races.” Adds his mother, Molly Glazer: “I remember driving him and his friends to Northfield [a Cleveland-area track] before he had a driver’s license. That’s how harness racing came into the picture.”

Glazer traces his business doggedness to a different form of gambling. “I recall playing poker in high school with some older guys and was resoundingly defeated,” he explains. “I vowed that the next time I played I would do what I could to minimize my chances of losing. I read books and practiced with friends.”

He renewed his passion for harness, curiously enough, at Wharton. “All of my undergrad friends had graduated and moved on,” he says, while he stayed on to get his MBA. “I spent a great deal of time at Liberty Bell [Raceway, a now-defunct Philadelphia-area harness track] during those last few months of 1981. I formed a lasting friendship there with a trainer named Bruce Saunders [later the acting governor of Delaware for one day], with whom I had horses for a number of years.”

After graduation he went back to his hometown of Cleveland, where he “piddled in a few things, built a few houses, made a few investments,” according to his mother. But then he started going back to Northfield, this time as a serious bettor. Betting $5,000 to $10,000 a night, he quickly accumulated a substantial sum.

In 1990 he bought seven yearlings for $250,000. “I didn’t make my investment back on them,” he says. “I’ve never been a good loser, and I wasn’t willing to quit after having a rough first year or two.” After reviewing the lessons learned from his high-school poker days, he started studying. “I looked at every horse that sold at public auction,” he says, and “kept notes on every yearling, even ones I didn’t buy. I inspected more yearlings, I crunched more numbers.”

Though he admits “it may have been a somewhat expensive learning curve,” his efforts began to show results. By 1995 he had North America’s top money-winning stable, a rung he held for five straight years. In 1997 he paid $250,000 for The Panderosa, who promptly won $2.3 million, including the million-dollar Meadowlands Pace. Retired in 1999, The Panderosa is now a stud earning millions in fees. In 2003 Glazer struck again with No Pan Intended, who won Pacing’s Triple Crown and was named Harness Horse of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers’ Association. Glazer, in turn, was named the USHWA’s Owner of the Year.

Glazer believes his success stems from treating harness as a business instead of a hobby. “I tried to acquire information and skills in order to be successful,” he says, “just like in any business.”

That goes for the gambling aspect as well. “I never viewed handicapping as gambling,” Glazer claims, noting that the pari-mutuel system of betting “mirrors the pricing on stock markets and indices,” since both are “driven solely by supply and demand.” But harness-betting offers some distinct advantages over the stock market.

“I always felt that I was dealing with a much less sophisticated and less informed investor in the horseracing market as opposed to the financial market,” Glazer allows. “It wasn’t gambling to me. I always made fistfuls of money handicapping.” His betting patterns even mimicked more sophisticated financial maneuvers.

“I did things that most handicappers were not willing to do years ago,” he says. “I invested into large ‘must win’ pools [such as superfectas and pick6s] where I tried to make an arbitrage-like play.”

Glazer applies tried-and true practices to other parts of his business as well, like branding. All of his horses names have Pan in them, after Peter Pan Stables, his harness entity. “I want buyers to know it’s one of my horses, and this accomplishes that.”

He’s been expanding the business as well. “I will be selling yearlings for the first time at public auction,” including nine yearlings by The Panderosa, as well as a selection of yearlings by sires Glazer owns that stand in New York, such as The Firepan, Ameripan Gigolo, and The Icepan Cometh.

Racetrack ownership has been on Glazer’s mind as well. In 2004 he submitted the high bid ($260 million) to acquire the lease for the Meadowlands and Monmouth racetracks in New Jersey, but after Governor James McGreevey resigned in November of that year, his successor, Richard Codey, withdrew support for the plan to lease the tracks, effectively killing it.

“I really don’t have any idea what went into the decision,” says Glazer, adding that if the tracks came back on the market, “I would remain interested in pursuing it further.”

He’s been looking to purchase other racetracks as well. “I was part of a group that had been formed to purchase Vernon Downs and Tioga Park” in New York, but dropped out “due to shareholder complications and possible bankruptcy-creditor issues with the prior group.”

Having developed a far-flung harness operation that races in as many as five states simultaneously, Glazer takes a philosophical view. “I got into this business for personal growth and fulfillment,” he says. “I always felt that if I could break even, I’d be happy. I’ll continue to participate as long as it continues to be fun, period.”

—Steve Eschenbach


©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 03/01/06


Profiles : Events :
Notes : Obituaries

Lisa Roberts knows design
Bob Glazer knows horses
Anita Nevyas-Wallace helps other see
Basketball alumni head for the courts of Europe

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