A Few Minutes With WPT's Tommy Bellhouse
WPT thanks Bellhouse’s wonderful parents, Tom and Marion, for only allowing him to go to the races as a child if he got straight "A"s. (Bribery at its finest!)
Q. How did you get interested in Thoroughbred Racing?
A. Through my uncle Pete, who took me to the track. Also, my grandfather, Francis Bellhouse, was a leading Steeplechase rider and trainer in the East in the 1930's, 40's & 50's.
Q. Where’s your favorite racetrack?
A. Belmont Park.
A. Well, that’s where I grew up - on Long Island - so I still tend to look at everything there through the eyes of when I was a young boy. The first time I was ever in the paddock at Belmont I was trembling, like “I can’t believe I’m an owner of a horse at Belmont Park.” Probably the craziest memory was walking up the path on Belmont Stakes day with Macho Again into the paddock and not being able to contain the emotion; it was overwhelming. Belmont’s paddock is spectacular, but for me it’s more history than anything.
Q. So your favorite racing event would be...
A. The Belmont Stakes or opening day at Saratoga.
Q. A little favoritism for the NYRA tracks?
A. Definitely. I’m a New York guy. The other tracks I enjoy and follow are Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park.
Q. Anywhere else you like to go?
A. Well, the best racetrack food is definitely found at Fair Grounds; their gumbo is amazing. The shoeshine guy in the airport told me that. I told him I was in town for the races and he said, “Be sure to have some of the gumbo, it’s the best thing you’ll ever eat.” I tasted it and I was like, “Oh my God, it is!”
Q. Can you share a few “inside angles” into handicapping at Belmont?
A. Ironically, I don’t think I handicap Belmont very well, which is very frustrating. There are virtually no two-turn races on dirt so I struggle a lot with Belmont dirt races, but I love the grass, and grass handicapping in general. I’m a huge pedigree grass player - my favorite race to bet at Belmont would probably be a maiden special weight on the grass.
Q. Tell us about the horses you’ve owned in partnership with WPT
A. The first horse I ever owned with West Point was Bid for Silver - a claimer, but a hard-knocking one. Rick Violette trained her, she won three in a row at one point in 2005.
I didn’t own Lear’s Priness, but all my friends did, so I got to go along for that ride. The other horse that comes to mind, probably my favorite WPT horse I’ve ever been affiliated with, was Justwhistledixie (see photo above). She was such an unbelievably kind animal, and whenever I’d take Partners on barn tours, I’d take them to visit her because I knew she would come up to me and nuzzle and pose for pictures. Then she became a star. And, of course, there’s my namesake, Bellhouse...
Q. Who are your favorite current WPT runners?
A. Cinco de Mayo Mio and King Congie.
Q. What’s your philosophy on owning race horses?
A. You shouldn’t get into the game for anything other than fun.
Q. What’s the best part about being involved with WPT?
A. I wear two hats because I was a WPT Partner and eventually became an employee. To me, the camaraderie and friendships I’ve made are a huge plus. The customer service part of the job is very important to me. And everything you do becomes worthwhile when you have a horse just really run well - you feel so good. I was on cloud nine after Half Nelson ran second the other day. It was just a great day to see a horse improve and run well.
Q. What keeps you going through the ups and downs of racing?
A. You really have to love the animal and love the game. Most people say “I love to play golf,” well, there’s nothing I love more in life than going to the racetrack.
Q. Finish this sentence. The greatest racehorse of all time was...
Q. Anything else you’d like to tell the folks?
A. Whenever you’re putting together a pick four ticket, don’t hesitate to call!