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A Few Minutes With WPT's Tommy Bellhouse

January 24, 2012 · By Erin Birkenhauer · Share
Tom Bellhouse “Tommy B” is West Point Thoroughbreds’ Executive Vice President of Service and East Coast Operations. His primary primary responsibilities are to coordinate WPT operations throughout the East, including the New York, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida Circuits. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego with a BS in Business Administration and currently resides in Saratoga Springs, NY. Prior to joining WPT as a staff member in 2008, he spent nine years in the automotive industry as a Sales Director for a division of Chrysler. He has been involved in partnerships with us since 2005.

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.

Q. Why?
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...
A. Secretariat.

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!

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In 17 years of being in a service industry myself, I have met many people and Tom is one of the best people I have ever met! Fred
Thanks Fred...Appreciate the kind words.... We had an amazing year of following King Congie around the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic. Cannot wait to start up again in 2012. Get the feeling you & Tracy will be regulars at The Spa...TB
You are right the Gumbo at the Fairgrounds is very good.
Martin...Gotta get you some Hatties Fried Chicken on your next Spa visit...TB
Tommy is the best. I've had a lot of good times with him. And he's an honest regular guy; but not a great handicapper!!!!!!!!
Thanks Bob...I know that compliment is going to cost me a steak dinner in the North End. See you soon in the sunshine. TB
Tom is one of my favorote people ! He likes to enjoy a big steak & drink a cold beer & enjoys handicapping. What else is there in life? Great interview Tommy
AZ.....Enjoy Vegas my friend....Save a couple bucks for SOGO on the 4th :) See you soon, TB
Tom Bellhouse was our first contact with WPT; it was only 3 1/2 years ago, but we feel as if he's been a part of our life for decades. We've had 3 horses go down with injuries this winter and not being able to race. One of the most unpleasant parts of this experience has been not being able to see Tommy B. on a regular basis at our races. Karen & Mike Miele
Karen & Mike, What a fun ride it's been. You've been transformed into "Saratoga regulars." Cannot wait to visit your new restaurant. For any of our partners and friends of WPT, "LuLu & Me Gastrobar" is Mike & Karen's latest undertaking/adventure located in NYC just north of Madison Square Park at 253 5th Avenue (between 27th and 28th Street) I hear if you mention "Rereadthefootnotes" you get a half price appetizer? See you soon, Tommy
Next time I'm in Manhattan, I'm there! (((Reread)))
Tom has been great to me in my fledging efforts in ownership. I appreciate his dedication and concern for both owners and horses. I look forward to following Cinco in person this year and hope to get some wins and keep her healthy. Keep up the good work, Tom. Jack Heneks
Thanks Jack...and Congratulations again on your re-election victory last November. We look forward to seeing You & Diana at the races real soon. Tommy
Tom has been a great friend. Will always return calls and love to talk horse racing. I enjoy his company and Bellhouse the horse is better looking. Ira
We were at the Big A the other day with Ed Killeen. Tom could not have been a better host. I have been following the races since the 60's and nothing compared to being in the paddock with "our horse" Awesome Vision. What a thrill!
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