Q and A with TVGs Todd Schrupp

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Thursday, September 30, 2021

Todd Schrupp is this week's The Player's Edge Podcast guest.  Todd covers a lot of ground in this Q&A – enjoy!

HRR: Todd, your father was a Marine. Many kids growing up in military homes experience a taste of military discipline at home. Did your dad, like mine, make sure that when you made your bed, the sheets were folded and tucked in correctly?

Todd Schrupp: I'm actually shocked my Dad was in the Marine Corps for Eight Years, and he often talked about wishing he had stayed in to be a ‘Lifer'. Not because he wasn't a good Marine, but because his personality was so contrary to his role as a Drill Instructor/Staff Sergeant. He has always had a big personality and loves to joke and entertain. Rather than being a tough disciplinarian at Home, he was ‘Mr. Saturday Night'.

HRR: And how do you feel those "military/discipline" lessons helped you in handicapping and life in general?

Todd Schrupp: My first Lessons in handicapping were from reading Andy Beyer's books and religiously making Beyer Speed figures at my Home Track, Canterbury Downs. The longer I was around the Game I realized what a minute part Speed Figures actually played. My greatest lessons have come from my successes and failures at the track, and from listening to fellow Horseplayers.

HRR: We see this over and over again with our guests, your love of horse racing began with your father taking you to the track in the mid-70s. In your opinion, what can horse racing do to make a day at the track more family friendly?

Todd Schrupp: Are there parts of the Grandstand that are not a ‘Family Experience' ? Of course, but that's true of every Sport and every Sporting Venue in the Country. However, Horse Racing is far and away the most Family Friendly Sport out there.

Being an outdoor Sport, the Racetracks themselves and the land they occupy are a getaway from the Urban Sprawl and confined quarters most of us live our lives in on a daily basis. And our biggest advantage over other Sports are the Horses.

People of all ages are naturally curious about the magnificent equine athletes that our Sport centers around. The greatest thing we can do as an Industry is encourage all of us, who already know and love the Sport to be Ambassadors and invite newcomers out to the Track. The experience with a little guidance sells itself in-person.

HRR: What's the first thing you remember about your trips to Canterbury Downs?

Todd Schrupp: Although many didn't realize it at the time, Canterbury was a launching pad for some of the great Horses and People in the Game. Before he became one of the best in any generation to ride, a 20-something Mike Smith came up from New Mexico to prove he could horseback. Donna Barton was an up-and-coming apprentice at Canterbury.

Prior to Bayakoa becoming a Champion in the United States on the Dirt, she finished 6th in the Lady Canterbury on the Turf. Before anyone knew who trainer Steve Asmussen was, he frequently hung out in anonymity near the Customer Service Center I worked at on the Second Floor. It means a lot to me that I knew so many of the people who are now household names in our Sport, when they were trying to make it at the same fledgling racetrack I was in Shakopee, MN.

HRR: You taught yourself to read the DRF forms, what do you still use today that you discovered back then?

Todd Schrupp: Class matters. There are bedrock handicapping principles that have endured in handicapping for a reason; they consistently work. Reading the conditions of a race and understanding how a horse fits, or doesn't fit, is something I did when I first started handicapping, and it's how I start my approach to this day. Knowing ‘Key Races' and ‘Weak Races' is of great importance to me. Trip handicapping is important, but if a horse has a Bad Trip against a ‘soft' group, what does it matter if they are in today against a much tougher field ?

HRR: You eventually took positions as a handicapper and backup race announcer at Canterbury and Calder Race Course. Tell us about your race call style? And who today would you point to and say, that's how I called them?

Todd Schrupp: I sometimes wonder how far I could've taken race calling had I pursued it Full-Time. I think I would've evolved and changed my style from where I left off. I was the back-up Track Announcer for Tony Bentley at Canterbury Downs, and then for the late Phil Salzman at Calder Racecourse.

Phil once said about his delivery, "I'm not what you might call a ‘flowery' announcer.." Meaning he strove for accuracy and a straight-forward approach that didn't have his voice fluctuating to the point of a shouting crescendo. Me, I was flowery, and loved to build-up to my signature line: "They turn for Home and straighten out in the lane, and it's SHOWTIME!"

HRR: Jerry "The King" Lawler... How did that wrestling match come about and was it the most surprising opportunity, if that's the right word, that came because of your TVG role?

Todd Schrupp: I've been blessed through my time at TVG to witness in-person and cover for our viewers some of the greatest horses and feats this Sport has produced over the last 20 years: Laffit Pincay, JR. breaking Shoemaker's all-time wins record, Russell Baze passing Pincay, Wesley Ward winning his first race at Royal Ascot, every start of Zenyatta's career, Rachel Alexandra's historical 3 yr old year, Deep Impact's triumphant return to his homeland to win the Japan Cup, etc.

However, it is wrestling Jerry ‘The King' Lawler that I am most often asked about, and quite honestly, the broadcasting moment I'm maybe most proud of. How it came to be, and how it played out I'll save for the Show. I am convinced of this, given TVG was in its infancy at the time, more people have told me in-person they watched that wrestling match than I think TVG was actually available in homes across the country at the time.

I'm honored that moment endures, because the pain and memories from it certainly endure for me.

HRR: Do fans still confuse you for Kurt Hoover?

Todd Schrupp: I think you sent these questions: "Kurt, please send back your answers when you get a chance." It happens so frequently, now I don't know if people are messing with me, or are truly fooled by me being his doppelgänger. Honestly, if I have to be someone's doppelgänger in Horse Racing, Hoover is a good one.

HRR: For those who would like to sit in front of a camera and talk horses, what would you suggest they do to get their foot in the door?

Todd Schrupp: My first Mentor in Broadcasting was a man named JG Preston who worked in the Press Box at Canterbury Downs. One of his lessons to me was: "There's nothing in Broadcasting that you can't learn by just doing." And I believe you need to do as much as possible even if your goal is to be on-air. Know what the Producer does, know what the Director does, understand how the graphics department works, understand the Tape Library, even understand the Budget of a Broadcast and how Management makes decisions.

Once you understand everybody's role in a broadcast, and how many people it takes to make a Broadcast happen, it will make you better and more appreciative of your role as an on-air person.

One of the things that motivates me, and centers me, is I don't want to let down all the people who've worked so hard to make that Broadcast happen. And one other piece of advice for those who want to pursue a career broadcasting Horse Racing, it was given to me by one of the most unforgettable Media Personalities in the Twin Cities; George Chapel aka ‘Dark Star'.

One day after the races at Canterbury he pulled me aside and told me how much he liked the enthusiasm in my delivery, and some thoughts on what I was doing Broadcasting wise, but then he said something that has stayed with me always: "Son, never forget, there's a Life beyond the Backside." This Sport can be all-consuming, and I know that first-hand.

However, over the course of a three-hour Live broadcast you have to be prepared to talk about anything, and everything; having a knowledge and experience beyond Horse Racing is central to having an interesting and entertaining conversation.

More than I care to remember, someone will say: "I can pick winners better than any of you!" That may be true, but can you carry a conversation and make a three-hour broadcast entertaining enough, so that people even stick around for three hours to hear what your picks are? Also, the ‘why' of your selection is just as important as the result. This is a longer conversation, but overall don't have expectations of starting out on-air, get a start with a Network in any position and prove yourself into the position you want. Two pillars of the TVG Broadcast team started out as researchers at TVG; Mike Joyce and Dave Weaver.

HRR: How would you describe your handicapping style?

Todd Schrupp: Circles to asterisks, is the best way to describe my handicapping style. My first run through the races the night before, I'll mark what I think is important with each horse, then circle the ones I think can win. The next Morning before I go to the track, I'll revisit my written thoughts from the night before and put an asterisk next to the circled horses who are now my final selections.

Then it comes down to ticket structure. The best way to describe my ticket structure is, AGONY. And, ultimately, I believe ticket structure and how you bet is far more important than your handicapping style.

HRR: On your twitter feed, you reference lyrics a lot. It's clear you are a big fan of music. A few questions. Favorite band for when you are in a losing streak to pick you up?

Todd Schrupp: Nessun Dorma as sung by Pavarotti is my most inspirational song to get me out of a losing Streak. If I need a soundtrack from one artist, it would be U2. If I want to wallow in my sorrow, Tom Waits or Alice In Chains.

HRR: Favorite band when you know you are on fire and want that fist pumping adrenaline?

Todd Schrupp: When you're winning, all music sounds good. However, there's something about Frank Sinatra that makes you feel like you're ‘King of the World' ! Maybe it's because his first huge hit, and the phrase that defined his career was, "All or Nothing at All." Perfect for playing the Horses.

HRR: The best band you saw live? And what about the show made it stand out?

Todd Schrupp: I must mention three concert experiences.

One, Seeing Prince return Home to Minnesota on his Purple Rain Tour. I'll never forget the lights off and then hearing his voice: "Hello Uptown, my name is Prince, and I've come to play with you..."

Two, U2 on their Zooropa/Achtung Baby Tour, it was at Pro Player Stadium right next to where I worked at, Calder Race Course. There were several moments where it was a spiritual experience for me.

Three, the most unexpected great vibe and impressionable concert was Chaka Khan after the Friday Night races at Hollywood Park in the Paddock; she made ‘Sweet Thing' one of my favorite songs of Life.

HRR: Band you want to see that you haven't?

Todd Schrupp: Great timing for this question! I have been talking for two-years with Dave Weaver about seeing Pearl Jam. Dave is a veteran of dozens of their shows, I will be breaking my Maiden this October.

HRR: If you had a walkout song, what would it be?

Todd Schrupp: If by walkout, you mean enter the stage; it would be Sinatra at the Sands 1966 with Count Basie's Orchestra, Quincy Jones Producing: and then after the announcer's intro and a quip from ‘Ol Blue Eyes', he launches into ‘Come Fly With Me.' As for my walk off song, exiting the stage, hopefully we can save that thought for a while.

HRR: Finally, you've been around horse racing your entire professional career. If you were king of horse racing for a day, what changes would you make so the industry would grow and thrive?

Todd Schrupp: If I went point by point of what we need to improve in this Sport, it would be a longer response than you want.

For me, what has always lacked in Horse Racing since I started and doesn't appear often enough is a true united front. We spend too much time debating who's more important. While I believe horseplayers' needs on a daily basis get overlooked far too much; yes, medication reform and uniformity is great, but why not address all the Pari-mutuel discrepancies State to State too ?

The truth is, every issue matters and affects everyone. We are our strongest and can benefit the most when everybody gets behind an important cause. Two prime examples.

One, the Changing of the Pari-Mutuel Tax Laws for horseplayers when reporting to the IRS. The industry as a whole got behind it, and the industry as a whole benefited with more money coming back to the Pools.

Two, Horse welfare and aftercare. We are nothing without the horse and now real resources and messaging are being put into these efforts. We're all in the same ecosystem and need to move in concert with each other, or face extinction.

What has bothered me most in horse racing are individuals who work in the sport who believe they hold the key to all the good ideas, when in truth their close mindedness has led to many of our long-standing problems.

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