If you’re at Palace Station with a little time on your hands before Saturday’s running of the Santa Anita Derby, seek out Paul Truitt behind the ticket window.
He knows a lot more about Santa Anita than you may think.
"Nothing in my racing career was as big as the 2005 Santa Anita Derby," said Truitt, whose entire life has been horse racing – whether as a jockey, trainer, agent or ticket writer. "I had a dream that we were going to win at Santa Anita that day and then it happened."
Paul was literally in the winner’s circle of that race just seven years ago as the agent for jockey Donald Miller, who rode Buzzards Bay to victory. The Jeff Mullins-trained 3-year-old went on to the Kentucky Derby a few weeks later, finishing fifth.
Truitt’s life is the stuff dreams – and movies – are made of.
Growing up in Baltimore, his father was an avid horse player at Pimlico, site of the Preakness. Truitt wanted to be a famous jockey and came close in 1983 as the regular exercise rider for Preakness winner Deputed Testimony.
"Weight issues just took care of my being a jockey, but I knew a lot about racing and wanted to stay involved," Truitt said. "So I became a jockey-agent for Donald, who was the leading rider in the Chicago area."
Miller, however, was hesitant to make the jump out West even though he did win that 2005 SA Derby. Fortunately Truitt’s wife Jean, an Arkansas gal and race fan who frequented Oaklawn Park regularly, shared Paul’s desire to move out here.
"Santa Anita is the biggest West Coast race leading up to the Kentucky Derby," she said. "There was really nowhere else better for us so we decided to settle in Las Vegas and be a part of it from the gambling aspect."
While Jeannie hooked up with Siegal Suites and eventually becoming their Customer Service Employer of the Year, Paul settled in at Palace Station as a race ticket writer in 2007 – continuing to thrive both in his position and as a race handicapper.
"Las Vegas is the greatest city in the world," he said. "I am in my element in a race book. Working at Palace Station, I know almost every customer on a first name basis. At our Kentucky Derby seminar, I gave Vic Vivio (Palace Station horse racing manager) the winner, Animal Kingdom, which paid $46 (for a $2 ticket). I know the sport."
Truitt also had the bad beat of a lifetime – a winning Pick Six ticket in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup never submitted that paid $321.000.
"The ticket would have cost $496 and I didn’t have the money at that time to go in alone," he said. "I couldn’t get anyone to back me or split the cost, so I didn’tbet it. Yes, I was sick about it for a long time."
But as they say, that’s racing. And, Truitt has kept on making winning plays with a system he fully trusts.
"My advice is to look for value," he said. "Look for horses that are, say, 12-1 that could drop to 8-1. Study the Beyer numbers, workouts, jockey/trainer combos."
Truitt likes Creative Cause to win this year’s Santa Anita Derby, rating him as the best California shot to beat KD favorite Union Rags.
"I love racing so much and it’s sad to see the problems our sport has had," Truitt said. "I think it’s inevitable we will have racinos in California. The state is horse poor and a lot of the luster is gone with the smaller purses. We need to generate that extra revenue the East Coast tracks have done by having slot machines."
Truitt hasn’t lost his desire to return to racing as a jockey-agent and down the road could hook up again with Guidry, who made a comeback this year after a shortlived retirement.
"Mike has over 5,000 wins, and with his money running out decided to get back into racing on a smaller scale at Tampa Bay Downs," Truitt said. "Once my kids (two teenagers) get settled in college, I hope to get back into it as an agent. My contacts are still there."
And Jeannie will be right at his side.
"Horse racing got us together 15 years ago and it will keep us together," she said.