The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Not Your Average ‘Horseplayers’ by Ray Paulick|01.16.201401.17.2014|3:59pm11:13am Peter Rotondo (right) and his father, Peter Sr. Peter Rotondo, vice president of media and entertainment for Breeders' Cup, has been moonlighting over the past six months as one of the cast members in the reality television show “Horseplayers,” debuting on the Esquire Network Tuesday, Jan. 21. “Horseplayers,” produced by Go Go Luckey Entertainment, which previously produced the “Jockeys” series on Animal Planet Network, follows horseplayers across the country as they vie for spots in the National Handicapping Championship, an event sponsored by Daily Racing Form and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The 2013-14 NHC culminates in Las Vegas next weekend, Jan. 24-26. Esquire Network, co-owned by Esquire and NBC Universal, launched in September 2013 on the cable channel previously known as Style Network. You can find Esquire Channel on your TV here and learn more about “Horseplayers” here. Rotondo (@retro411 on Twitter) became a horseplayer at a young age, regularly going to the track with his father, Peter Rotondo Sr., who is part of Team Rotondo on the series. How did Horseplayers come about? At the 2012 NHC, the NTRA (Keith Chamblin and Brian Pettigrew) allowed a production company to tape the event. They turned the footage into a “sizzle reel” and in 2013 the new Esquire Network bought the show. As it happened, I had qualified for the NHC that year and ended up as part of the sizzle reel, along with my Dad and his best friend Lee Davis. In 2014, HORSPLAYERS is now a 10 episode series debuting on Tuesday evening at 10 pm ET. What can we expect to see? The backdrop is the year-long “road” to the DRF/NTRA NHC in Vegas. Along the way you can expect to see it all. You will see the beautiful track venues in HD. You'll see the drama – the highs and not-so-highs we all love about the racetrack! You'll get to know the characters – from the 23-year-old newbie, Matt Bernier, to the veteran of the track, John Conte, and lots of others in between. Who will the show appeal to? I really believe the show can appeal to everyone. It has characters of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has intrigue and suspense since the races unfold and that determines the direction of the series. It is the best form of reality because we can't determine the outcome. How does the Esquire brand – which I've always seen as a blend of intelligence, style and edginess – fit with the show? Good question I asked the network executives the same question. Their point of view, and I'm paraphrasing, is that playing the horses and being around the track is authentic. The entire atmosphere around racing has been known “forever” but it hasn't really been explored for all that it is…so, they wanted to take a shot at telling the real story with a little Esquire flair. Thus the younger guys on the show, the science (everyone has a different method) of handicapping and betting, the fashion of the big racing events and definitely the edge that exists when there is real money on the line – and ultimately almost a million dollars! What role are handicapping tournaments playing in our business right now? Personally, I think handicapping tournaments are just starting to gain real traction. I remember the start of the NHC while working with the NTRA and DRF, and more recently with Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge – in both cases the growth is impressive. Like anything else, it needs attention and focus to get more people involved. Certainly a show like this can't hurt. Where do you see evidence that interest in racing is growing? Well, certainly from the standpoint of pop culture, recently we've seen several entertainment series use racing as a subject or theme. And, in terms of exposure, consider that between Dec. 28 and Jan. 24, the 2013 Breeders' Cup has been or will be featured on Food Network, Esquire Network, CNBC and WE TV. And all that coverage is network initiated, so it's good to see multiple cable networks investing their time and money to feature racing. And it's January, not October. I also am aware of several other television projects involving the sport and the breeding side of the business. That could be very exciting as well. So, in this era where sports, entertainment and lifestyle are mixed more than ever, the right people are beginning to notice what you and I already know – racing is the most entertaining sport there is … if you're involved! Here's the bottom line: We all recognize the need for more racing fans and participants. The best thing we can do is to show how much interest in racing already exists. Nothing breeds success like success. So I hope everyone will tune in to the show on Esquire Network, and we can make an impression. A big audience will definitely catch the eye of the media, companies, and potential sponsors for sure. Esquire is a new network and has put a great deal of time and effort into the show. It's a great chance for racing to make a statement. At least take a shot. How does the show end? It's a photo finish – hold all tickets.