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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cal Expo Honors Memory Of Stan Bergstein

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity -- Cal Expo

Thursday night’s (November 10) feature at Cal Expo is the Stan Bergstein Memorial, named for the legendary figure in harness racing who passed away last week at 87 at his home in Tucson.

D Man should be a major player in the $3,400 trotting headliner for owner Maurice Sigmon, trainer Larry Hastings and driver Jim Lackey.  He was a game winner at this level on October 21, and has chased home the tough customers Putoneonnetformom and Franks Best in his last two appearances.

Various figures involved in California harness racing offered their thoughts on Mr. Bergstein.

“Stan Bergstein was Mr. Harness Racing,” said Cal Expo racing secretary Fred Kuebler.  “Not only was he a true gentleman, but the biggest proponent of the sport that has ever been.  Lloyd Arnold introduced me to Stan back in the late 70’s, and after one night of conversation I felt like he was lifelong friend.

“Back in those days, when Lloyd and I started the Shelly Goudreau Memorial, Stan would come out every year to honor his friend and help support the game.  He will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Cal Expo trackman/program director Marty Bridges credits Stan Bergstein with bringing him into harness racing as a profession.

“After college and two years in the Army, I was employed by the small business association.  At night, after work, I was a regular patron at Sportsman’s Park and Maywood in Chicago.

“My supervisor, a former sportswriter for the Chicago Daily News, knew of my interest and called Stan to set up a meeting.  Surprisingly, I was to meet him at Du Quoin on Hambletonian Day.  Watching Stan call the races from a slightly elevated booth on the infield adjacent to the finish line was thrilling and between races we talked about racing, horses, drivers and trainers.

“His knowledge of the sport was amazing and I had never met anyone like him, and still haven’t.  He introduced me to John Tinsley, the program director for all the Chicago tracks and John hired me on the spot.  It’s been a great ride, doing something I love.”   

“A rose between two thorns,” said Cal Expo announcer Scott Ehrlich.  “Those were the eloquent words of Stan Bergstein as my then girlfriend, now wife, Lisa, sat between us when we all had dinner in St. Louis in 1994.

“This was the first time I met Stan, and it was kind of odd how it occurred.  The Fairmount Park day card, for which I was the TV handicapper, had just finished and I was picking up my program for the following card.  Who do I see at the switchboard?  Stan Bergstein. I introduced myself and expressed shock in seeing him while only wishing I knew he was there earlier to have had him on TV.

“It turns out he had been in a meeting with the Fairmount GM, Brian Zander.  I asked if he was available to go out for dinner, but he informed me he had a flight to Philadelphia that night.  To show you the type of person Stan was, he asked me what my plans were.  I told him it was my night to take out my son Michael.  He said, ‘Then you do that.’  I said, ‘Stan, my ex-wife would have no problem in me changing my night to see our son, given it’s you.’  He told me to hold on a moment, he went and made a call, and the next thing I knew, he wanted to know where we were having dinner that night as he was now leaving in the morning.

 “I was nervous when we sat down, but Stan had that way of making you feel like he had known you forever.  One of the first things he asked me, to break my tension, was whether I liked The Three Stooges.  An icebreaker it was, as Stan told me of the time they visited him in his announcer’s booth.  The only regret he had was that Curly had passed away.  It was Curly Joe who completed the trio.

“In 1998, I had a good problem, but needed guidance.  Three racetracks wanted my announcing services during the spring & summer.  The problem, they all overlapped.  Colonial Downs wanted me to call their inaugural meet, which meant calling the Breeders Crown in the fall.  The Red Mile wanted me to call their spring meet.  Saginaw Harness wanted me back.

“I called Stan and explained I could work Lexington and Saginaw at the same time, or Colonial alone.  He asked how I was doing financially.  Given I was working seasonally back then, money could have been better.  He asked which job paid the best.  It was the combination of Lexington and Saginaw.  He told me I had my answer.  I replied, ‘But what about missing out on calling the Breeders Crown?’  He said, ‘You have a family to provide for!’  Enough said, Kentucky and Michigan, here I come.

 “I last saw Stan in 2005 when he came up to my booth at Cal Expo to say hello and offer his kind thoughts on my announcing and writing.  Coming from Stan, a great announcer and wonderful writer, his continued support of my work throughout our friendship will never ever be forgotten.  I will miss you dearly my friend!”

 Although they never met Stan Bergstein, Steve and Vickie Desomer were both saddened by the news of his death.

 “We both recognized him as a huge influence in the harness industry and mourn his passing,” Vickie said.

 Gene Vallandingham first met Stan Bergstein in 1959 when he was working for the legendary Joe O’Brien.

 “Stan came to Joe’s farm every spring for the annual Camptown racing weekend, when all of Shafter would be there for a day of racing.  Stan was the true voice of harness racing, he was liked by all and I will miss him.”

Chris Schick said, "Stan was foremost a kind and compassionate person.  He was a true visionary in the harness racing industry.  In 1979 well before simulcasting, he so rightly stated the future of the industry was in how well we brought the product to the public.  He was also very vocal of the industry for being reluctant to embrace change.  Our industry has lost a giant".


Beginning this week, all Pick 4’s on Thursday (in partnership with the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee), Friday and Saturday nights will feature a reduced 15 percent takeout rate, with the Late Pick on each of these programs coming with a $10,000-guaranteed gross pool.  In addition, on Saturday nights there will be a 0% takeout rate on the Late Pick 4 for winning wagers made on track or at

Live racing resumes at Cal Expo On Thursday, (November 10) at 5:30 p.m. (PDT), and continues on Friday (November 11) & Saturday (November 12) is at 6:00 p.m.  On Thursday and every live card, Cal Expo offers free admission, as well as free preferred & general parking after 4:30 p.m.  Also on Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Cal Expo offers a complete Lasagna dinner, which includes salad and bread, for just $3.00.  Additionally on Thursday, beer & wine can be purchased for $3.00 each as well.