Jason Beem's Thursday Column featuring Pullthepocket Jan. 27, 2022
So when I first started writing about horse racing, it was back in 2004 or so on a site called Blogspot. I wrote mostly about racing in the Pacific Northwest and as the years went on, wrote about my endeavors into racecalling. I was a pretty regular blogger for probably three or four years.
Back in those mid to late 2000s, there were a number of interesting blogs with various interests within racing. Some wrote about breeding, others focused on specific circuits, and some focused on gambling. Most of those early blogs have kind of gone by the wayside. But one of my favorite bloggers, Pullthepocket, is still cranking out pretty regular blogs and I still read them to this day. You can find them HERE. So I caught up with PTP to ask him about the blog, his time in racing, and much more.
JB: What were the origins of the Pullthepocket blog? Why did you start it?
PTP: I had been posting at Paceadvantage and writing a few longer pieces here and there, but about 2007 I stumbled upon Google’s Blogger software. It was easy to set up, so I jumped in.
Over time I started following other horse racing blogs which were already or coming online. Jessica Chapel with Railbird, Sid Fernando, Colin’s Ghost, Dana Byerly, Alan Mann, and a few others. We shared content and it was a great way to chat about horse racing with like-minded people who enjoyed the sport.
JB: How many posts do you think you've written over the years?
PTP: My blog shows over 3,000, which seems crazy. But, unlike a lot of the excellent bloggers of the day I am not a writer. In fact, a business history professor told me I was the first student he ever had who wrote a paper with mostly bullet points. I can bang blog posts off quickly; a ten-minutes-over-lunch type thing. Thank goodness for spellcheck.
JB: Do you have a favorite article you've ever written?
PTP: I enjoy some of the satirical ones because they incorporate so many of the friends and acquaintances I’ve met over the years, in person or virtually (you included). Everyone knows they are good-natured and seem to take them well, and I’m trying to have some fun in a business that at times can be very frustrating. It’s a nice way to share some camaraderie and for me to pay some respect to some of the cool people in this business.
JB: Have there been times that you thought about stopping doing it? Or have stopped doing it?
PTP: I slowed down, but no, I think it’ll still be updated when something strikes me. Doing the blog opened some doors over the years and I’ve been fortunate to be able to write for some magazines, Sue Finley at the TDN and Bill Finley and Dave Briggs at Harness Racing Update, so I guess I do more long-form stuff in those places rather than on the blog.
Twitter has really hurt blogging, in my view, because we can share so much on the state of the game via that medium now. So, what would’ve been a short blog piece is now a tweet. However, for whatever reason, there is room in the space. The blog still gets decent traffic.
JB: Have you ever gotten blowback from a post and how do you deal with that?
PTP: Not really. I think most people know I am not important. And I try my best to be fair. This business is very tough to change, and well, we should walk a mile in someone’s shoes, so I try and be cognizant of that reality. Also, the people who don’t like my opinion or my writing personality just ignore the posts, or my twitter feed. It’s a staple of so much web content in 2021 - you don’t have to pay attention to people you might not like.
I guess the most eye-opening time in the blogging world for me was when the Bafferts thought I was behind a strange twitter account that represented their son. I guess it was rumor from someone, or whatever, I don’t honestly know, but it was “that Pull the Pocket guy”. Seeing how anyone who knew me as a person would laugh such a thing off – it was something I would never do – I didn’t pay great mind to it, but it showed me that the internet can be a strange place. Jill found out the truth at some point and called me to apologize for the mix-up which I appreciated (and I found her a very nice person to talk with). But even in the tiny horse racing blogger space of the web, the shoe doesn’t have to fit, you just need a shoe.
JB: It seems in recent years you've written a lot about issues or situations that effect horseplayers, has that always been a theme of the blog?
PTP: I think so. I have always thought the horseplayer was under-represented. Other than super-capable writers like Crist, Beyer and Barry Meadow, and a couple of others I am no doubt forgetting, there really wasn’t a lot of content. People like Mike Maloney were seemingly talking into a vacuum about the problems in the game. As well, when I started jotting down thoughts, I was knee deep in gambling and handicapping materials. A trip to Vegas was not about dropping money at a slot machine, but at the Gambler’s Book Shop. I enjoyed sharing what I read and getting into discussions about it with other players.
JB: I've always found writing to be therapeutic, do you find the act of writing to be something you enjoy?
PTP: I’m right there with you. In fact, I was supposed to do a project for work this afternoon but I wanted to answer your questions first. It’s way more fun! I really do enjoy it. I find it relaxing.
JB: Our mutual friend Bucky loves to joke about a "PTP horse" being a harness horse who's going off at long odds from an outside post position. Is this really an angle you look for when playing the races or is he just busting your chops?
A: Ha, I am sure he’s busting my chops, as he’s an equal opportunity chops buster. But, with so many favorites winning I think we all like to find a diamond in the rough. If a horse had some go, or got blocked, or looks good on the track and he or she is 50-1, let’s roll!
I think there is something to it, though, because when I was playing regularly and keeping track of my wagers I had a positive ROI on horses over 20-1 for quite a long period. I think that sticks with you. There’s nothing better than a good longshot.
JB: How often are you betting these days and which tracks are your focus? How does your play compare to 5 years ago and 20 years ago for you?
PTP: I don’t bet anywhere near as much as I did in the mid 2000’s, or even ten years ago. Back then I would download every track, use two types of software, and play most of the week. It’s just gotten so much harder for me to win now. I still dabble at harness racing at the Meadowlands, and I play most bigger days at the Thoroughbreds (who I think have done a great job carding interesting races for these big days). I’m looking forward to the Pegasus World Cup card.
JB: I know you have a residence in the Canadian Maritimes and it's a part of the world that's high on my list to see. If i had a couple days in the Maritimes and you were my tour guide, what's a few spots we'd have to hit?
PTP: This is an interesting part of the world, and having lived most of my adult life in downtown Toronto, a welcome change, especially during the pandemic. People are very nice, and no one is in a hurry.
We’d have to surely visit Summerside Raceway in Prince Edward Island because it’s a real gem, and maybe we could get you to call a race (since you’re now a big shot and all).
Then we’d have to fix you up with a Donair in Halifax – a very nice smaller city with lots of history - because I know you like to try different eats when you travel.
We’d probably finish up in Cape Breton, where the topography looks exactly like Scotland or Ireland, so we’d save you the airplane money. We could hack it around on Cabot Links that everyone is raving about but I’ve been too scared to play with my 225 yard driving distance.
For good measure there’s a harness track on the Island. The locals would probably give you a delicious lobster roll, fresh off the boat if you called a race for them. Just don’t make a mistake. They know their harness racing on Cape Breton and an error could land you on the next ferry to Newfoundland.
JB: Thanks so much PTP!!