NYRA Handicapper, Jason Blewitt, brings genuine enthusiasm to broadcast booth - 07/20/14
Growing up in the shadow of Belmont Park, it would have been a safe bet to assume Jason Blewitt would have a career in horse racing. However, for the New York Racing Association Handicapper, his passion for the game, at least early on, was never a sure thing.
"It was the summer of '93," Blewitt said, recalling his memories like it was yesterday. "I was a pudgy ninth grader and horses were not on my radar."
There is a funny thing about this game though. All it takes is one. One horse, one bet, one winner. In Blewitt's case, it was one trip to the track and he was hooked for life.
"I still remember the beauty and size of Belmont," he said. That one Saturday back in '93, Blewitt's father organized a "Family Day" at the track. At the time, the teenager, had no desire to spend a day at the races. But it was Family Day and his father left him no choice.
"I told my dad that I really did not want to go," Blewitt continued, "but he planned this whole day and told me I could not stay home."
It was not long after that first trip he would start spending his afternoons walking out of Floral Park High School and into Belmont Park. As Blewitt began to study the game and learn more about the horses and picking winners, he had no problem pushing to share his knowledge with those around him. Just two years removed from his first ever on-track experience, he was preparing for the 1995 Breeders' Cup weekend in New York. Offering his services free-of-charge, Blewitt convinced the editor of The Gateway, a newspaper in Floral Park, to let him cover one of the sport's most prestigious events. That weekend of work helped earn Blewitt a scholarship and an internship at Saratoga Race Course for the following summer.
"It was a great way to get my foot in the door," Blewitt said as he looks back on the experience.
The handicapper did leave the shadows of Belmont Park, albeit briefly, to play college lacrosse in Virginia. Once he made the decision to move back home, he knew there was only one career path he would choose.
"In 1999, I was hired to work in the press box." He continued, "I would pass out the overnights and write for the track program. This was before NYRA.com or before it was as useful as it is today."
Like an improving three year-old colt, Blewitt's career was on the fast track to success. Just three short years later, he was on the desk of Talking Horses, NYRA's daily preview show.
"I just found the old VHS tape of my first few times on the show," he said with a laugh. "I do not know why they allowed me to keep doing it. They should have just pulled the plug on me."
As with most things, Blewitt got better with experience and is now a staple on the popular telecast.
It is a job and a career he says he never takes for granted.
"I view myself as a lucky fan," he said with a more serious tone. "I will love horse racing until I am dead."
Blewitt is diligent about his handicapping. "To really do a thorough job, you need to put in about four hours," he explained. Then with child-like excitement, he offers his insights to the betting public. Whether you are sitting next to him talking about the game or watching from home, that excitement is infectious.
"My goal everyday," he said, "is to be the best host I can be. It is about giving fans the best product because without the fans this game cannot exist."
That passion will be on display for the next six weeks in Saratoga. Blewitt calls it the highlight of the year with more passion showcased at The Spa than anywhere else on the NYRA circuit.
"It is the best horse town. There is not place like it," he explained.
As Blewitt exudes excitement for another Saratoga summer, he takes a moment to look back on a career that might not have been.
"It was like growing up across the street from Yankee Stadium and not wanting go in," he explained.
Now, more than two decades later he is glad he did.