If you’re Greg Griffith’s age, you might remember the 1971 hit single Signs by the Canadian rock group Five Man Electrical Band.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Numerous signs dot the Griffith barn on the Tampa Bay Downs backside. One asks “Do you want to talk to the main in charge, or the woman who knows what’s going on?”
Griffith, who has been married to wife Donna for 36 years, attests to the truth of that one.
“Good morning…Let the stress begin.” Well, as any racetracker knows, some days are better than others.
“Life without horses, I think not.” For the Griffith family, that one is truly a no-brainer.
“Outside the barn, you ask me,” said Griffith, who has been chosen as the Hurricane Grill & Wings Trainer of the Month, “but inside the barn you ask Donna.”
His son Dennis? “He’s the man in charge,” Griffith states flatly. “But everybody who works for us – like our groom, Big George, who has been with us 10 years – we treat them all like family.”
The Griffith family’s racing roots trace to New York, where he was born and raised. His late father, Herbert Griffith, was a long-time official with the New York Racing Association. Greg’s brother Jerry was a jockey and an outrider in New York for more than 20 years.
For his part, Greg was the barn foreman for trainer John Campo Sr. and also worked for such notable New York trainers as Red Terrill, Lou Rondinello, Preston King and Chester Ross.
For the past five years, Griffith has trained for the Kinsman Stable operation of the George Steinbrenner family. So he couldn’t help getting emotional when the results were posted after the finish of last month’s Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf course at Tampa Bay Downs.
It wasn’t just that his 5-year-old gelding El Commodore, a 33-1 shot, was beaten a nose in his stakes debut by Roman Tiger. The defeat was doubly painful because El Commodore is owned by Kinsman.
Jessica Steinbrenner, daughter of ‘The Boss,’ had given Griffith plenty of time to bring El Commodore back from an illness as a 4-year-old before winning his 2012 debut on the turf in January at Tampa Bay Downs. El Commodore is scheduled to race next on Saturday in the Grade III Appleton at Gulfstream.
“Jessica is really, really caring for the horses. Everything has to be 100 percent with her,” Griffith said. “The horses have to be perfect, and they have to be happy. If they’re not, they go home. She wants things done right and will let you know if things are not done the way she expects.
“Is she hard to train for? Absolutely not,” added Griffith, whose other top owners include Clark Brewster and Paul Pompa, Jr. Interestingly, Griffith trained 8-year-old Vanquisher to several stakes victories for Kinsman; he now trains him for Brewster.
After a slow start, Griffith has begun to heat up at the current meeting, moving into the top 14 in earnings for the meeting. Griffith also is the Vice President of the Tampa Bay Downs Chapter of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
“Our overall mission with the HBPA is to look out for the horsemen and make sure everyone is treated equal,” he said. “I think we do more than a lot of tracks as far as taking care of our people.”
Tampa Bay Downs fans can download races on their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch device through HorseRacesNow.com, which provides an innovative mobile application that allows users to access racing from numerous tracks.
Features include entries for upcoming races; streaming live video and audio of races; results and payoffs; and race replays as far as two years back, all delivered via push notifications.
Trainer Kenny McPeek and his wife Sue were instrumental in the creation of Horse Races NOW!, which is designed to increase exposure for the sport through greater access. The application (app for short) is currently being offered free.
Wagers will not be accepted through this app. It is being offered free for a limited time. The McPeeks intend to create links to wagering sites for bettors, but for now it is intended as an entertainment vehicle.
The McPeeks are committed to funding a percentage of any profits to accredited groups that address equine care after their racing careers.
Rosemary Homeister, Jr. rode two winners on Wednesday’s card, both on the turf. In the third race, an allowance optional claiming event at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, Homeister was aboard 5-year-old mare Island Time for owners Vicki and Bill Poston and trainer Jason Servis – the same connections that won the Opening Day Lightning City Stakes with Jenny’s So Great.
Homeister came back in the sixth, a one-mile maiden claiming race, with 3-year-old colt Troublenoski for owner William Tronoski and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
Live racing resumes Friday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.