Owner Pat O'Brien new SOANY executive director
September 12, 2020
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Longtime Standardbred owner and experienced businessman Pat O’Brien has joined the Standardbred Owners Association of New York as Executive Director.
O’Brien’s venture into the harness racing world began in 2008 when he began going to the track with friend and Standardbred owner George Hartman. O’Brien was instantly intrigued and spent six months studying all aspects of the game, and in particular, horse ownership.
O’Brien became an owner in 2008. He started with just two horses and his stable grew. To date, he has owned or co-owned 137 Standardbreds who have started in over 1,600 races. O’Brien prides himself on attending his horses’ races in person as often as possible and introducing new fans to the sport.
“I always say, who doesn’t like a horse? You may have people who don’t like dogs, don’t like cats. You never hear a person say they don’t like horses. They are beautiful animals,” O’Brien said. “Every time I bring neighbors, friends to the racetrack, bring them into the paddock before and after the race, they are just amazed by these animals. They can’t believe how quiet and content they are before and after the race, how they’re not high strung. I’m also one of the few owners who always bring carrots for the horses after the races.”
O’Brien’s most notable horse to date is Act Now, a $40,000 buy from the 2012 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale who won 11 of 38 starts and earned $534,539. The multiple stakes winner’s resume includes a 5 1/2-length win in the Lady Maud at Yonkers in 2014.
“The best thing about that race, I was there with about 20 people. I had my cousin from Ireland, his wife and their three boys were out for the race. That was tremendous. I have that picture hanging up in the living room. She was clearly my top horse,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien earned a degree in business from Nassau Community College in 1986 and a degree in Business Management from Long Island University in 1989. He worked at Ford Motor Credit Company until 2009, reaching the level of Branch Manager before the Great Recession hit. O’Brien then took his passion for harness racing full time, focusing on his Pat O’Brien’s Irish Stable. In his free time, O’Brien, a son of Irish immigrants, enjoys spending time with his four siblings and 10 nephews and nieces.
“I worked over 20 years in the automobile financing business, not at a dealership, but in the corporate world,” O’Brien said. “Unfortunately, when the financial crisis hit, Ford Motor Credit Company closed all their offices. I decided not to go back to work. During that time period, I went from owning two horses to 13. All the sudden, I was basically a full-time horse owner.”
O’Brien said he was thrilled to be offered the position of Executive Director at the SOA of NY after a series of phone calls, Zoom interviews, and finally an in-person interview.
O’Brien’s priorities in his new position include establishing a great working relationship with MGM Yonkers Raceway, protecting the interests of the horsepeople who compete at Yonkers Raceway, assisting in negotiating a contract renewal between the track and the horsepeople, and ensuring the SOA of NY operates efficiently and effectively.
“The SOA’s Personnel Committee received hundreds of resumes from individuals regarding the Executive Director position and conducted numerous interviews in an effort to find the right person to help the SOA deal with the numerous important issues affecting our members,” said Peter Venaglia, SOA of NY First Vice-President and Chairman of the Personnel Committee.
“Pat clearly stood out as the best of a number of well-qualified candidates due to his obvious passion for and commitment to harness racing that he has displayed as a very involved owner for many years,” Venaglia continued. “We welcome Pat aboard, and we know that our members will benefit greatly from Pat’s efforts on their behalf.”--By Brandon Valvo/SOA NY