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Contact: Tom Kelley
U.S. Hope on Track to Master his Craft
by Kimberly Rinker
David Siegel of Palo Alto, California, is the U.S. representative in this year’s World Amateur Driving Championships, being held jointly here in Chicago and at New York and New Jersey ovals.
Siegel, 50, is the 2007 Amateur Driver of the Year, as named by the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) and in his real life serves as president and CEO of the horseracing handicapping and data service TrackMaster.
Siegel, who began driving in 2004, can often be heard saying: “Every time I get on the racetrack, I say, 'I can't believe I'm doing this.'”
Since then, he’s amassed 59 wins and $209,376 in earnings, with no mishaps, only a few tense times of “locking wheels with a nearby driver,” he says.
Prior to riding in the starting gate in December of 2001 at Pompano which sparked his interest in the trotters, Siegel had little exposure to harness racing, even though he heads up TrackMaster, which provides horse racing data for both harness and Thor- oughbred racing.
“The data and the flesh are definitely different,” he notes.
However, after that starting gate ride, he was hooked, and quickly enrolled in the 2004 USTA driving school.
“I got totally electrified by it,” Siegel says. “That led me and two partners to pur- chasing our first horse (in March 2002). It looked fun. Over the ensuing months I came in contact with horses for the first time; first just watching them and feeding them carrots at the barn. I finally asked my trainer where I could get behind one of them with him.
“Over the next few months, I went up to his barn a few times, but I live 125 miles from the racetrack, so it was tough,” Siegel recalls. “I thought I needed more of a con- centrated course to decide whether or not I liked it, and that’s what led to going to the Driving School.”
Now, Siegel routinely travels from southern California to Sacramento to com- pete in races at Cal-Expo and to date in 2008 has three wins, three seconds and four third in 36 starts for $13,799 in seasonal earnings from the 15 horses in his stable.
Siegel is president of the California Amateur Driving club and in his spare time also coaches Little League for fun. But receiving his red, white and blue driving col- ors for the driving competition was a definite highlight for the Newark, NJ native.
“That might have topped everything else,” Siegel noted. “I felt like a 10-year-old wearing this uniform for the first time. I want to win, but just being a part of this and repre- senting the USA is huge. This is the high- light.”
If Siegel would win the championship crown, he would become the first North American amateur driver to do so. No American or Canadian has finished in the top three during the first 12 contests. Roman Krivelin of the USAfinished fourth in Italy in 2000, while Canada’s Francis Kronus was fourth, (1996 in Australia) as was fellow Canadian Richard Herbert in Denmark in 2002.
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