Work for The Saratoga Special

There was no employee handbook, no orientation meeting, no application process. In the beginning, The Saratoga Special just needed help to get itself off the ground. Paul Wasserman, Pete Fornatale, Frank Scatoni, Dave Harmon and anyone else willing to give it a try worked that first summer to help make the newspaper a reality.

That was 2001, and ever since The Special has assembled a small, capable staff to write, edit, produce and deliver for readers and advertisers. Those who excelled worked hard and learned plenty while meeting people, making contacts, improving in every way possible. The Special offers a unique entryway into the Thoroughbred industry. “Interns” are far more than that – you might get coffee and pick up pizza, but that won’t be all you do. Summer staffers do the actual work to produce the publication – earning bylines and photo credits, interviewing Hall of Famers, working long hours, catching (and undoubtedly making) at least a few mistakes, generating editorial ideas and taking on indispensable roles.

Beyond a summer with The Special, our company produces Thoroughbred content all year for ourselves and a variety of clients such as Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and others. We’re always looking for contributors and The Special can be a gateway to even more opportunities.

There’s a job description (see below) and an application process (same) now, but the mission remains the same – to produce the best racing publication we can while providing an opportunity to learn about and get exposed to Thoroughbred racing and its people.

Positions

Summer jobs with The Saratoga Special typically run from early July through Labor Day, though we’re flexible depending on school schedules, work schedules, etc. We’ve listed Writer and Photographer here. In reality, there are opportunities beyond those and a need for hard-working, interested people in all facets of a small business – distribution, advertising sales, marketing, etc. Positions are paid with a stipend for the season. Housing is not included, though we can assist your search.

Editorial Intern – Writer
  • Work alongside experienced staff and write and report on Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs, New York.
  • Work in the mornings, afternoons and evenings – interviewing owners, trainers, jockeys and others, writing previews and recaps, writing feature articles and helping the editorial team in various capacities including website content management, social media, etc.
  • Represent the publication at other events related to the Saratoga racing season – Hall of Fame induction, Fasig-Tipton yearling sales, industry meetings and gatherings, etc.
  • Contribute in the production process of 2x per week newspaper – proofreading, help with design, layout and other tasks as needed.

Qualifications

  • Communications/journalism majors in college preferred.
  • Enthusiasm and willingness to learn by doing and not just observing.
  • Knowledge and interest in horse racing and equestrian sports.
  • Solid writing, interviewing and social skills.
  • Proofreading skills and knowledge of AP Style and photography a bonus.
  • Familiarity with WordPress and other CMS software, Adobe software products, social media and other software.
Editorial Intern – Photographer/Multimedia Creator

Responsibilities

  • Work alongside experienced staff covering Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs, New York.
  • Work in the mornings, afternoons and evenings – shooting photos for publication in The Saratoga Special print and digital newspaper and online at thisishorseracing.com.
  • Create and schedule content for the publication’s website and social media pages – weekly and daily content for Instagram, Facebook and X (Twitter).
  • Coverage to include morning training, afternoon racing and other events related to the Saratoga season – Hall of Fame induction, Fasig-Tipton yearling sales, industry meetings, social events and other gatherings.

Qualifications

  • Communications/journalism, photography and social media/marketing majors in college preferred.
  • Enthusiasm and willingness to learn by doing and not just observing.
  • Familiarity with WordPress and other CMS software, Adobe software products, social media and other software.
  • Knowledge and interest in horse racing and equestrian sports.
  • Writing, interviewing and social skills.
  • Access to laptop or computer, camera and video equipment not provided.

How to Apply

Interested in working with us? Have questions? Send and email to managing editor Tom Law at [email protected] with a cover letter, resume and work samples.

Some of our Alumni

Our “graduates” have gone on to excel in careers inside and outside racing. We’re proud of them all and like to think we helped get them started.

  • Kristin Brennan: Partner, Straight Line Sales.
  • Catlyn Calder: Bloodstock agent based in New Zealand.
  • Andrew Champagne: Racing writer, handicapper.
  • Jack Clancy: Finance compliance associate, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • Nolan Clancy: Content developing and copywriting specialist, Purple Line Project, Maryland Department of Transportation.
  • Ryan Clancy: Civil/environmental engineer, Barton and Loguidice.
  • Alec DiConza: Junior at Shenendehowa High School, staff writer/intern at The Saratoga Special in 2023.
  • Mary Eddy: Staff writer New York Racing Association communications.
  • Madeline Ellsworth: Athlete services coordinator, IRONMAN Group.
  • Catherine Galbraith: Horse trainer, Stonehouse Equestrian (specializing in the rehabilitation and training of sport horses).
  • Gabby Gaudet: On-air host, FanDuel TV.
  • Paul Halloran: Freelance writer, handicapping contest winner, regular contributor to The Saratoga Special.
  • Terry Hill: Self-proclaimed “world’s oldest intern” and regular columnist, The Saratoga Special.
  • Ryan Jones: U.S. Army veteran, Vanderbilt University Law School student.
  • Quint Kessenich: Reporter and analyst, ESPN.
  • John Lies: Racing secretary, track announcer, oddsmaker, TV host.
  • Katie Bo Lillis: Reporter covering intelligence and national security, CNN.
  • Timothy Littau: Reporter, WFRV-TV (Green Bay, Wisconsin).
  • Samantha Loud: Creative marketing consultant.
  • Ryan Martin: Content manager, PM Advertising; former staff writer, New York Racing Association communications.
  • Linzay Marks: Marketing director, Lane’s End Farm. Previously held similar position at WinStar Farm and was a graphic designer with The Bell Group advertising agency.
  • Dan McDonough: Legal writer, Seton Hall University School of Law student.
  • Annise Montplaisir: Co-founder and president, Amplify Horse Racing.
  • Joanie Morris: Competition director, Maryland five-star at Fair Hill event.
  • Jim Mulvihill: Editor, Bloodhorse Daily.
  • Brian Nadeau: TV host/handicapper, Gulfstream Park, Capital OTB.
  • John Panagot: Jockeys’ agent, bloodstock agent.
  • Spencer Ripchik: Freelance journalist.
  • Mary Rufo: Software technical writer, Levrx Technology Inc.
  • Madison Scott: Bloodstock agent, Solis/Litt; co-founder, Amplify Horse Racing.
  • Michael Smith: Racing and bloodstock, China Horse Club.
  • Travis Stone: Track announcer, Churchill Downs.
  • Shayna Tiller: Freelance marketing, social media specialist.
  • Brandon Valvo: Certified public accountant, UHY LLP.
  • David Woods: Producer and camera operator, FanDuel TV.

What some past interns had to say

“As a young racing fan growing-up north of Saratoga, the opportunity to work with The Saratoga Special meant unprecedented access to a meet and experiences a young, horse-racing obsessed fan could never imagine. The days were long, the work was endless but the tradeoff was instant credibility within the industry and real-life experiences and learnings I covet to this day. And while I never had intentions on being a full-timer writer or reporter in horse racing, you never know how things go. . . .Working with The Saratoga Special allowed me to record a demo reel of race calls on the roof of Saratoga, which is the same demo I used to land my first gig at Louisiana Downs.”
– Travis Stone, track announcer at Churchill Downs

“My two months at The Saratoga Special were everything you can ask for an internship. There were no training wheels. On Day 1, you are writing stories and interviewing trainers, jockeys and owners. Then, you get published. There’s nothing quite like it. At first, standing in the winner’s circle seemed cool, but it was even cooler after I realized I got to do that for every race, even the big stake races. The access was top-notch, but what I liked even more was learning from Tom Law, Sean Clancy and Joe Clancy. The three of them were super helpful and open to questions. Overall, they made me a lot better writer, improving my storytelling. There are no better storytellers — not only in horse racing — than the three of them. If journalism is a path you’d want to pursue, there’s no place like the Saratoga Special. If you like horse racing, it’s even better. The Special helped me get to where I am today, covering the Super Bowl, Little League World Series and college football.”
Spencer Ripchik, Penn State Class of 2024

“You all were such an important part of my transition from college to the ‘real world.’ The internship at The Special was a huge period of growth for me. … The tough love you guys gave me prepared me for this industry.”
– Catherine Galbraith, trainer at Stonehouse Equestrian specializing in rehab and training sport horses

“The Saratoga Special’s internship was an enriching, educational, challenging and rewarding experience in my career, and was imperative to where I am now in my professional journey. The internship allows the rare and special opportunity to learn journalism and writing skills in an exciting, fast-paced environment unlike any other. I left The Special with an understanding of the demands of this type of career, and felt well-prepared for the daily pace and workload in this field. 

“The guidance Tom, Joe and Sean gave me encouraged me to strive for excellence and a level of professionalism in my work that bodes well for a career in horse racing, while also entrusting me with the freedom to develop my own stories, refine my skillset and learn from my mistakes. The internship is unique in that it gives a chance to anyone willing to work for it. Though I did not come from a racing/writing background and did not have a deep pool of experience to draw from, I was given the chance of a lifetime that led me to a fulfilling career that I look forward to working in each and every day.

“Interning with The Saratoga Special not only allows aspiring journalists and other industry professionals to work alongside respected writers, reporters and analysts, but also with some of racing’s most recognizable and talented personalities, from Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys, to the horses themselves. Working in this setting allows interns to make connections, develop confidence and be exposed to a variety of storylines and situations.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had with the Saratoga Special, and I continue to learn each day from the foundation I was given there.” 
– Mary Eddy, staff writer for the New York Racing Association communications department

“Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” It’s a common saying in my family, as my grandmother was a kindergarten teacher. And while I agree with it, the saying is also true for the Saratoga Special.

“The internship program will make you a better journalist and writer while teaching you more than you can imagine about the horse racing industry. It is coveted for the responsibilities that you are given covering the biggest stars in racing, and for the knowledge and skills you will hone in your time. Whether covering Kentucky Derby and Eclipse Award winners or telling the stories of those yet to be told, there is never a dull moment at The Saratoga Special and every day brings a new adventure.

“Early mornings on the Oklahoma Training Track and late nights at the office are all included, and you will not rather have it any other way. You appreciate every moment you get because the summer goes by way too fast. You are learning from the best turf writers possible in Tom Law and Joe and Sean Clancy, and who are even better human beings. The amount of growth and learning that you will have at The Special is unimaginable, and what you take away from it will greatly help you in any job in the future, in journalism, horse racing or something completely different. Appreciation for a quality end-product is something that you will not leave the program without.

“I can still feel the excitement of every day, the care that Tom, Joe and Sean showed me, the pride that I took in each byline. The internship is such a rich experience and something you cannot get enough of. I’ll never forget the day I left the office for the last time to head back to school, fighting back tears, wishing the internship would go on forever. Your time at The Special will sadly and too quickly come to an end, but the lessons you learn will stick with you forever.

“It is impossible to properly describe the best summer of my life in a few paragraphs, but the best way I could put it is that landing an internship at The Special is like hitting the Pick 6 of all internships. I hope you cash your ticket, this is too good of an opportunity to pass on!”
Timothy Littau, reporter for WFRV-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin

“There is no better education for aspiring turf writers than working for The Special. The two seasons I spent with them in Saratoga were invaluable, maybe even life-altering. Above all, there was the practical experience of covering an important meet, usually writing two stories per day. You learn the tricks of the trade from total pros like Sean and Joe (and now Tom), who know what they’re doing and are generous in sharing that knowledge. It’s the wordsmithing, of course, but it’s also learning the rhythm and nuances of the backside – where things happen, who has good info, where to find them, when they’re free, what to ask (and what not to ask!). And then you learn a whole separate slew of unwritten rules and tips for the afternoons. By the time you chronicle an entire Saratoga meet you’re ready to cover the races professionally anywhere in America.

“One thing that has always stuck with me was how committed Sean was (and still is) to getting quotes and stories that nobody else had. You don’t usually see him in the winner’s circle scrum recording the same quick reactions that everyone else will have. But you do see him walking on the outside rail after, following the trainer or an assistant back to the barn, having a real back-and-forth conversation. The way he and Joe and Tom invest time in building relationships is what makes The Special’s coverage better than everything else out there. Their formula isn’t a secret, but it’s not the norm, nor is it easy.

“The other great part about working for The Special is the contacts you make. So many legendary horsemen. So many of the best writers and broadcasters not just in racing but in all of sports. Plus you’ve got the horseplayers and the fans and the locals. The most incredible people everywhere you turn. And something about Saratoga makes them all more friendly and approachable. 

“When I think back on all the mornings I spent riding a bike around the barns to interview trainers it feels like a dream. Someday when I retire I just want to go back and work for The Special all over again.”
Jim Mulvihill, editor of BloodHorse Daily

“I can genuinely say that interning for The Saratoga Special shaped my career thereafter through the communications skills I gained, the people I met and the life lessons I learned. Prior to joining The Special team during the summers of 2015 and 2016, my racing industry experience primarily consisted of random jobs at a small racetrack in North Dakota, a month-long journalism internship at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, and some limited experience with Quarter Horse racing. On my first day of working in the The Special office, I stammered and tripped my way through a few painful phone interviews with trainers, sweating profusely under the pressure of knowing that Tom Law was listening in. Despite the feeling of imposter system that overwhelmed me, Tom and Sean and Joe Clancy patiently encouraged me through feedback on how to improve my interviewing skills, hone my writing abilities, and push through any fear that I had of failure or embarrassment. I even interviewed two of the people who would eventually hire me for subsequent internships after college graduation. I now run a nonprofit to get youth and young adults involved in the Thoroughbred industry and introduced to career opportunities. Because of my experience with The Special, I recommend that nearly all mentees who go through our program seek out some kind of interviewing, writing, and media experience to grow the communication skills they will need to be successful in their future career.”
Annise Montplaisir, executive director of Amplify Horse Racing

ESPN reporter and analyst Quint Kessenich spent three summers with The Special in the early days. He’ll never forget it, and sent this in January 2024:

The term “Intern” is not how I would describe the three summers I spent writing for The Special. Sean and Joe were always very open and willing to work with whatever subject matter we felt would be most compelling. I was given the reins to cover the daily races and then branch out to write about any topic desirable. That could be a horse, a person, restaurant, concert, town event, stable pony or the carrot delivery man. 

The greatest benefit for me was in learning how to develop new relationships. My first day in 2002, I knew no one. Not a single person. Sean walked me through the barns on both sides of the backstretch. He introduced me to P.G. Johnson first and I’ll never forget staring at his toothpick, and how kind P.G. was. D. Wayne Lukas, Bill Mott, a younger Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen – and eventually they saw me hustling early in the morning, and again in the afternoon at the races, they got a feeling that I was at least serious, and I earned a certain level of their trust. And showing up prepared opened avenues of discussion – watching an eventful trip or knowing the family tree of a young horse would elicit pearls of wisdom. 

The days were long but went by fast. Up well before 6, watch workouts until 10. Roam and talk to as many people as possible. Dig up some story ideas or pursue one in earnest. Hustle home write up a story. Take a nap from 11:30 to noon and head over for the races. Each race I would get quotes from the trainer, jockey or owners. You learn to keep moving and that at Saratoga there’s a story in every race. Eventually you start rooting for obscurity. There’s usually a better story when the small guy wins, when the obscure trainer, owner or horse gets his or her nose down on the wire and excitement rolls into the winner’s enclosure. 

I would get back to my room at 6 p.m. and write for two hours before heading downtown for dinner. I think we went out every night. Repeat for the entire summer – 36 days of racing when The Special was a five- or six-day a week venture. 

One night sticks out when we had dinner with jockey Aaron Gryder. He is a great storyteller, smart and entertaining. His Irish exit left our group at around 10. An hour later I’m walking home through the park and here comes a jogger at 11 p.m. It was Aaron, fighting the scale. The next day, for the first time I can’t help but notice how dry-mouthed and pale he looks before race one, a photo finish he loses by a nose. I’m not sure I ever rooted so hard in my life. 

I found the trainers, jockeys, hot walkers, hangers on, gamblers, exercise riders, bloodstock agents to be fascinating, never dull. You just have to shut up and listen. Trainer Rick Violette was one of my favorites. Jockey Richard Migliore was full of morning gems. Jockeys Javier Castellano and Edgar Prado, trainer Christophe Clement always willing to say hello and chat. Mark Hennig, Dallas Stewart, Bobby Frankel, the Chief, Vinny Blengs, Kiaran McLaughlin, Ralphy, Blu, all unique characters brimming with one liners. For five weeks, story upon story. 

Nothing I wrote won an Eclipse or Pulitzer but the experience, without question, made me a better reporter. 

Now, I read The Special every day of the meet. Do the horses or the people make that place? I’ve decided it’s both. I miss that grind every August. Not exactly sure why. And when I retire, I’d like to come back and be an “intern” again.

Gabby Gaudet, a racing analyst at FanDuel TV, spent two summers at The Special in 2012 and 2013, and remembers those days in many ways. Here’s what Gabby had to say in February 2024:

My favorite interview of all time was with the trainer Manny Azpurua. His filly Wildcat Lily was running in the Prioress that year. I still have his quotes saved on my desktop and think about that morning often:

“I’m an old man, 84 is 84. But you learn something new every day. That’s what’s really interesting. Horses show you a lot of things that you can’t believe. You learn if you are open to it. Every time I have a young person wanting to learn something and I tell him, ‘Do this,’ and they say ‘I know.’ I always say ‘You don’t know nothing and you’re never going to.’ I’ve spent 63 years around horses, I still don’t know anything.

“I always say, horses are like us. The only thing that’s different is they don’t think, they feel.”

One morning I went to interview a certain trainer who shall not be named. I politely waited for what felt like hours until he was walking to the track with a set. This was my chance. I ran over to him (most likely in my cowboy boots, as Sean knows) and asked if I could chat with him quickly about XYZ horse. He turned, looked me up and down, scoffed and replied, “No.” That experience certainly gave me thick skin!

My first year working for The Special we started out with a decent number of abled bodies. That team dwindled quickly to just Joe, Sean, the graphic designer and two interns, me included. I would come home from the office as my roommates were getting home from the bars (around 1 a.m.), wake up early the next day and go kicking around the backstretch trying to find the next story. No, interns did not have access to golf carts. You either hitched a ride or walked. I walked a lot of miles, ate countless frozen dinners and was fueled by coffee. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

You might think there’s no way of making a deadline, but somehow you do. You’ll learn to triple-check the spelling of trainers’ names (it’s McLaughlin, not McGlaughlin…eek!). You’ll learn to read trainers – when to ask questions, and more importantly when to come back later. You’ll get rejected. You’ll bounce back. You’ll write stories that disappoint you. You’ll write stories that inspire you. If you pay attention and take advantage of this opportunity, you’ll learn a lot about life and you might learn how to write a little too.

Most people think I chose a career in racing because my mom and dad were trainers, and I grew up going to the track. That isn’t the case. I had my mind set on a career outside of the industry. It wasn’t until after I interned for The Special that I decided I wanted to work in horse racing media. I have so much gratitude toward my time at The Special, the friendships I made, the network it provided and the confidence it gave me.

I learned to “land the plane,” thanks to Sean. I could use that reminder nowadays.