Harvey Pack, a fixture on New York racing broadcasts who created and hosted replay shows like “Thoroughbred Action” and “Inside Racing,” died Tuesday in New York City. He was 94.
As the New York Racing Association’s Director of Promotions and Special Events, Pack hosted “The Paddock Club” at Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park, in which fans gathered to discuss racing and handicapping, often joined by special guests.
He also provided 30-second “Pack at the Track” race recaps to WNBC, which proved so popular that NYRA hired him in 1974.
“Harvey Pack was an authentic voice and an innovator who turned a lifelong passion into a career and became one of our sport’s greatest advocates and ambassadors, all in his unique, ‘only in New York’ way,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a release. “He was a visionary who meant a great deal to thoroughbred racing, and we look forward to honoring his legacy in the near future.”
At a time when broadcasting was transitioning to cable, Pack hosted the nationally syndicated race-recap show on SportsChannel, which became the way that many owners and breeders around the country in those days were able to see their horses run. Starting in 1984 and for the next 10 years, Pack was also part of the NBC broadcast team for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, including those held in 1985 at Aqueduct and in 1990, 1995 and 2001 at Belmont.
At the root of Pack’s popularity — his NYRA business card described him as “Doctor of Equine Prophecy” – was an ability to convey his love of horse racing and handicapping to fans and doing so with humor and humility.
“Harvey knew horse racing and made it a lot of fun to watch,” NYRA racing analyst Andy Serling said. “Whether he was on the air or just talking with fans, he connected with everyone and never took himself too seriously. A lot of what we do on the air today goes right back to Harvey. He was the forerunner and a trailblazer in how we cover horse racing today.”
Even after leaving NYRA, Pack remained a familiar presence at all three NYRA tracks. At Saratoga, Pack and Serling hosted Daily Racing Form seminars across the street from the track at Siro’s restaurant, where he presided over a panel of rotating handicappers, offering his wit and wisdom to fans who showed up in droves.
Pack’s 2007 book, “May The Horse Be With You: Pack at the Track,” written with Peter Thomas Fornatale, is a window into how the racing game hooked him as a kid and never let go.
Pack is survived by his wife Joy, two children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.
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