From ‘Gordon’s Picks’ To The Hall Of Fame
Hazel Park Raceway harness racing patrons in the 1980s often checked “Gordon’s Picks” in the sports section of a local newspaper before heading to the track and placing their bets.
The “Gordon” who made the race selections was Oak Park native Gordon Waterstone, the track’s publicist.
Fast forward to 2017. Waterstone, 63, is associate editor of the Lexington, Ky.-based Horseman and Fair World harness racing industry magazine, a position he’s held since 1998.
He also works on the magazine’s harnessracing.com website and email newsletter, “Harness Racing Weekend Preview.”
Waterstone is well-known for his popular “Backstretch with Gordon” daily column on the website during the annual two-week Grand Circuit races at historic Red Mile racetrack in Lexington that opened in 1875.
The column contains behind-the-scenes stories about the great horses and horsemen who flock to Lexington for the Grand Circuit and anecdotes about the special ambiance of the Red Mile, a one-mile red clay track.
There’s a recent addition to Waterstone’s resume. He was inducted this summer into the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame’s Communicators Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y.
“What an honor. It’s truly humbling,” said Waterstone, a 1972 Oak Park High School graduate.
Waterstone began working at Hazel Park in 1979 as a public relations assistant after developing an interest in harness racing in earlier years. It was a modest beginning for what has become a long career in the sport.
He eventually became Hazel Park’s publicist, marketing and simulcast director. He also worked for many years as the publicist and marketing director at Northville Downs, where he also hosted a nightly racing results recap show on a local TV station.
“I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish at the Detroit-area racetracks, and I’m equally proud of my work for the Horseman and Fair World,” he said.
“But, in the end, my election to the Hall of Fame is only the result of the faith put in me by my employers, as well as all the trainers, drivers, owners, breeders and race officials who have been so gracious with their time when I called them for a story, either currently or back in the day in Michigan.”
This summer’s honor wasn’t the first time Waterstone was celebrated for his work in harness racing. Not by a long shot.
He’s a two-time recipient of the John Hervey Award for excellence in harness racing journalism, winning in the feature (1999) and news-commentary (2008) categories. He’s one of only a few journalists to win the national award in more than one category.
He was presented the North American Harness Publicists Association’s Alan J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award in 1995 and served as the organization’s president from 1999-2000.
Winner of the 2002 Harness Horsemen’s International’s Clyde Hirt Media Award, Waterstone also received the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s President’s Award in 2001 for his efforts in helping resurrect the defunct Kentucky Chapter, serving as chapter president.
He was USHWA’s national president in 2004-2006 and Member of the Year in 2014.
While he was in Michigan, Waterstone twice was presented the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association’s Appreciation Award.
A chance meeting with Kathy Parker, longtime editor and general manager of the Horseman and Fair World magazine, in early 1998 led to discussions about Waterstone taking the associate editor job.
He accepted the position and moved to Lexington in the summer of 1998, while his beloved Detroit Red Wings were winning the Stanley Cup with a 4-0 sweep of the Washington Capitals.
“I’d never even been to Lexington before I went there for the job,” he said.
Waterstone said he doesn’t travel as much to races as he used to — he’s down to about four or five trips a year — and he misses the days in Michigan when he was at the track every day, but he still enjoys writing stories about the sport’s great horses and horsemen.
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