Day At The Track

Getting to Know You with Adriano Sorella

02:12 AM 21 May 2014 NZST
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Adriano Sorella, harness racing Adriano Sorella, harness racing Adriano Sorella, harness racing
Adriano Sorella and Sydney Weaver with jog cart he gave to her
Adriano Sorella on right holding Little Brown Jug in winner's circle with Vegas Vacation
Adriano Sorella

Before Adriano Sorella entered the arena of harness racing, Adriano was a part owner in Thoroughbred racing. What drew Adriano to Standardbreds was the fact that Standardbreds race more often.

"I hung out at Mohawk Racetrack (Campbellville, ON) and really liked it. I got involved in the SBOA (Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association) program that gets new owners in and pretty much from there its history." Adriano explains. "I love the sport... I actually think it's turning around and if people focus more on the positives than the negatives it can be a lot better."

Eight years ago Adriano was working away as a plumber in high-rises. This wasn't what Adriano was about or even who he was. Sometimes doing what is right for oneself can be the hardest choice to make. However, with the right support and determination, anything can happen.

"I hated going to work" states Adriano. "Working on the 20th floor and the wind is cutting through like crazy. There are no windows yet and you're on a six or eight foot ladder putting together cast iron pipes and the wind is blowing in your ears.

"It was totally wrong for me.

"You got to find what you love and do just that.... People always worry about money, I get it," says Adriano. "If you give fifty percent to a job you hate, you're just going to bring that home and you're going to end up fighting with your wife or girlfriend or family. If you give a hundred percent to what you love, you're going to end up giving more than that because you're going to want to prove you can do what you love and be successful at it. It's a passion and not a job."

"I believe if you love it, it will happen" states Adriano.

"Eight years ago I was living in a basement apartment and didn't have much." Adriano says. "I was pretty much broke and I turned it all around. It wasn't just because of harness racing but the business I got into and it exploded for me."

Adriano turned from plumbing to advertising. At the time Adriano had a handicapping website and he was always able to find advertisers to help fund his site so Adriano decided to step it up.

"I ended up finding a recruiter who was awesome." Adriano explains. "He ended up landing me a job with this company. So this company (The Infinity Network), I worked for them for 4 years, they moved their offices from LA to Toronto and within six months they seen my abilities, called me into the boardroom and my position changed."

"I took over all their ad sales and it blew up from there." Adriano credits The Infinity Network CEO Adam Small for helping him structure his pay and contract so he could buy a house. "The company totally took care of me" says Adriano.

It didn't take long for Adriano to buy his home. Once Adriano had his house, he was looking to expand his horizons. "Within a year I had so much revenue coming in from ad sales and commission earnings, I got into horse racing."

"I look at it now and the reason I want to help people is because I took a shot and it worked out. I want to help people if I can, hopefully it will make it easier for them.

"At Christmas time, I looked for a family that could use some money and I randomly picked a family. I didn't even know the people." Adriano says. "I wired them money for Christmas and the girl sends me messages saying 'you totally changed my life, I can't believe someone would do something like that for somebody they didn't even know'. Sometimes you need that little push. I'm trying to help where I can.

"I would rather focus on what things can be instead of how it was because it's done and gone. If you focus on the negatives you will end up in a rut." Adriano says.

"If you surround yourself with the good people in the industry, the people who are always thinking positive.... You can be successful." Adriano says. "There's a quote and I always say it, 'if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.' I want to be with people smarter than me, I know what I can do and I want to be with people with different abilities"

When Adriano first started out, the first two horses he bought didn't return a profit. Luckily the third horse he bought was Vegas Vacation. "In his 2-year-old campaign... he showed us the potential of being a great race horse" says Adriano. "That's what happened as a 3-year-old, he turned into a millionaire. You have to be able to see that and if you truly believe in what you're doing, you're doing it right, you're smart enough to do it then keep doing it. Don't give up! You only have yourself to blame if you give up.

"I always do what I want to do. I know some people don't like that and it turns some people's crank the wrong way.... I'm having fun and I want people to join in and share." Adriano says. "I want people to have a positive spin on racing.

"Do you know how many times people tell me to tone it down?" Adriano asks. "I have a watch collection and I love my cars. That's because eight years ago I had zero. Zero!"

Adriano offers some great ideas on how race tracks can attract more customers, especially the younger generation. "People come in for one product and then they end up buying another" explains Adriano. "That's the trick.

"I look at Poconos in the US and they have big time restaurants in there." Adriano says. "They have Ruth's Chris Steakhouse right in there, why are we not doing anything like that? If we have a game plan, the government is willing to help us. Why not remodel some of these racetracks and bring in outside vendors like restaurants. If anyone wants to eat, they'll say 'why don't we go over to Mohawk Racetrack? They have the Keg.' All of a sudden you're creating a shopping mall idea but you also have racing there. Incorporate racing into those products."

That's a great point! Even if Ontario race tracks offered Tim Horton's coffee that would be a delightful first step.

"Have restaurants lease property from the race tracks" says Adriano. "You need to have a proper plan and pitch it to the right people. It's right there for you, maybe even have mobile betting with people walking around the restaurant taking bets. I saw it at the Poconos, they do it there and it's successful to me.

"It's the reason they stick Tim Hortons at Esso gas stations, its right there" explains Adriano. "Why did Esso gas stations get away from their own kind of coffee? They know it's a product that is successful and you're killing two birds with one stone. Pitch it to the government where the government is not just handing out money. They are investing in a product that will offer a return on the money."

Since Adriano became an owner in harness racing, it's easy to imagine how many awesome memories he must have. Vegas Vacation alone probably offers a book full.

"It's been a great experience so far" says Adriano. "You go in buying your first set of babies and end up with a horse like Vegas Vacation and winning the Little Brown Jugs was such a thrill. That was life changing for me. Winning those trophies... and being the best of the best at the time is what makes me want to keep investing in Standardbreds."

When it comes to investing, Adriano believes strongly about investing in people and one person that caught Adriano's attention is Sydney Weaver. The 13-year-old is a licensed groom, horse owner, writer and public speaker with Cerebral Palsy who is an inspiration to many including Adriano.

"They did a story with her and in the interview Sydney said 'I know it's only a $6,000 race horse but to me it's a million dollar race horse.' You got to remember she's a kid. I have a daughter that's 14 who is basically Sydney's age.

"I remember what it was like having a 10 claimer and all of a sudden I have a million dollar race horse. It got to me; I understand that relationship between an owner and a horse." Adriano explains. "When she said it was a million dollar horse, it just got to me."

When Sydney's horse Pinky aka Sydney Seelster was claimed earlier this year at Flamboro Downs, Adriano was set to claim the horse back for her.

"Guy Gagnon got a lot of backlash and he could have walked away and I'm sure he didn't know (the story)... but instead he gave the horse back and showed there are good people out there." Adriano continues "I was prepared to claim the horse myself for them, we were getting it all set up to do that and then when I saw what was going on I thought what else can I do to help?"

That's when Adriano decided to buy Sydney a custom made jogging bike. "I noticed she had a special seat made, like a NASCAR seat so she could get on and jog her horse." Adriano explains. "I was flipping through pictures and saw her jog carts were a green one and a black one.... I thought wouldn't it be cool to get her a pink one!"

"So I called up Casie (Coleman) and she's in Florida and asked who do you buy your joggers from?" Adriano continues, "Casie told me who was the best... so I called up the company and told them what I wanted. The sales rep said if you buy it, we'll take care of the custom paint job. So I bought it and they shipped it. The rest is history.

"I still think I'm a nobody in this business" says Adriano. When I heard that comment I nearly fell of my chair. To think someone who gives back to the community considers himself a nobody was heart breaking. Regardless of Adriano's last statement, it's clear to see he matters to a lot of people. In harness racing and beyond!

Roderick Balgobin's column will appear weekly on Harnesslink. You can contact him at rod.balgobin or Twitter: ScSupernova
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