While expressing an understandable twinge of regret about leaving his home state and the racing circuit where he started out in the harness racing game, 25-year-old driver Bobby (Robert) Smolin is at the same time finding it tough to contain his enthusiasm for committing to a permanent move to compete at The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park.
"I'm really excited to be here and make no mistake about it, this is a permanent move from the Chicago circuit to Florida for me" Smolin says. "In fact as we speak I'm shopping for a home here. I hope I can earn my way into more drives here every night as soon as possible" he adds. "I was raised in Oaklawn, IL and had been living in Bourbonnais, IL. Of course you always have mixed feelings about leaving your home area and what's been familiar to you, but I'm fully committed to getting established in Florida."
Smolin didn't take long to make an impact on the South Florida racing scene. The career winner of over 440 races in the bike will soon reach $2 million in career purse earnings, and in only his second drive since relocating from the Maywood and Balmoral circuit in The Windy City he was a winner last Saturday night with claiming pace mare Fox Valley Magenta.
"Bruce Pacitti trains that mare and he's done just great since coming to Florida from Illinois last year, Bruce is going to do well no matter where he chooses to race" Smolin says.
"Fox Valley Magenta suits my style well. I'm still young and more often than not I'm going to be aggressive. I'd like to think I can drive with finesse from off the pace too if that's what the situation calls for. I'm really thankful to (trainers) Bruce Pacitti, Nick Clegg, Pete Pellegrino and Tom Wine for helping me get started here at Pompano."
One of the biggest thrills in Smolin's fledgling career was less three months ago. He was given a vote of confidence to pilot St. Elmo Hero at Chicago's Balmoral Park on Feburary 26 while that charistmatic pacer was still undefeated. The result was a resounding 1:50 win on a 32 degree (O C.) night.
"Since I got my first win less than four years ago, I've driven a lot of nice horses but by the criteria of desire and heart certainly St. Elmo Hero was the most special one I've sat behind so far" Smolin says. "My main mentors were (drivers) Dave Magee and Tony Morgan from watching them while I was growing up in Illinois and from the limited chances I had to be on the track against them. I think I have a solid foundation and grounding in the game and now I'm really looking forward to this new and next phase of my life and career at Pompano."