, the leading harness racing trainer at Freehold Raceway, did not have a racing background when he became a horseman. All Nick knew was he wanted to be a part of harness racing industry any way possible.
As of the 22nd of May, Nick leads as the top trainer at Freehold Raceway with 26 wins out of 118 starts resulting in $86,000 in total purse winnings for 2014.
"I have no horse racing background whatsoever" says Nick. "I actually grew up in Freehold, NJ and I lived about five minutes away from Freehold Raceway which was a ten minute bike ride. I used ride my bike to the track to watch the races as a kid."
Nick credits his mom, Debbie, for always supporting him. "Through the bad times she helped me, good or bad she always stood behind me. She always wanted me to be happy" says Nick. His parents divorced right around the time Nick was getting into the harness racing industry and it must have been difficult for him, for anyone in that position.
What originally drew Nick to the track was the gambling component. Nick's father, Kevin, helped introduce Nick to this unhealthy lifestyle due to the fact that Nick's father had substance abuse issues and was a known gambler. "I was a gambler; I was actually thrown out of a lot of tracks for underage gambling. My father was an alcoholic and a degenerate gambler." Nick admits. "I was more hooked that way more than anything. Aside from the gambling back then, I think the horse itself intrigued me and I liked the animal so much that it was good for me. "
"I really wasn't the best student when it came to school." Nick explains, "I really couldn't care less about school. I dropped out of my second year in college so I could train full time when I got the opportunity from one of my big owners, Howard Schneidler. It all came together at the right time.
"Once I learned the backside to horse racing, that's when I lost the itch for gambling. It was about growing up, maturing and getting smarter." Nick says. "Now that I was physically with the horse, gambling was not an issue anymore."
The fact Nick was able to break away and cut the cord, so to speak, speaks volumes. Once Nick established himself as a horseman, it came to the point where Nick's father was constantly causing Nick problems at the Raceway and in life as a whole.
"He caused me a lot of headaches at the track" Nick says about his father. "With me training horses, it wasn't good for him. He started making things up, telling people to bet horses (based) on what I said which are things I never said. If I talk to him a couple times a year, that's a lot. He was hurting my livelihood.
"I had to take a step back, even though he's my dad I had to cut him out." Nick admits. "I had to think about my future and hopefully I have a lot of years ahead of me.
"Drug and alcohol abuse made him a person he wasn't." Nick continues, "He was nasty to people... when you're under the influence you become a different person."
The best piece of advice Nick ever received was from Richard Annunziata and it was about Nick ensuring he surrounds himself with good people. "He told me this when I was 16 and I am 26 now but I still remember it" says Nick. "Surround yourself with successful people; surround yourself with people that are better than you.... If you surround yourself with bad apples, that's who you're going to be.
"That's what I did" says Nick. "I cut out all of the bad people from my life. The people who were bringing me down."
Once Nick graduated from high school, he admits he changed lives. Nick did a 180 degree turn to better his life and to develop into a better person. Was it easy? That's tough to say as everyone deals with changes in their own manner but knowing that change is needed and working towards that is a task in itself. What Nick did is commendable, not many people can switch 'tracks' in life and to do so at a young and impressionable age is astounding.
When Nick got started, he first worked for fellow trainer. "I never had anyone behind me to push me, I did it all on my own."
After working with, Nick and his (now former) partner joined forces. "We worked together for four or five years and the business grew together between us" Nick explains. "We went from two horses to thirty five horses almost overnight.
"When it comes to owners, I am happy with who I have," Nick says. Once Nick finds people he is comfortable with and who he believes has a good heart, Nick is content and doesn't go looking for more. It's about quality, not quantity for Nick.
"I've learned a lot from... like who to accept in your barn." Nick states. "My girlfriend Hannah is his daughter."
Working with Erv, Nick says "I've learned to individualize each horse. Treating each horse as their own... treat each horse as a separate entity."
"Anytime I need any advice, I can pick up the phone and call Erv," says Nick. "He has one of the best managed barns I've ever seen. His memory is unbelievable!"
Nick is open when he admits he doesn't like change, right now he's very happy residing near Freehold Raceway and all the major tracks are within driving distance.
"Right now I take it one day at a time" says Nick when asked about what the future may hold for him. "I'm comfortable with my 30 to 40 horse barn."
When it comes to Pacers or Trotters, hands down Nick prefers the Pacers. "I just haven't had any luck with the Trotters" laughs Nick.
Nick pulls double duty at Freehold Raceway where he drives as well. Nick only plans on driving at Freehold Raceway and admits it's a lot of fun. Nick considers driving more of a hobby compared to training which is his passion.
Nick believes the harness racing industry is headed in the proper direction by pushing to have the major races showcased on National TV.
"We need a lot more one on one interaction with the drivers, trainers and the public." Nick says.
Nick credits the success of his barn to his employees, the second trainers, the grooms and most importantly his owners. "I'm nothing without them and their financial backing" Nick states. "I've got great people behind me; I've got to give them credit.can't take care of 35- 40 horses, it takes a team. There's no magic, its teamwork."