Interview on the 20th anniversary of Santa Anita Derby Day 5K

Santa Anita Park Director of Special Projects, Pete Siberell


Q.How did you get into promoting Santa Anita Park’s special projects?

A: I was initially hired to do sales for Santa Anita, but my job evolved into working with the community and taking on some projects for our president, including the recreation facility on the backside (stable area) and some customer service work. I still am involved with some marketing events at Santa Anita, but more and more what I do here is doing what I can to book activities using our facility outside of live racing. That includes special events, from filming to ride & drive events in the parking lot to community organization fundraisers to weddings to corporate meetings!K.also the summer concert series with California Philharmonic Orchestra, 626 Night Market events and various graduations with local schools.

Q: When you started the Derby Day 5K was that because of your love of running?

A: It was. I had put on a number of races in the Bay Area inside and outside of my job responsibilities, so when I came down to take the job at Santa Anita, I immediately thought I could create a fun event on one of our biggest days of the year, the day of the running of the Santa Anita Derby, a key prep race to the Kentucky Derby.

Q: How has the Derby Day 5K grown over the yearsA!X

A: The DD5K has become an annual tradition for hard core runners and more casual joggers and walkers, especially among families wanting to do things together. We put on a well organized event over an attractive race course and have something for everyone after the race!K.lots of food, drink (a beer garden helps), entertainment and most importantly, a great card of Thoroughbred horse racing. There is a group of hard cores, the Team Crossfit Academy in Monrovia , and I am flattered they use the DD5K to do speed training for the Mt. Wilson Trail Race in late May. In short, we have grown the event from under 1,000 people to well over 5,000 over the years. Word has gotten around, and people like to come back!

Q: What are the top things people tell you they love about the Derby Day 5?

A: The fun and excitement of being at Santa Anita Park on a race day (for horses too) and the beauty of the LA County Arboretum.

Q: What’s your proudest running moment or race?

A: Personally, running a couple sub 3-hour marathons in San Francisco , but outside of that, putting on a race like the DD5K or Mt. Wilson Trail Race and just seeing everyone having fun. I love it when people see the importance of fitness and find a way to combine it with having fun.

Q: Do you and your wife travel a lotA!X

A: Not as much as I would like. My wife Marianne has been a flight attendant with United Airlines for many years and my expectation was that we would be running all over the world. But I work too much!

Q: How have you applied your ad agency experience to your work at Santa AnitaA!X

A: Those who do well at the agency level are good providing client service and recognizing good creative ideas. Those kind of things have helped me develop programs and projects at Santa Anita to bring new types of people here.

Q: What did you like and what did you not like about working at an agency?

A: Loved the camaraderie and teamwork of being with truly talented people; did not like the fact every account was in danger of being given to some other agency. That work is best for single people in their 20s and 30s!

Q: What makes Santa Anita and your work there unique?

A: Every day is different; we put a show of sorts on every racing day. And I defy anyone to show me a more beautiful office!Kmost of my meetings are at Clockers’ Corner or the Turf Terrace in the Club House, both with incredible views of the San Gabriel mountains.

Q: Did you always love going to the track as a kid?

A: To really appreciate the game, one needs a dad, uncle, grandfather, older brother or similar to take you out to the racetrack and really explain things, as horse racing can be a very intimidating sport. My dad never took me, so I had to learn it when I was put on the Hollywood Park account at J. Walter Thompson ad agency, and later when I helped run an agency with Northern California racetracks Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields as clients. I have been a total sports nut all my life, so I am happy to have learned to love racing a little later in my life. While the sport is on a grand stage at Santa Anita, it still is a community here at the track, and I love it.

Q: What words of advice would you give to people who are thinking of heading up a special projects department today, either for a corporation or for themselvesA!X

A: Hang in there and don’t be afraid to express your interests in some aspects of your work and disinterests in others. Don’t leave it up to others to decide your fate! It’s your career and you have to love what you do; otherwise, why do it at all?

Be honest and fair with everyone, look people in the eye when you shake their hand. Always be polite And always work harder than the other guy. That’s tough when our trainers are here from 5:00A until after the last race, every single day!

April 3, 2014

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