Though he turned just 18 in mid-July, Ray Cotolo claims he “feels 40 on the inside.” That could have a lot to do with his unique childhood. Since the age of 10, Cotolo has hung around the track, earning a paycheck for reporting on and providing color commentary for horseracing.
Originally from the Grantville area, where his father was an editor for the now-defunct “Times in Harness,” and now commuting from Harrisburg in his first year as an Elizabethtown College communications major, Cotolo started his career path simply as a way to bond with his father.
For decades, Cotolo’s father, Frank, has written about and reported on harness races. They differ from the more widely known thoroughbred racing in the way the horses maintain a specific type of gait and pull a small cart. Cotolo literally grew up around the sport and has solidly followed in his father’s footsteps.
“I couldn’t help but have exposure to it,” he said. “There was a draw, a paternal aspect.”
Time and time again he has impressed me with his manners, maturity and grasp of any situation he is presented with.”
His father now writes for “Hambletonian Society,” which covers all aspects of the sport from drivers to horses to betting. Most recently, he covered races at the Breeders Crown, which took place at the end of October at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Indiana.
As the younger Cotolo spent weekends at the track with his dad, he learned about public relations, editing and the math behind betting. At 10, Cotolo freelanced for the “Hambletonian Society.” A year later, he started his own blog, “The Racing Inquirer,” in which he wrote recaps minutes after races and offered handicapping advice. By the time he was 16, he was an expert handicapper, host of “North American Harness Update,” an internet radio show, and a freelance journalist. He’s also written for U.S. Trotting Association, Twin Spires, U.S. Racing and Standardbred Canada.
His radio show, listed under YouTube in the comedy category, takes an entertaining look at various aspects of harness racing. “It appeals to a younger demographic,” he said of his show, “exposing another generation to the sport.”
This summer, Cotolo became one of six national recipients of a Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarship, presented annually by Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation to the offspring of harness racing participants or to individuals who are actively engaged in the sport.
Though his high GPA, class ranking and induction into the National Honor Society, helped scholarship judges take notice, it was his essay that helped seal the deal. In addition to his professional writing, Cotolo is into creative writing—plays, sketch comedy, novels and short stories.
In her recommendation letter, Moira Fanning, director of operations for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown, remarked on Cotolo’s character, work ethic and passion for harness racing.
“Time and time again he has impressed me with his manners, maturity and grasp of any situation he is presented with,” she said. “He shows up in a suit and tie and looks to fill in wherever needed and can usually do anything I ask him to do twice as fast as I can.”