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Racing The Best Tonic for Cancer-Stricken Feiss

Saratoga RacecourseDan Feiss eats, sleeps and breathes horse racing.

The Pink Sheet handicapper has been around the ponies all of his life. Now 51 years old, Feiss first started handicapping when he turned 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He even started owning horses in 2002, when he got into his mid-30s.

In fact, horse racing is so important to Feiss that he told his second wife that if she couldn’t handle his love for the ponies then the relationship probably wouldn’t end up working out. Not to mention, when he was in the hospital this past year fighting sinus cavity cancer, which he’s now in remission for, handicapping and his horses were what kept him fighting.

“I always wanted to be on the inside,” Feiss said. “The first track I ever went to was Aqueduct. I’d go with my friends and everybody else. I was the guy that my phone wouldn’t stop ringing every Kentucky Derby day, everybody wanted to get my picks. To this day everybody still does the same thing. Now that I’m publicized, everybody wants to know what I like.

“Let’s just say this, I’ve been married twice. My second wife I said, ‘Hey, listen. If you can’t handle the horses, there’s no reason to marry me. Horse racing is basically my life. Without it means nothing, not much going on. Horse racing was so close to my heart, that when I was in the hospital for five days when I had my cancer surgery in Christmas time, I was asking them to put on the OTB channel and watching the races. I bet on Gulfstream in my hospital bed, and handicapping and telling my friends, ‘Listen, I have a hot one in Gulfstream in the fifth race.’”

While he does own a sports advisory service that provides football, basketball and baseball selections along with horse racing picks, horse racing is Feiss’ passion.

Feiss handicaps the race courses around New York, for the most part, with Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park as is two “home parks.” Outside of New York, Feiss will handicap other racetracks including the meet at Keeneland, in Lexington, Ky., every October and April and at Gulfstream Park, in Hallandale Beach, Fla., during the winter.

But when it comes to July and August, Saratoga Springs is Feiss’ home away from home. The handicapper spends four days a week in the Spa, at a house he purchased nine years ago, while spending the rest of the week back home in Levittown.

Every night during the summer, the 51-year-old handicapper will take up to three hours making his selections that appear in the Pink Sheet each day of racing. Making his selections is something that Feiss prides himself in, and his results show it. Feiss has finished first in two out of the seven years he’s been making slections for The Saratogian product.

“It’s Christmas in July. We have a following. We have a lot of friends who will come up here every year now. Like opening day, my house will be filled — we’ll have six guys. I’ll be meeting 25 other guys at the same place we hang out.

“I’ve been coming up for, like I said, since I was 18,” Feiss said. “We’re talking about close to 32 years and it’s just something we do. It’s part of life. Horse racing and Saratoga go hand in hand. I loved it. I loved it once I started watching the horses and betting the horse. A friend of mine said you have to go up to Saratoga. That’s the place to be.’ I went up there when I was 18, 19 and I never stopped going. I haven’t missed an opening day in 35 years.”

Growing up handicapping, Feiss always strived to one day be in the winner’s circle. Because of that, Feiss jumped at the opportunity to buy race horse when he finally could — at age 33.

Feiss purchased a male named Feisty Bull. The thoroughbred was Feiss’ most successful horse, winning back-to-back stakes races at Monmouth Park in August and September of 2003. Feisty Bull was a 3-year-old at the time.

“When I was on the outside in the grandstand, I always wanted to be the guy on the inside and of course I didn’t have that kind of money until I got into my middle 30s,” Feiss said. “I took a shot with a horse called Fiesty Bull. It was the first horse I ever owned, which made me over half a million dollars. From then on, I’ve been revolving the money ever sense. I got lucky as they would say. Everybody in the horse business says it doesn’t happen very often, but it happened to me very early and that gave me the hook, the bug, whatever you want to call it right there.”

When Feiss found himself in the hospital after being diagnosed with sinus cavity cancer late last year, it was his ponies and handicapping that kept him fighting, along with the support of his family and friends.

“I was diagnosed with sinus cavity cancer in October, but it started the day of the Travers,” Feiss said. “The day after the Travers I was rushed to the hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack. I had a clog in my sinuses, which was causing many migraine headaches. I was diagnosed in October and went through two surgeries and 35 radiation treatments. Through all of that, handicapping almost every day — Gulfstream, Aqueduct and everything else — which kept me going, as they would say. I had horses running at the time, which won, and my own horses. That’s what kept me through the cancer and kept me positive, besides my friends and family.

“I’ve always said the horses keep me alive. I’m a different person when I’m at the race track. I’m like a kid at the candy store.”

Back at Saratoga Race Course again this summer, things have gotten back to normal for Feiss. And now that life has back to normal again, Feiss expects to challenge for the Pink Sheet title. He was the Pink Sheet’s top handicapper in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s a sign that a lot of people were rooting for me to recover and its a sign I’m back to normalcy, and normalcy was going to the racetrack and having a good time and betting the horses,” Feiss said of being back in Saratoga. “I didn’t do very well on the Pink Sheet (in 2015), which I pride myself as a handicapper and for the public to get the best plays I can give them and I really couldn’t do that. I let Andy (Champagne) beat me, and that’s not going to happen this year.

“I’m not one of those guys who go to the track looking to lose. I’m always looking to win. It was the same with my illness, I would never let my illness beat me. The horses, especially as a sports guy, I want to be in front at all times and never let anybody look back.”

- by DJ Eberle/www.troyrecord.com

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