Behind The Scenes

Will ‘The Tessitore Effect’ have equine crossover?

ESPN’s Joe Tessitore knows a little something about coming down the stretch in dramatic fashion.

The versatile play-by-play man has gained a reputation for calling thrilling finishes. “The Tessitore Effect,” as explained here in Sports Illustrated, suggests that Tessitore’s presence at a sporting event increases the likelihood for late game drama.

ESPN’s Joe Tessitore
(Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

On Saturday at Santa Anita race track in Southern California, the theory will have a new test case opportunity as Joe Tess, a three-year-old Dark Bay colt owned by George Bolton and Barbara Banke (Stonestreet Stables), makes its debut in the day’s 11th and final race.

“I’m giddy at the thought of it,” said Tessitore, 41, who grew up around the sport near the famed Saratoga (N.Y.) Racetrack. “When George told me he was doing it, I was in disbelief. The thought of having a high-priced thoroughbred named after me? I kept asking him, ‘Are you serious?'”

“I always told him with the name Joe — like Joe Frazier and Joe Louis — it would be fun to have a horse with a masculine name like that, like Joe Tess,” Bolton said. “As a yearling, this horse looked like the one with the most promise.”

Bolton and Banke paid $225,000 for Joe Tess, the offspring of Forty Moves and Macho Uno, and is trained by Steve Assmussen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi (whose sister Kristie Blasi coincidentally works at ESPN).

“When George is buying horses, he’s like [ESPN analyst] Bill Polian at the NFL combine — he knows it when he sees it,” Tessitore said.

Human Joe Tess first met Horse Joe Tess a year ago in Ocala, Fla., where he saw his namesake take a “nice gallop around the track.” In a couple of weeks, Tessitore will be vacationing in California and plans on making a visit to see the colt and promised to bring peppermints and carrot sticks.

“From what I’m told, Joe Tess is very, very fast but he’s got a spicy attitude and is very aggressive,” said Tessitore, who is on the call of tonight’s Ohio State-Northwestern game with Sean Farnham (ESPN2, 7:00 p.m. ET).

“If he runs like my game broadcasts typically go, you know he’ll be getting up at the wire like Zenyatta!”

Bolton wouldn’t mind that all.

“They’re both extremely well-presented and both will win the paddock contest,” Bolton said.

“Joe’s a talent and I hope the horse is as good a talent as the human. If the horse can be as good at what he does as Joe is at his job, it’ll be a dream come true for me.”

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