Friday, May 09, 2014

The Secret to Brian Sears’ Success? Perhaps It’s “The Manager”

Driver Brian Sears is so good that it sometimes seems like he has a secret weapon, something beyond ability that separates him from the rest. And maybe he does.

If you've been to Yonkers lately you've seen him. You couldn't possibly not. Dressed in white from head to toe, he darts and dashes across the apron, does his dance and, most all, helps will his hero Brian Sears to the wire. His name is John Cutrone, but you know him as "The Manager."

His role is to help Sears win, and he has no doubt that he is playing at least some part in the success of the top driver at Yonkers Raceway.

"Can someone make someone who is great even greater?" asks The Manager. "Can you take something that is perfect and make it even better? Is there a force that is unseen to mankind? Is there something that flows through the air between two minds that have a direct angle? The Manager believes so. The Manager has perfected the power of suggestion that flows through the air unseen and the power of influence and learned how to master it."

Yes, he's serious. Completely.

"I go with the power of influence and the power of suggestion," The Manager said. "I give him a boost before the race when I yell. I give him a little more energy."

Cutrone is 52, unemployed and lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He said he has been attending the harness races for more than 20 years but until he became "The Manager" he was just another face in the crowd at the Meadowlands, Yonkers and his local OTB branch.

That all changed on a night at the Meadowlands in 2012 when he saw that Sears was driving a horse named Get Packin. He liked Sears' nickname and when Get Packin came on the track he called out to him.

"I saw the White Knight and I started going crazy on the apron, calling out ‘White Knight, White Knight,’" he said. "That horse, Get Packin, won and he started winning and winning and I thought we have a good thing here."

Over time Cutrone seemed to conclude that the nickname the "White Knight" didn't do Sears justice. Now, he mainly refers to him as the "King" or the "King of the Universe."

When Sears decided to drive full time at Yonkers in 2013 The Manager took things to the next level. He was determined to never miss any of his drives there and started to dress in all white. He is very proud of the fact that since 2013 he has been at Yonkers for all but three of Sears' wins.

That has taken some doing. Cutrone does not drive and must rely on public transportation to get to the track. With Yonkers racing at night, it is particularly hard for him to get home and he says he usually doesn't arrive back at his door until 3:15 am. This was among the worst winters in New York history, but the freezing cold didn't faze The Manager.

"One night I left Sheepshead Bay and it was 2 degrees, but I said if the King is out there doing what he has to do then The Manager has to be by his side," he said. "I wouldn't do that to the King, make him come out in the cold like that and leave him flat ."

Before every race that Sears drives in The Manager takes his spot along the apron. He prances back and forth while the gate gets rolling and when the field comes by he struts back and forth nervously. He cannot stand still. As the field comes by the first time he'll call out to Sears. During Tuesday's second race, which would be won by Sears, he yelled out "You've got to work hard to beat the King. The King is always coming."

As the field heads into the stretch for the second time he chases the field down the stretch at a dead sprint, hoping it ends in the winner's for both him and his idol. Often, The Manager will appear in the winner's circle photos along with Sears.

"We are the best driver-fan team in the history of harness racing," Cutrone said.

For his part, Sears has been a good sport about the whole thing.

"He's always been very respectful to me," he said. "He has a good attitude, that's for sure."

Cutrone seems to understand that there are lines that cannot be crossed. He says he has no personal relationship with Sears and has never made any attempt to interact with him beyond his rituals on the apron.

"When I see him, it's just like ‘hi, how ya doing,'" Cutrone said. "Everything is good. No big talk. There's just some nods, knowing that we're both there for each other. That's how it works and I don't want to break that. I don't want it to get too personal. I've never once went around to where the drivers park. I don't go back to the paddock. People say why don't you go meet him. No, I don't want to do that. I don't want to get to know him personally. If I do it might become something different."

The Manager said some aren't enamored with his routines.

"Most of the fans are good," he said. "I have some mockers but I can deal with them."

He doesn't bet: "What I am doing doesn't have anything to do with betting. If he wins, I win, no matter what," he said.

He does follow Sears to the Meadowlands when he drives there but isn't able to get to any other tracks because he doesn't drive.

In races in which Sears isn't driving he will not root for anyone else and says he has turned down offers from trainers to use his powers to help their horses, ones not driven by Sears, win.

"A trainer came up to me at the Meadowlands and said, "Please Manager, can you root for my horse next race?' I said I am sorry I cannot do that. He said if I win the next race I want you to come to winner's circle and I said I cannot do that and they understood that."

He is now on Twitter, but it’s not him but a “Manager” wannabe. Cutrone does not have a computer.

Sears won again in Tuesday's fourth, and in the fifth, eighth and twelfth, five winners in all. The last race ended at about 11:10 and The Manager began the trip back to Brooklyn. It was a long night and he would not get home for nearly four hours. But it had been worth it. It was a good night for Sears. It was a better one for "The Manager."

To watch video of The Manager in action click here

Written by Bill Finley of Harness Racing Update

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