Walk into the Meadowlands Racetrack grandstand on any Friday or Saturday night, and there were TV co-hosts Dave Brower and Dave Little front-and-center doing their analysis amid the legion of regulars at the venerable track. It was a comfortable, familiar scene.
But while no one could have imagined it, Sept. 17 turned out to be the last time fans would see that status quo in place.
Brower, who was only 53, passed away unexpectedly overnight Thursday in Lexington, Kentucky.
With standardbreds on a six-week hiatus from the Meadowlands until Nov. 4, Brower was on assignment at The Red Mile racetrack for a series of races that included the 130th edition of the Kentucky Futurity that took place on Sunday. According to reports, Brower did not show up for work on Friday morning — and a check of his hotel room found him unresponsive.
In addition to his on-air role, Brower served as the morning-line oddsmaker and program analyst for the Meadowlands, published the book Harnessing Winners in 2009, and in August handled the national broadcast of The Hambletonian at The Big M on the CBS Sports Network.
Accolades for Brower
“Dave Brower’s level of expertise and professionalism was unmatched in the sport of harness racing, and all of us at The Meadowlands were in complete shock when we heard of his passing,” Meadowlands Racetrack Chief Operating Officer Jason Settlemoir said in a statement. “While we grieve his passing, we also want to send our condolences to his family and many, many industry friends.”
Said Little: “Sitting next to Dave Brower for the last five years has been the greatest pleasure of my entire career. He and I got to be friends in the mid-1990s when I was in my first go-round in the Big M’s TV department. We have spent so much time together over the years and know just about everything there is to know about the other. I cannot imagine going on camera in a few weeks and not having him beside me.”
Gabe Prewitt was scheduled to be a co-host with Brower for the weekend races. Prewitt wrote in a tweet: “A true class individual, I have told many ppl over the years that Dave could have literally broadcast anything, we are lucky in horse racing that he chose us. Will cherish our memories always, will love and miss you @eedoogie.”
Brower had chosen that Twitter handle because his boyish looks led many friends to jokingly liken him to the Neil Patrick Harris TV character Doogie Howser.
I woke up this morning & text my friend about what polo he would like to wear today on the broadcast. Within 60 mins, I learned he was unresponsive at his hotel room.
I can’t put this into words, it’s unfathomable. Please keep his family in mind. A colleague, coworker pic.twitter.com/ZCNxA989Kx
— Gabe Prewitt (@gabe_prewitt) October 7, 2022
Friend Jeff Holdorf tweeted: “Harness Racing has lost a GREAT ambassador, but more importantly, the world has lost a wonderful man. Dave Brower, @eedoogie, was a friend to everyone and ALWAYS took the time to make everyone feel special. We will miss you my friend!”
I know I join thousands in and out of the horse racing world who are in complete shock and totally devastated by the loss today of our dear, dear friend and colleague, Dave Brower. You will be sorely missed. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/vNuTW0pLhs
— Gary Seibel (@CalXGary) October 7, 2022
Growing up in the track’s shadow
As a native of Passaic, Brower grew up only a short drive from the Meadowlands Racetrack. He graduated from St. John’s University in 1991 with a journalism degree, according to his LinkedIn page.
“I’ve been an avid harness-racing fan since age 10,” Brower told the U.S. Trotting Association in 2013. “I supposed I’ve worked in just about every aspect of the sport.”
In a 2020 interview with The Daily Racing Form, Brower said he got started in the sport “going to the track with my Dad back in the early ’80s. The Meadowlands was the place to be back then, with crowds of over 20,000 almost every night. ”
Brower was employed as a groom, a trainer’s assistant, a teletimer operator, and a public-relations intern, according to the USTA.
U.S. Trotting Association Editorial Specialist Gordon Waterstone noted in a farewell column that “Dave just loved racing. So much so, that some nights he would post on social media that if anyone would message him their phone number he would give a call so they could talk racing.
“I told Dave he was crazy doing that, but he said he loved getting a chance to talk to people he normally wouldn’t. That’s why social media was flooded with posts about Dave as he touched so many people through the years.”
Asked by The Daily Racing Form about that broadcasting seat in “the belly of the beast” among racing fans, Brower replied: “We enjoy interacting with the fans, except the ones that want to come over and argue. Ninety percent of it is good and we usually love to talk horses and betting. When on the set, we understand we are the ‘face of the Meadowlands,’ and I get it. But, sometimes, we don’t always have the answer. People have to understand that.”
As for his favorite racetrack aside from The Meadowlands, Brower said in that interview: “It’s really hard to beat the Red Mile. Everybody just ‘relaxes’ there and has a good time, including the horses. Lexington, KY is horse country USA.”
Photo courtesy of Meadowlands