Rad Dad talks about running horse park, raising children and more
Hugh Drexler moved from Ohio to North Dakota for his role as general manager of the North Dakota Horse Park
As general manager of the North Dakota Horse Park, Hugh Drexler's life revolves around horse racing. It’s a role he’s been preparing for, in many ways, his whole life. Having grown up in a thoroughbred training family – his grandfather Justino Rodriguez (Manos Santa, which translates into Saint Hands) is in the Puerto Rico Racing Hall of Fame. Hugh literally grew up at the track. In fact, his father was a jockey who met his mother at a racetrack where her father and grandfather were both trainers. Hugh’s first paying job was at the thoroughbred and quarter horse racetrack aptly named Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona.
He graduated from high school and intended to enroll at the University of Arizona to complete their racetrack industry program, but his career took an early detour as he became a real estate broker in a then red-hot market. It took 12 years for Hugh to realize his passion was still horse racing.
In that 12-year span, Hugh had reconnected with Elizabeth, a woman he’d gone to high school with. After four years of “burning the candle at both ends” and flying around the United States, Virgin Islands, Europe and Africa, Hugh and Elizabeth welcomed their son Andrew, now 6.
Around the time when Hugh realized he wanted to go back to school, his wife also decided to leave the teaching profession to become a nurse. Through a ton of mutual support, they both changed careers and began looking for opportunities to put their new skills to use.
Hugh first landed at Penn National Racetrack in Pennsylvania before taking a job as a racing secretary at Thistledown Race Track in Ohio. Then, less than 3 years after completing his degree, Hugh seized the opportunity to become general manager of the horse park in Fargo, North Dakota.
“My wife is the one who said I should apply for the job,” Hugh shared. “She said it would be good interview experience.”
He applied, was hired and moved 1,000 miles to North Dakota in February. No joke. “It was a terrible time to move here, and I’m from Boston!” Hugh shared.
With his son still finishing up Kindergarten, he and his wife decided she would remain in Ohio with Andrew and their 1-year-old daughter Arabella. His family headed west to Fargo for several weeks leading up to the kickoff of the racing season in July. The Drexler family enjoyed exploring the local sights and getting immersed in all things Fargo and the FM metro, including lakes country, the zoo, Midwest Kid Fest and more.
What has been your family's favorite discovery about the FM area?Friendliness of the community
Any plans to make the horse park more family friendly?
Absolutely. We have a family day planned for this year and hope to build on that for next season. My first event in the FM area was the St. Patrick's Day parade. Seeing the swarm of children lining the sidewalks and having a great time made me realize two things. 1. There are a lot of children in the FM area and 2. We need to make the park a lot more family friendly.
Biggest challenge of having your family still in Ohio while you're in North Dakota?
Missing milestones. At this age, they change so much everyday that when I don't see them for a few weeks, it feels like months. I have a newfound respect and sympathy for fathers or mothers who travel for work and have to miss being around their children everyday. All I have to say is thank goodness for facetime.
Who is someone famous you'd like to have dinner with? Why?
Dr. Seuss. Why not?
Best mistake you've ever made?
Standing my wife up twice on our first and second dates. It's not as bad as it sounds, as it was completely unintentional. But she gave me another chance and here we are over 10 years and 2 kids later, I'm still sitting on 2 strikes.
One word that describes your parenting style best?
One day I want my kids to experience....
The world and all its diverse cultures.
Favorite show to binge watch?
“How I Met Your Mother”
What three words describe you best?
Driven, adventurous, unconventional
How has being a dad made you a better human?
Patience and selflessness. As an only child I grew up deficient in both. Being a father to two wonderful children who test me at every step has helped to break down my selfish intuition and rebuild it with an "everything I do, I do for my kids" attitude.
People might be surprised to learn....
I'm fluent in Spanish.