It wasn’t the lure of cashing big on a cold trifecta that first drew Florida HBPA President Stephen Screnci to horse racing. He didn’t dream of one day standing in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, not back then. It was a fascination with the diverse crowd at Suffolk Downs in East Boston that hooked him from the start.
“I just loved it from the minute I walked in, it was like walking into Disneyland for me,” said Screnci, who started going to the track when he was 16. “I love the mix of people. At the track, you’ll see a father and son spending a Saturday afternoon together next to the guy who owns the Florida Panthers, you see the jockeys and the agents; I love that there are people from all walks of life, everybody focused on the horses in the starting gate.”
Screnci himself has blue-collar roots. His father was a tailor, his mother worked on occasion while raising five children. But when it came time to choose a profession, the native New Englander took a different path, earning a business degree at Suffolk University before electing to branch into law.
“It was more of a career decision rather than a love for the law,” Screnci admitted. “After I graduated from Suffolk University, I worked in the restaurant industry, but that’s nights and weekends and it’s not a good fit for a balanced life. I bought a liquor store with a partner, and put myself through law school at night. It was a lot of work.”
The long hours paid off. Screnci was in the top 10 percent of his class at New England School of Law and passed the bar in Massachusetts in 1993. But just shy of 30 at the time, he was looking to make a move.
“It was a time in my life when I could make a change, and I wanted something different,” he said.
Screnci sold his liquor store and headed south, settling in Ft. Lauderdale. He passed the bar in Florida in 1995, intending to use his legal acumen to augment his business practice, but things did not go as planned.
“My objective was to find a business opportunity that suited me, but I took a position with a small firm in the interim, and never left the practice of law,” Screnci said, adding, “That’s how life changes unexpectedly.”