Horsing around

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    WEST MILFORD-The American Dream Derby may not have had the devoted following of, say, The Apprentice or Survivor, but it's one reality show that can boast something those others can't n a genuine, home-grown West Milford contestant who stood a better-than-average chance of winning. Twenty-four-year-old Sara Slavin is a 1998 graduate of West Milford High School who has been modeling the past few years. The American Dream Derby show -- Game Show Network's contribution to the realty show landscape n came to Sara's attention through a casting call. After going through what she described as "a very intense screening process" Slavin was notified she made the cut and whisked away to Acadia, California in a matter of weeks. According to model, it was the first time she had applied to a reality show. "Don't laugh, but I don't even own a television set," she said. A casting director sent her an application for the hybrid mixture of horse racing, game show and reality show. Here's the deal: Twelve contestants competed in a variety of equestrian-esque challenges such as mucking out stalls with their bare hands for cash. They also had to bet n on horse races, on each other, and on just about everything. The object was to win enough money to jockey into one of the top positions for the final episode. Sara said when she first got involved with the program she thought she would have an opportunity to learn to ride a horse. No such luck for the contestants, although they did get to ride on a donkey at one point. The show, which first aired in November, offered a grand prize of $250,000 and a stable of horses. A different competitor got booted off at the end of each episode, so by the final show (which was broadcast live on Monday night) there were only three challengers left. Slavin, who was originally given a 26-1 chance of winning by bookmakers in Vegas was one of the final three and a favorite to win, with her odds making a dramatic leap to3-1. But in the end, the winner was determined by who picked the first place horse in a live race at the Santa Anita track in California. Sara chose a horse with good odds, but it came in fifth. Throughout the series, however, she said she made enough money to make it worthwhile. Sara is the daughter of Tim Slavin, a local forestry consultant. She has two siblings, Eli and Laura, both graduates of West Milford High School. She first got involved in modeling when she was 16 and tried out for a fall fashion show in the Willowbrook Mall. She was one of eight or nine kids chosen from the thousands who showed up. She ended up with her picture in Seventeen magazine. "At that point," says her dad, "she was bit." Although her work includes travel, Slavin still lives in the area. What does her father think of her 15 minutes of fame? "It's been exciting and fun, but the best part," he says, "is that all the other people on the show said she showed the most compassion and integrity. For that, I am so proud of her."