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Gaudet Excited to Get Started as Arlington's New Paddock Host

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/08/2014 #

Gabby Gaudet is the new face on the Arlington International Racecourse broadcast team having just arrived from the Maryland circuit where she served as paddock host at Laurel Park and at Pimlico Race Course, which of course is home of the Preakness Stakes – the second jewel in Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

Though new to Chicago, Gaudet is hardly new to the racetrack. “My dad (Eddie) trained for decades – probably about 40 years,” she said.  “My mom (Linda) was his right-hand woman for a very long time. He officially retired in 2011 when we ran a horse in the Preakness (Concealed Identity).  I guess you could call that his swan song.  Since then then my mom and my sister (Lacey) have taken control of the barn.”

Like the rest of her family, Gabby found herself on the backstretch at a young age. “I got my exercise rider license when I was 16 and I spent a lot of time on the backside throughout high school and college,” she said. “I love it and I love being hands-on with horses, but at the same time I couldn’t see myself having a career on the backside.”

As a result, she began to make a name for herself away from the backstretch. “My very first thing on the front side was working on a radio station in Maryland on a racing show on (the local) ESPN (outlet) with Stan Salter.  I remember being so nervous the first couple of shows,” she recalled. “However, my big first step was going to the Saratoga Special and working for that newspaper during the Saratoga meet. That really opened the door to a lot of connections.  When Frank Carulli (Pimlico and Laurel TV host and morning line maker) announced his retirement, they had a competition (to fill the TV job) and that was my first opportunity to be on-air.”

“I was so nervous before going on and in hindsight it was ridiculous (to feel that way) but it’s your first time and you don’t want to make big mistakes and get off to a bad start,” she continued. “At the same time, I had the advantage of going last.  The competition was held from Wednesday until Saturday and I got to go on Saturday.  I was able to look at the other people who were auditioning and get myself (more) comfortable.  I think if I had gone the first day I’d have been a lot more nervous.”

Gaudet got the job and become the face of the Maryland paddock after last year’s Pimlico meet and was named the Arlington paddock host in early April.  She brings enthusiasm to her new role and pledges to delve deep in the past performances to find useful nuggets of information for handicappers of all levels

"I make it a point to do my homework,” she said.  “I don’t just look at the program and say this horse is the favorite or this horse has a legitimate chance of winning.  I really dig into races, pace, breeding and trainer stats to try to find prices.  One of my least favorite things is to pick even-money shots.  If there’s a way to beat the favorite, I try to find it.’

Asked if she had a favorite type of race to handicap, her answer may come as a surprise to many. “One of my favorite (types of) races to handicap are maiden races – maiden specials for 2-year-old or for 3-year-olds and up,” she said.  “I like looking at horses for the first time and see them develop over the course of the meet.  That’s why I really love to be in the paddock because I pay attention to the physical appearance of horses as well.

“For turf horses, they have a specific physical presence that you need to look for – their turf foot.  If a horse is going a route of ground, you’re looking for a more longer-built horse than a really stocky horse.  You have to take all of that into consideration.”

One thing that will be somewhat new to Gaudet in her analysis is handicapping Arlington’s synthetic Polytrack surface, though she is not completely foreign to playing races on such courses, “I’ve done handicapping (on the synthetic surfaces of) Keeneland and Presque Isle in my personal time. I have a foundation in it, but it will take a little time to get into the swing of it here.”

Gaudet hopes to be able to provide useful information to her new audience as well as helpisolate longshots that can hit the board.

“I love constructing tickets – Pick 4s, Pick 5s, Pick 6s. I like the challenge of figuring out a sequence of races and sometimes you have a horse that might be 10-1 that you throw on the ticket.  You can use the multi-race wagers to make some money off a favorite you don’t think can be beat.  You’re not going to put $5 to win on a 1-2 shot but you can single him in a Pick 4 and spread in other races where you find some longshots.”

Having already taken a look at her new ‘summer office,’ Gaudet was taken aback but its beauty.

“It’s absolutely stunning and its spotless clean,” she said.  “It’s gorgeous.  The paddock is stunning as well.  I’m really looking forward to getting to know the racetrack – not just the facility, but the track and the little subtleties to it once racing ensues.”