The handicapping aspect of Thoroughbred racing world is tough, competitive, and full of strong opinions. It is almost an art form that can sometimes take decades to master. Add in having to give your opinions and analysis in a public medium, and you have a challenge that would be truly daunting to most. Not so for Candice Hare, who has become one of the most respected young women in the industry on an international level.
Candice currently works for TVG / Betfair US an International Racing Coordinator where she specializes in content about horse racing from all corners of the globe. She has covered major international race meetings including the Dubai World Cup and Hong Kong International Races for various media outlets and is currently is one of the “go to’s” for updates on the global superstar Winx.
Candice adds a unique flare to her work, and her expertise and enthusiasm provide additional intrigue to the growing appeal of international racing in the United States and on TVG. It was an absolute pleasure to to learn more about Candice, her career, and how she got to where she is today.
Did you grow up in a family involved with horse racing? What career path did you want to pursue?
Aside from my dad and uncles placing a bet here or there, my family didn’t have any ties to horses or racing. Career-wise, I originally pursued a degree in mechanical engineering with the intention of getting into the automotive industry. A year into my studies, a teaching assistant for one of my mathematics classes suggested I switch my major, and I never looked back. For me, I’ve always thrived in situations where there were puzzles which needed to be solved.
When did you know you wanted to get into racing and how did you get started?
I don’t know if there was one specific moment where I knew I wanted to get into racing. The first race I attended was Zenyatta’s final race in Southern California. I have and always will be a huge sports fan, so that race of hers felt like a mainstream sports moment that I wanted to witness. I printed out a handy “how to read the racing form” and brought it with me that day. I bet a few races and overall left with a few dollars in my pocket. From there I was hooked, and it eventually led to a handicapping blog and YouTube series, but I always approached it as a hobby until I was offered jobs in the industry.
My first job was as an assistant to Bruno De Julio. From there, I worked with Jeremy Plonk and fan education website Horse Player Now, where I handicapped racing from Woodbine weekly in addition to major international race days. I’d additionally help either be the analyst or host for the live handicapping podcasts during select race days at Mountaineer, Remington Park, and Woodbine, which proved to be vital on-air experience.
Has international racing always been an interest of yours?
I grew more interested in international racing when Ouija Board had her first few progeny. I’d remembered watching her in the Breeders’ Cup and was keen to see how she’d do as a broodmare. Her first foal was named Voodoo Prince, who was a decent handicapper in England before being exported to Australia where he was renamed Our Voodoo Prince, where he won the G3 Easter Cup. He was no star, but he was my first introduction to Australian racing. Of course, it didn’t take much longer for Ouija Board herself to produce a star in Derby winner Australia.
From there, I started to follow international racing more and more over time and with that experience and knowledge, people on Twitter began approaching me more often with questions on specific horses who were running in North America for the first time. It was then that I realized international racing was an undeserved niche in America, so I in turn devoted my time to it specifically.
Who are some friends and mentors you have looked up to over the years?
There are so many people in this industry who I look up to. Of course, Bruno and Jeremy were direct mentors to me in a working environment. Aside from them, I’d say I look up to Caton Bredar, who is incredibly good at not only being prepared for a given race as you’d expect, but adjusting when track variables or a horse’s physical appearance comes into play. Former TVG producer John Mousis serves as my primary mentor at this stage of my career. He always encourages me to maintain my voice, be honest, and not to be afraid to have strong opinions. Gabby Gaudet, Dawn Lupul, and Paul Allen are among others in the industry who I look up to.
In your current role as an international racing coordinator for TVG / Betfair US, what are some of your favorite and most challenging parts of your job?
My favorite part of my job is introducing people to the superstar horses from around the world. Winx, in particular, has been such a joy. Not only are her individual performances outstanding, but seeing American race fans interested in her and looking forward to her next race is fantastic. The biggest challenge is anticipating where certain big name horses are going to run – especially when weather is a factor.
Who are some of your favorite US and international horses in training right now?
As far as American horses go, I’m a huge fan of Stellar Wind. From a betting perspective, she was really good to me when she first arrived in California from Maryland, and since then I’ve grown an appreciation for her grinding style. It’s incredibly difficult to win dirt routes at the G1 level by simply outstaying your opposition, and yet she does it time and time again.
Abroad, my favorite horse is Kitasan Black. He’s an honest, staying type who routinely leads. In a jurisdiction where the best horses are often trained to relax and make one run from the back, he’s often left with a pace advantage. Last year, he was Japan’s Horse of the Year and this season he broke Deep Impact’s course and race record in the Tenno Sho (Spring) by nearly a second.
What have been some of your most memorable moments at the track so far?
Easily my most memorable moment at the track was the first time I ever attended — Zenyatta winning the Lady Secret Stakes in 2010. While I’ve visited many international destinations for big race days since, I’ve never heard a crowd so loud or felt the grandstand shake like it did that day when she roared home for the win.
You have been to racetracks around the world. Do you have any personal favorites or ones you’d still like to visit?
Whenever I’m asked this question, people seemed shocked to hear my favorite racetrack is Santa Anita. It’s large enough that it never feels crowded even on the busiest of days. It doesn’t get much better than the sun rising from behind the San Gabriel mountains during morning works.
The track I’d most want to visit is Leopardstown mostly because I’ve had several friends tell me that if you love racing and love having a bet, that it’s a must-visit venue. Plus, it hosts top class racing on the flat, as well as, over obstacles. Chantilly, Tokyo, believe it or not, Saratoga are also high on the bucket list.
As a handicapper, what are things you look for in a horse physically heading into a race?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is you can only compare a horse to himself, so great looking for one horse may not be so for another. That applies not only to pre-race but during workouts and gallop outs, as well. I also always try to not get sucked in to betting the barns whose horses always look excellent. Steve Asmussen’s barn is a perfect example. Of course, his horses win at a high percentage for a reason, but they’d win “Candice’s Best Turned Out” award even more often!
What are some of the first things you look for in the Past Performances?
The first thing I do is anticipate potential race shapes and how likely I think they are to formalize. Essentially, I take the past performances and create scenarios based on draw, past styles, trainer/jockey intent, etc. My biggest bets come when nearly all of the scenarios I devise lead me to believe it’s likely a horse will get an uncontested lead or that there will be a pace collapse. You can get value that way because most people will chuck out a horse on form despite the fact he wasn’t getting favorable pace scenarios.
Additionally, I’ll often look for speed and fade types who are switching to the turf for the first time. Often, turf races — especially at the maiden level — are run at slightly slower tempos early and you’re against lesser horses overall given dirt is the preferred surface in America. Time and time again, I’ve seen horses cave under fast pressured paces on dirt, switch to turf and find themselves all alone out front.
Ultimately, I am really picky about my wagers. I subscribe to the bet less often – but be aggressive and maximize your strong opinions methodology.
Have you experienced challenges in being a woman in the horse racing industry?
I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had struggles in horse racing that women wouldn’t encounter in any other field. I’ve always felt like people respect my opinion regardless of my gender. I think as long as you work hard and present worthwhile insight to your customers, people will think of you as a “good handicapper” and not just a “good female handicapper.”
As an on-air talent for TVG covering racing around the world, you already have an impressive resume, but do you still have some goals or dreams you would like to fulfill?
I’d love to be able to spend some time abroad at some point. While I believe I have a firm grasp on how various race meetings and horses are viewed here in America, I think it would be valuable to see how other jurisdictions view American horses and races.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in Thoroughbred racing?
Don’t be afraid to put your opinions out publicly. For every person who labeled an idea of mine as “dumb” when I first started, there were three others who were willing to help me and teach me about everything from form cycles to the class structure. It took me way longer than it should’ve to start a blog because I was afraid of failure and criticisms from others who I respected, but in hindsight, I’ve learned the most from the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
Finally, what are some of the most prevalent challenges you see facing racing today and how do you think we can grow in the future?
For American racing in particular, universal drug rules (or lack thereof) is a major issue, and it’s going to boil over on an international stage sooner rather than later. There’s already been talk of “Super Group 1” races which wouldn’t allow horses to run on raceday Lasix. That sort of pressure is only going to be heightened down the road.
Candice, thank you so much for taking the time to give us an inside look at your life and career. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!
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