Gabby Gaudet has been involved in the world of horse racing since before she could walk. As the daughter of Thoroughbred trainers Eddie and Linda Gaudet and sister to trainer Lacey Gaudet, she is no stranger to the industry, and over the past few years, Gabby has established herself as one of the most respected young women in Thoroughbred racing.
Gabby began her career as as a racing analyst and paddock reporter for the Maryland Jockey Club in 2013. In addition to working at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, she has also covered racing at Arlington, Gulfstream, and the Breeders’ Cup. She joined NYRA for the 2016 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course and has since become an important member of the NYRA team.
With her vast experience, keen eye for horses, and precise handicapping, Gabby has become a well respected figure and shining ambassador for women in racing. Let’s learn more about Gabby, how she got to where she is today, what horses she has her eyes on, and her goals for the future!
Gabby, you come from a racing family. What was your childhood like at the racetrack?
There are many members of my family that are or were involved in racing – aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sister. My dad actually got started in the industry by becoming a jockey right after World War II in New England. After a serious riding accident in which he fractured his skull, broke his leg, arm, ribs, he couldn’t make weight anymore, so he decided to start training and relocated to Detroit and Chicago (Hawthorne). Fast-forward a few decades, my dad met my mom by trying to sell her a (bad) horse as a show jumper. She didn’t buy the horse…but of course, that was where it all began. My mom and dad worked side-by-side training horses in the Mid-Atlantic for decades, and now my sister has followed suit with a successful stable of her own.
I have only fond memories of growing up on the racetrack. My parents had a 100-acre farm in Maryland where we bred and trained horses, and we also had a barn at Bowie racetrack. Honestly, Bowie was almost like a second home to me given the amount of time we spent there. The memories are endless from grooming horses at like age 5 to traveling during the summers with my dad to Delaware Park and Monmouth Park.
So, did you always want to pursue a career in Thoroughbred racing?
No. It’s funny because my sister always knew that she’d be a trainer, or work with horses in some way. I, on the other hand, wanted little to do with it when I was in high school. I can remember many times when I would be sitting at the dinner table with my mom, dad, and sister and the topic of conversation was always horses, horses, horses. I would get so frustrated because I was really involved in soccer at the time and I felt like the odd man out. Little did I know I’d make a career out of talking horses!
As for first roles, my very first internship was on a radio show called Maryland Horse Radio with Stan Salter. It was a CBS Radio program in Baltimore, so I’d just go there once a week after finishing up classes at Towson University. That would eventually lead to an internship with the Saratoga Special with Joe and Sean Clancy. That was an incredible experience that really shifted my gears to start pursuing a career in the media side of the industry.
With years of live handicapping and broadcasting experience, what are some of your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
I love my job – and I feel blessed that I get to do something that doesn’t really feel like work. You have to love it because it’s a lifestyle – it’s a constant. There’s nothing 9 to 5 about it. I’d say my favorite part of the job is the anticipation of a big day. When the producer counts you down and you get the opportunity to cover these amazing athletes and stories. I also love that this career and industry can take you anywhere in the world – I’ve been very fortunate to get to travel to places like England, Canada, California, Chicago, etc.
My least favorite part is that sometimes you lose sight of the horse and all the hard work that it takes, whether it be a claimer or a graded stakes horse, to get a horse to the races. There’s a lot of handicapping involved and unfortunately sometimes these incredible animals just become numbers on a page. That’s the toughest part considering my background in the sport.
Who are some friends and mentors you look up to in racing?
That’s a long list. There have been many people that have been so generous in helping me along the way. Sean and Joe Clancy of course really helped me find my legs from the get-go with the Saratoga Special and taught me a lot about “finding the story”. Whereas friends like Caton Bredar, Scott Hazelton, Christina Blacker, Jeannine Edwards, Donna Brothers, and Amy Zimmerman have given me invaluable advice throughout the years from a broadcasting standpoint.
What have been some of your most memorable moments at the track so far?
The Pegasus World Cup earlier this year was pretty special. There had been talk about this $12 million race months prior and to see it come to fruition with the two best horses in the country in Arrogate and California Chrome was amazing. The energy from the fans in the paddock that day was palpable and something I’ll never forget.
From a personal standpoint, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the 2011 Preakness. My family’s horse Concealed Identity had won the local prep for the Preakness (the Tesio) and subsequently ran in the Preakness. It was my dad’s last year of training and swan song so to speak, and even though he didn’t run well, it was incredible to be a part of that with my family.
Who are some of your personal favorite racehorses – past or present?
This is always such a tough question to answer because I have so much respect and adoration for the big names in our sport of the past and present, but it’s hard to not gravitate towards the horses, great or average, that you have a special, personal connection with.
So for me, in no particular order, I’d say Tepin, Ben’s Cat and Grantor. Tepin is just all racehorse, and every time she ran she would put it all on the line, but even more importantly, she was also so gentle and personable with her fans. You don’t see that often.
Ben’s Cat, of course, because he was a Maryland superstar. He started his career when I was a freshman in college and to follow his career and see what he became as I started my career was special.
Grantor was just an average horse that my parents trained – but he also happened to be the toughest horse in the barn to train. I used to gallop him every morning, and for whatever reason we had this special bond. I was the only person who could hold him in the mornings. He took care of me and I took care of him. Riding him was something I looked forward to every day.
You now have been part of the NYRA broadcasting team for over a year, tell us a bit about your first year?
Working for NYRA has been an incredible and challenging experience mostly because when you leave the world of simulcasting and enter the world of network TV, you have to completely change the way you deliver information. You’re reaching an entirely different, wider audience, and you also have less time to deliver your key points. I’ve been given the opportunity to wear many different hats, such as hosting, analyzing and reporting, which is challenging but also very fun. I’m also fortunate to get to work with and learn from amazing talent like Andy Serling, Maggie Wolfendale, Greg Wolf and Paul LoDuca.
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You have visited and worked at many racetracks around the country. Do you have any favorites – or ones you’d still like to visit?
Saratoga and Ascot are definitely favorites. Saratoga just has this unique aura to it. The place is packed every single day, and I always love going out in the mornings to see the horses train. And Royal Ascot with all of its pageantry and tradition is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else.
I love experiencing racing in different countries just to see how it compares to U.S. racing, so I’d like to go to Chantilly and hopefully one day go the Melbourne Cup.
As an experienced handicapper and horsewoman, what are things you look for in a horse physically heading into a race?
It all depends on the horse and respective conditions of the race. If it’s a first time starter I like to see a horse that appears healthy, mature and professional. If it’s an experienced horse, I look for physical and behavioral differences. For example, if a horse is usually composed and a good actor, it’s obviously a bad sign if he or she is washy and uncomfortable. The opposite applies as well. Lastly, I’ll look at the physical makeup of a horse and how that applies to the distance and surface of the race.
As a handicapper, what are some of the first things you look for in the Past Performances?
If it’s not a race comprised of many first time starters, I usually start with pace. I like to envision how a race will likely be played out and then I determine what the questions are in the race, i.e. who is the most likely winner? Is that horse vulnerable? Is this particular horse lone speed, etc. and then I dive into watching lots and lots of replays. I try to take the most comprehensive approach possible but every race is different.
Are there any 2 year-olds that have stood out to you as we look towards the 2018 “Road To The Kentucky Derby”?
Sporting Chance, despite his quirks, has been impressive thus far, but I wouldn’t discount Free Drop Billy and Givemeaminit’s performances in the Hopeful either as they look like they’ll continue to improve with distance. Bolt d’Oro and Zatter have to be respected as well out of the Del Mar Futurity. It’ll be interesting to see who has the strongest presence this year between East vs. West Coast – or even Kentucky, as they had a strong hand last year.
Are there any challenges to being a woman in the horseracing industry?
I don’t want to speak for other women in the industry, but for me, I haven’t had any particular issues with being a woman in this industry. I think times have changed a bit and we have to thank the trailblazers that came before us like Charlsie Cantey.
No matter what gender you are, it’s imperative to be prepared and to conduct yourself with professionalism to establish credibility. Do your homework, pay attention and ask questions…and most importantly, help each other. In a world where everyone is trying to get ahead and “one up” each other, it’s important to help each other and build professional relationships, to clear the path so that others can succeed.
You already have an impressive resume, but do you still have some goals and dreams you would like to fulfill?
Of course. If I didn’t have dreams or aspirations, I’d be really worried about my future! I set daily, short-term, and long-term goals for myself. The daily goals are usually to try to improve one particular skill, the short-term are usually things I want to accomplish within the year, and then the long-term goals are where I want to see myself in 5 years or so.
One dream has always been to work on network TV, such as being able to cover the Kentucky Derby on the NBC broadcast. On a smaller scale, I would like to dabble in hosting and public speaking a little more. They are both positions that are uncomfortable and challenging – but it’s good to push yourself.
And lastly, what are some ways you would like to see horse racing change in order to grow and succeed in the future?
Racing is beginning to do well at adapting with the times but could do better. I respect any and all individuals that pursue new ideas. Whether or not they succeed, at least they try – and it might morph into another idea that sticks. The industry also needs to keep striving for a fairer, safer, self-sustainable game.
Gabby, 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!
Meet the Author: Amy Nesse