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The People Behind Preakness

by Katherine O. Rizzo Last May, T e Equiery presented eight key

players who bring the Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness Stakes to life each year. T is year we are introducing a few more of those faces to give you a behind-the-scenes glance of the Pimlico Spring Meet and Preakness week. From pony riders to photographers to stewards to analysts, these people help make the Preak- ness Stakes the most widely telecast equestrian event in Maryland.

Gabby Gaudet – Racing Analyst Towson Univer-

sity graduate Gabby Gaudet went through a tough interview process to earn the job as racing analyst for Laurel and Pim- lico. Last spring, she and three other can- didates went through an on-air audition at Laurel Park. “I was really looking for a younger face and someone who would come out and re- ally step up to take the job. T e then 22-year- old Gaudet did just that,” said Mike Gathagan, MJC Vice President/Communications. “Being this young in this sort of position has its ups and downs,” she said. “Racing has been sort of an older man’s sport and there were some critics who initially felt I hadn’t been around the track long enough to do the job.” Although she is now only 23, Gaudet has spent her whole life in and around the rac- ing industry as the daughter of trainers Eddie (now retired) and Linda Gaudet. Her offi cial position includes handicapping

between races, with the results tweeted to the public as well as being found online. “I try to pick out the horses who are most likely to win each race, in my opinion, and give spectators some insight into the trainers, bloodlines of the horses, etc.” She also writes a blog for Pim- lico, Laurel and Preakness websites and pro- duces news of the day and week for simulcast. “Last Preakness I interned with Frank [Carulli, former MJC racing analyst] before offi cially taking on the job in September. I feel like I did a 180 from last year. T is year I have my own niche. I’m more myself.” Gaudet’s age has actu- ally helped her and MJC reach a younger crowd and bring a younger audience out to the track. “Preakness week takes on a whole new level. It is a madhouse, but a good madhouse,” she said. Her biggest advice for bettors and specta- tors is to head down to the paddock and actu- ally look at the horses. “It might sound clichéd but you really need to look at them. T e win- ners stand out.” | 800-244-9580

Phil Grove, Adam Campola and John Burke – Stewards

Chief steward Phil Grove said it best when he stated, “T is room has over 100 years of com- bined experience.” T e three men who make up the steward list for Maryland racing have probably held every job you can think of at a track including being jockeys, trainers, owners, jockey agents, clerk of scales and racing offi cials. T ese various positions make them experts in the sport of racing and thus help ensure that races in Maryland are held fairly. “We are hired by the Maryland Racing Commission and thus work for the state and we have jurisdiction over all the racing personnel at the track,” Burke ex- plained. In order to become a steward, candidates

must fi rst rise through the ranks of being racing offi cials and then apply to steward school. At the end of training, they must pass an exam be- fore earning a steward’s license. Every two years they must take continuing education classes. “T e toughest part is just getting a job,” Burke said, as there are not that many tracks left in the U.S. and each track only has three stewards. Two stewards stand at the steward box win- dow watching the race, and one watches a set of video monitors showing the race from several angles. T e three stewards rotate positions af- ter each race. “Good horsemanship is the most important part of this job. We want to keep the track safe,” Grove said. An inquiry can either be made by the stewards based on something they

full of Preakness partygoers. “Preakness day is my favorite day of the year,”

Burke said. Campola, who also is a steward for steeplechase racing, commented, “It gets more and more exciting around here as more and more people come out to the track the closer we get to Preakness. Black-Eyed Susan is a lit- tle more relaxed.” “T ere are more owners that tend to come out for Black-Eyed Susan. T at is when the momentum of the weekend starts to pick up,” Grove added.

Karen Przybyla – Pony Rider

Karen Przybyla did not start riding until later in life. She did not grow up on the backstretch or at a nearby farm. In fact, she was a model for a few years until she married rider Eddie, who is now the senior outrider for Pimlico.

“I started by just walking horses for various people and picking up odd jobs here and there,” Przybyla said, adding that through the years everyone at Pimlico and Laurel has been so kind and taught her everything she knows. Now after 40 years of being a pony rider, Przybyla is known around the barns as “mom.” T e job of a pony rider is a big responsibility.

see during the race or by a jockey who was in the race. Each outrider has a radio and when a race is over, a jockey can request a hold if neces- sary and speak with the stewards. If an inquiry is made, the stewards will then review the race footage as many times as needed and vote as to whether an infraction was made or not. “Some- times it takes a long time but that is so we make sure that everything is fair.” Another tidbit about the steward position is that at the start of the race, it is the stewards who stop all betting for that race. As soon as the starting gates open, a button is pushed to end all betting. And of course, as is necessary, the stewards have the best view of every race! High atop Pimlico’s grandstands, the stewards can see the entire track even when the infi eld is

“We’re like babysitters. We have to be patient and quiet and make sure the jockeys and horses get to the starting gate safely,” she explained. Each evening before race days, all the pony riders meet to go over the next day’s race card and fi gure out which pony riders might need some extra help. “We are all self-employed and licensed through the Maryland Jockey Club. We build our own client lists through the years and work with specifi c trainers.” Riders own their own ponies and cover their own expenses such as bedding, hay and feed. “Our horses have to come fi rst. T ey’re our partners out there. It takes a special type of horse to be a pony horse. T ey must be docile and have a friendly attitude. I’ve been fortunate through the years to have some of the nicest horses either given to me or purchased for me.” Przybyla‘s current mount is a Quarter Horse named Mouse who had an old stifl e injury and who her husband bought for her. “I started cry- ing; he was so beautiful and he is just perfect for this job. I’d like to have fi ve more like him.” Although being a pony rider is a year-round job, Przybyla says Preakness week is extra spe-

continued... MAY 2014 | THE EQUIERY | 37

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club


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