If you've spent any time racing in Maryland, you know the Gaudet family. Trainer Eddie Gaudet, who died at the age of 87 early last year, was a fixture on the circuit – he arrived from Massachusetts in the 1950s and never left, training winners of the G2 General George, the G3 Anne Arundel, the Frederico Tesio and the Maryland Juvenile Championship. He trained 1971 Black-Eyed Susan winner At Arms Length and Concealed Identity, who competed in the 2011 Preakness and later became a stakes winner for Eddie's wife Linda after Eddie's retirement.
Now, Gaudet's daughters are making their mark in the racing world. Besides their father's training operation, they both had an uncle who trained, two aunts who were jockeys and another uncle who was a farrier on the track, so a life with Thoroughbreds seemed pre-ordained. Gabby focused on the media end of the sport, working for the Saratoga Special and Maryland Horse Radio alongside stints galloping horses before becoming an on-air analyst at Gulfstream Park, Maryland Jockey Club, Arlington Park, NYRA and TVG. Lacey turned her attention to training, working for Helen Pitts, Allen Iwinski and Tom Albertrani both in the role of assistant and exercise rider before taking the reins from her father.
Last year was a breakout season for Gaudet, with 48 winners from 252 starters and over $1.5 million in earnings. John Jones, a Maryland-bred she trains for Matthew Schera, has remained in the mix for Maryland-bred stakes at Laurel throughout the last three seasons and Farfellow Farm's Marabea picked up a win in the Claiming Crown Tiara in 2016, early in Gaudet's solo career.
On a recent sunny afternoon at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, Gaudet said she's had to make a conscious effort to avoid letting the stable getting too big.
“We'll get to 42, 45 and that's when it gets hectic, and to me that means we're not ready for that,” she said. “We're very hands-on, we're very individualistic, and I don't want to lose that. It's still probably going to be a five or six-horse string at Saratoga or Keeneland for right now.”
It's inaccurate to characterize any training operation as a completely “solo” effort of course, and Gaudet said she benefits tremendously from the input of her mother, Linda, who serves as a second set of eyes at the track and on the small farm they maintain.
“I bounce everything off of her. She sees everything,” said Gaudet. “It's fantastic to have her in the barn because I know that nothing gets missed. She went to Saratoga with us last summer. I made it up there three days last summer and I knew I didn't have to worry about it. Now that we're expanding, it's hard to find a good assistant trainer. It's not like they just spit them out of a school, and everyone's operation is different so what you expect from somebody is different than what the next person wants.”
But what's it like to have your mom work as your assistant? It hasn't always been easy. When the pair took over Eddie's training operation in 2011, Gaudet readily admits they had their scraps, made more complicated by the fact Linda owned some of the horses in Lacey's shedrow. Deciding who comes out on top in the owner/trainer dynamic is tricky enough without the owner and trainer also being mother and daughter.
“We said, 'You know what? We both enjoy doing this. We're smart. We can do this, but we need to put a plan together of how we're going to do things and give it six months and if we're not where we want to be, we'd quit and go do something else. We love it too much and work too hard to be tired and miserable,'” Lacey recalled.
That was five years ago.
Now, they work synergistically. Linda handles much of the office and business administration work, which Lacey never cared for, while Lacey deals with entertaining owners. Fortunately, they both like the same things in a horse, so Linda helps short list at sales while Lacey is occupied. They have clearly defined responsibilities and have sketched out who gets the final decision on which aspects of the business.
“I hate calling her my 'assistant' because she is, but she's not because she taught me everything,” she said.
Gaudet said her barn doesn't have a “brand” as far as a physical type of horse she prefers, but one thing she is starting to become known for is figuring out “complicated” horses.
“You'll see a horse that's tough, running off on the track or obviously doesn't fit into someone's program and my mom and I look at each other and say, 'I wonder how much they want for that horse,'” she said, noting her penchant for problem horses runs in the blood.
“My mom tells this old story of a horse that got loose in the paddock at Laurel, dropped the rider, jumped the fence, jumped two or three more fences and scraped his stifles up. My dad went up to the guy and said, 'Hey how much do you want for that horse?' and he said 'Give me whatever you have in your pocket.' He gave him two or three grand and I think we ended up making $250,000 or something with him on the grass.”
Sometimes, the quirks are simple – an equipment change, or the discovery a horse doesn't like “backing up” (jogging clockwise on the track before turning around to gallop counterclockwise). Other times, it's a matter of peeling back layers that can be as much mental as they are physical. Gaudet still gets on horses each morning, trying to ride each in the shedrow every other day, which helps her put the pieces together. She can figure out when a horse doesn't like being rushed in the morning, or needs a quieter rider.
“Usually horses that come with a lot of stories are the ones we say, 'Just put a D bit and a noseband on them and see how they are.' It's the ones that don't come with any stories that we say 'Oh they're going to be a tough one,'” she said.
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