We had a chance to catch up with this week's The Players
Edge podcast guest Ashley Mailloux to see how things are working out for her in
South Florida. She also shares her thoughts on how horse racing could appeal to
new fans as it appealed to her as young girl on family trips to the horse
On the Players' Edge Podcast, she will tell us who she likes
in the Florida Derby and provide insights from Gulfstream Park. Make sure you put it
on your calendar.
HRR: Your parents would take you to the track as a
young girl and that's how you fell in love with horse racing. You said your dad
jokingly takes credit for your math abilities because of teaching you how to read
the odds. What handicapping method did he teach you as a young girl that you
use most often today?
Ashley Mailloux: I don't know if there is a specific
"method" that my dad taught me as a kid, but the Daily Racing Form was what my dad
used, and he taught me how to read the form at a young age. I would ask
questions and little by little, I'd learn something new each time we went to
the track. Many years later, the DRF is still my go to!
HRR: In getting ready for our podcast, doing our
usual due diligence on our guests, you mentioned in a post on your high school
page that your friends would be surprised that you went home to work after
college. Well, now you are at Gulfstream Park in Miami, a long way from
Buffalo. Tell us if it was the job or the weather that motivated you?
Ashley Mailloux: While the weather is completely
different in Florida than Western New York, it was 100% the job that motivated
me to move. I have always been passionate about racing and the past few years;
I've been patiently waiting (and hoping) for the right opportunity to come
along. I was lucky to land a job in a sunny place, but I must admit, I miss the
change of season already as well as the hiking spots back home!
HRR: Fill us in on what you are doing at Gulfstream.
Ashley Mailloux: I am a project lead for 1/ST Racing
and work out of Gulfstream Park. I work and manage a variety of projects that
involve all different aspects of racing and operations. I am lucky to work with
Aidan Butler, the COO of 1/ST Racing and President of 1/ST Content. I just
started two months ago, and I've already learned a lot from him and he has
given me numerous opportunities to learn and grow.
HRR: You have a Masters in Applied Mathematics, two
1 – how do you use advanced math to help you with your
Ashley Mailloux: I don't have some creative algorithm
or software that I created myself or anything like that. I'm a form gal. I read
the DRF, watch replays, and when possible, I try to watch workouts. In terms of
handicapping, I'm always looking for value. While in the past few years, I've
dabbled more in horizontal wagers, exactas and trifectas are still my go-to
wagers and I'm constantly looking for a price horse to key.
2 – you used to assess risk when working at M&T Bank.
How can horse racing use risk modeling techniques to maximize/improve the
safety for horses, track surfaces, jockeys...?
At my job at M&T Bank, patterns and certain behaviors can tell us a
lot about a customer of the bank. With anything, patterns are indicative. When
something continuously happens, a change needs to be made and sometimes the
changes are minimal. When collecting data and information, the more you collect
and track, usually the better. I think in terms of improving safety of the
horses and their riders and quality of the track, collecting data is key. All
sorts of data would be beneficial – how the track is being maintained, weather
conditions, the composition of the track, what sorts of injuries are popping
up, etc. These are just things that come to my mind, I'm not an expert on track
surfaces, but these are the sorts of things someone would want to collect and
analyze to see if they can make adjustments to improve quality, etc. From
articles I've read over the years, there is a lot that goes into maintaining a
racetrack and keeping it safe – personally, I find it quite interesting and
suggest other fans of the sport read up on it. There is certainly a science to
HRR: You've visited around 40 tracks prior to COVID
and wanted to get back on the trail of visiting tracks once things reopened to
the public. Oaklawn was next on your list. Have you been there, and if so, how
was the experience?
Ashley Mailloux: I have not been to Oaklawn yet. I
honestly was hoping that last year or this year, I'd be able to take my dad for
his birthday, but with COVID, I put that plan on hold. Del Mar is one track
that I hope I can check off my list in 2021. A lot of folks say it's better
than Saratoga, which is one of my favorites, so I must see it for myself!
HRR: For a sport to grow, it must attract new fans,
particularly young fans. Once again, a two-part question.
1 – your love of the sport of kings started when you were
young through your parents taking you to the track. We've heard the same story
from multiple podcast guests. What can tracks do to make going to the track a
family friendly day out?
Ashley Mailloux: I think tracks need to have more
family-friendly amenities available. When I was a kid, I remember pony rides at
Tampa Bay Downs, a kids club at Woodbine Racetrack, etc. Those "little"
experiences turned out to be not so little in the grand scheme of things. Two
summers ago, my nieces went to Fort Erie for the first time and they loved just
seeing the horses in the paddock and the excitement of the races. When I was a
kid, I was the same way. Fort Erie does a family day at the races with a bounce
house, face painting, etc. and it's a great opportunity to get kids to the
track and to expose them to racing. There are so many fun events that
racetracks can put on to attract families and I feel that this is somewhere
that the industry falls flat. Hopefully once we're all not dealing with a
pandemic, racetracks can hold some of these events.
2 – how would you suggest the horse racing industry use
social media tools to bring more, younger people to the track?
Ashley Mailloux: Social media is a powerful tool and
one that can be used to really show the different experiences at the racetrack.
I firmly believe that you can take someone to the racetrack for the first time
and upon leaving the track, they can name one thing that they enjoyed - there
is something for everyone. Whether it's the social atmosphere on a big race
day, post-race entertainment, tasty food and beverages, gambling, or the thrill
of the races themselves, there is something for everyone. Social media can be
used to highlight all experiences – not just a particular one. This past year,
I feel like the multimedia companies in horse racing did a great job marketing
racing via social media platforms and due to COVID, at one time, racing was the
only sport still operating so a lot of different organizations capitalized on
the opportunity to promote the sport through social media since basically no
one was allowed to attend the races. For example, America's Best Racing put on
several livestream shows to promote racing and teach others how to
handicap/wager, and TVG did a tremendous job providing viewers with
behind-the-scenes footage on some of racing's biggest days such as the
Breeders' Cup. Going forward, we need to continue to find creative ways to
promote the sport and attract new fans of all ages.
HRR: My nephews and nieces are your age, some are
concerned with the treatment of horses, which is understandable. How should the
industry tackle the issue of horse safety/wellbeing?
Ashley Mailloux: Education is key. As an industry, we
can verbalize how well horses are treated, but we need to show people how well
they are treated. Let them see for themselves with their own eyes. I'd love to
see tracks offer more morning tours of the backside and allow them to see just
how well the horses are taken care of and how much they are loved. In my
opinion, the mornings at the racetrack are the absolute best and it's where all
the heavy lifting is done in order to prep horses for the races. You can see
all the different people involved with the horses and how much they care for
each animal in their shed row. They're treated like members of the family and it's
something that is truly special.
HRR: Finally, you said that you are more Buffalo
Sabres than Buffalo Bills. With the Bills ever so close to being a Super Bowl
team, is that still the case?
No. I love the Sabres, the Bills... not so much. I was raised
in a non-Bills household and I don't think I'll ever change. I don't root
against them, but I don't root for them.
HRR: And, now that you are in South Florida, lucky
you, are you going to switch your pro-hockey allegiance to the Florida
Ashley Mailloux: I don't think so, but with the way
things are going for the Sabresso this season... I may need to switch my
allegiance, haha! I do hope to attend a Panthers game before the season ends –
hockey games are a lot of fun to attend and my second favorite sport, behind
horse racing, of course!
Catch up with Ashley on Twitter at @ashley_mailloux and Facebook at facebook.com/ashley.mailloux.5