Jessica Paquette is the Director of Communications of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the paddock host and handicapper at Colonial Downs and this week's The Player's Edge podcast and live YouTube/Facebook guest.
Sam Houston horseplayer are sure to recognize her name and voice as she just finished a stint the track's race announcer. Jessica is proactive off the track as well.
She was kind enough to share some of her experiences with Horse Racing Radar.
HRR: You recently got to call the races at Sam Houston Racetrack, how was that experience?
Jessica Paquette: It was one of the great thrills of my life. It was very much outside of my comfort zone, so I was quite nervous – but after a few races, once I got more confident, it was just so much fun. Everyone at the track was incredibly welcoming – there is nothing like the community of a racetrack – and I felt at home right away.
HRR: Along with being a paddock host and handicapper at Colonial Downs, you are involved with a few off the track horse racing causes:
Tell us about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation where you are the Director of Communications.
Jessica Paquette: My greatest passion in the industry is Thoroughbred aftercare and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that has been at the forefront of aftercare for over 35 years. The TRF provides sanctuary for our retired athletes that are not able to go on to traditional second careers. Every horse deserves a soft landing and a happy ending.
HRR: You are riding in the "Real Rider Cup". What is it about and when is it?
Jessica Paquette: The Real Rider Cup is an event based out of Fair Hill in Maryland and is put on by Anita Motion and Maggie Kimmitt. It is a charity horse show to raise money to support aftercare and brings people from all over the industry together. All of us will ride an OTTB (off the track Thoroughbred) over a jump course – some people have their own horses they use; I will borrow one when I get there since my own Thoroughbreds are no longer physically able to jump.
It is the most fun thing I do each year and for a great cause.
HRR: If people want to help either, how can they?
Jessica Paquette: You can learn more about the TRF (including the Second Chances program which is incredible) at www.trfinc.org and you can donate to the Real Rider Cup (in my name!) at www.therealridercup.com
HRR: You've won some awards as a show horse rider. Explain to horse racing-centric fans like me what show horse riding is and the awards you've won?
Jessica Paquette: I am not an exceptionally gifted rider but have gotten to have some wonderful experiences in the show ring. My horse of a lifetime is What a Trippi, my off-the-track Thoroughbred that raced at Suffolk Downs. His greatest achievement was being named Reserve Horse of the Year in his division as a show hunter in 2017. He was also New England's champion three-year-old as a racehorse in 2007 so it is really special to me that he was a recognized champion in two very different sports.
HRR: As a "weird, crazy, horse racing kid" – your words not mine for the record - you were a part of Kids to the Cup. What was Kids to the Cup and what was your fondest memory of being in that organization?
Jessica Paquette: There are so many. Kids to the Cup was life changing for me. One of the true highlights was getting to walk through Todd Pletcher's shedrow for the first time (he was always incredibly gracious and welcoming to us) and meeting a little chestnut colt that would define me as a racing fan – Graeme Hall was one of my big loves in racing and getting the chance to visit him throughout his career is something I'll always be grateful for.
HRR: After a quick Google search, it doesn't look as if Kids to the Cup is still operating. Since it was so fundamental to your love of the sport, have you considered starting a similar organization?
Jessica Paquette: I would love to find a way to encourage young people from all walks of life to be more engaged in the sport.
HRR: In a YouTube interview, you mentioned that you've typed up some horse racing related Tweets in the heat of the moment that you deleted before posting. What is the most common topic of those deleted Tweets?
Jessica Paquette: I try to remind myself often that if I have nothing nice to say, I should probably just be quiet.
I love this sport more than anything else in the world, so I sometimes get frustrated by the lack of national oversight and habitual rule-breakers.
HRR: In the same podcast, you flexed your pedigree knowledge. What is your favorite sire and dam combo for thoroughbred racing today and why?
Jessica Paquette: As far as premier stallions go, I think Curlin is going to be one of the most important stallions of this era. His offspring are mentally and physically sound and incredibly versatile. I also very partial to mares by Two Punch and get very excited by multi-generational homebreds and strong female families.
One of my OTTBs is by A.P. Indy and out of Grade 1 winner Balletto (UAE) and I am always blown away by the history of the sport that shows through in him. He's the best-bred animal I will ever be around.
HRR: How important is pedigree in your handicapping?
Jessica Paquette: Pedigree only takes you so far, but it is an interesting way of offering some insight for a horse doing anything for the first time – first start, first try at a distance, first try over a surface. There are some traits – both mental and physical – that do get passed down and it is fascinating to see that in action.
HRR: One last thing, you love to run. What is about running that appeals to you and are there any "spiritual" – for lack of a better term - similarities that you experience when riding show horses? Or for that matter, just being around your horses?
Jessica Paquette: I am a really competitive person and for some reason, running channels that in a very positive way. I am not competing with anyone else – even in a race or marathon setting – I am only competing with myself to be slightly better or faster than I was the time before.
I prefer to ride alone. My favorite time of day is first thing in the morning at my barn when no one else is there. It is my quiet time where I can be completely present with my horse – it isn't a social thing for me, it is my time enjoying my relationship with him.
At a show, there is nothing like the connection doing a round on a horse that knows and loves the job. You feel like you both are trying to accomplish the same thing and working as a true team. I've never ridden in a race, but I imagine that feeling is what a jockey gets.
Make sure you follow Jessica on Twitter@jmpaquette.
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