By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun
3:43 PM EST, December 31, 2011
On the wall of Eddie Gaudet's office is a photo of him as a jockey sitting atop a winner in Florida in the 1950s. Tucked in among dozens of snapshots and 8-by-10s spread over three walls, is another from 1966 showing Gaudet as the winning trainer at Bowie Race Track.
"He's the dark-haired one," Linda Gaudet said, pointing to the photos of her husband. "He was the Dean Martin type."
"They used to call me Dean Martin," Gaudet, 81, said, his eyes twinkling from under a baseball cap.
The walls are an historic collage that will be adding more photos in the new year as the longtime Maryland horse trainer hands off his business to his wife and 23-year-old daughter Lacey.
But as important as it is to recognize history, Lacey knows it's even more important to push their business into the future.
She believes horse racing needs to be made more interesting, more fun and more attractive to a younger group of prospective owners and fans — which she hopes to achieve by using social media and unveiling a revemped website.
"You don't want it to be a sport of old people or to continue it being thought of as old fashioned," she said. "You want it to be a realistic weekend activity that people want to come out and enjoy. People don't want to call and talk any more. They want to go to the Internet and see it all laid out."
On the track, Lacey's goal is to continue her father's success.
Last year, Concealed Identity gave Gaudet his first Preakness entry in more than 50 years of training. Concealed Identity — who is co-owned by New York real estate developer Morris Bailey — won the Tessio Stakes to get to the Preakness, where he finished 10th. Afterward, he wrapped up this season with two easy wins on the Laurel Park turf.
Another highlight was Gaudet's work with Streetsofbrooklyn, a 4-year-old whose pedigree includes Secretariat, Seattle Slew and A.P. Indy. The trainer solved the horse's foot and knee issues and got him to the race track where he won five straight before returning to the barn. He had a chip removed from his knee and is now resting for the coming spring season.
"I want to start to take over where Dad is leaving off," Lacey said. "But I want to expand our exposure, bring in new owners. The way the sport needs to be marketed has changed. You see Facebook quoted in every newscast. I've been talking to Bob Baffert and a couple other trainers about Twitter and blogs. I have a Facebook page and I have friends who are owners all over the country."
Gaudet smiles as he listens to his daughter talk about her plans.
"I don't even know how to turn on a computer," he said.
Linda Gaudet said it wasn't easy for her husband to reach the decision to retire. Many trainers, in fact, never do, as it is often their only interest and they continue to love their work.
"But we all agreed, that we wanted the stable to go forward for next 20 to 40 years, for myself and Lacey," Linda, 59, said. "Lacey suggested it might be nice if he did it around his birthday in August. But his birthday came and went without a decision. We decided to leave it alone. And then one day in an interview with [Maryland Jockey Club vice president of communications] Mike Gathagan about Concealed Identity, he simply said he was going to retire at the end of the year."
The Gaudets have been a family operation for years. Linda, a show-horse woman when she met Gaudet, has been learning the business from her husband for 40 years. And Lacey has been around horses since she was a baby and working with them since she was 12.
"Linda is the brain right now," Gaudet said. "Lacey has been doing this since she was a baby. My other daughter, Gabrielle, [dates] jockey Sheldon Russell. They're two of a kind, quiet and laid back. Both of my daughters are something to be proud of."
In the industry, Gaudet is respected for his work, but he's also "a jokester" as fellow trainer King Leatherbury says.
Gaudet has plenty of stories, including the four times he said he died. Three of them came three years ago when he had emergency open heart surgery. The fourth was years before at Philadelphia Park when he was helping a friend with a horse in a trailer, and the horse decided it wanted to exit through the small side door, crushing Gaudet and then falling on top of him after they both had squeezed through the opening.
"The medics came and said I was dead, but my good friend Horace Savoy, who was with me, said, 'He's not dead,'" Gaudet recalled. "But they held a mirror under my nose and didn't see anything and said I was. I really had died for a little while. But then Horace saw my lips begin to move, and said, 'Look!' Then I got up and saddled my horse for the next race."
While he's technically retiring, Gaudet plans to still help Linda and Lacey in their roles as trainers and administrators.
"When you get to be 81, you lose a little," Gaudet said. "You get to forgetting. But some things you don't lose. I don't know why, but when it comes to the horses, I can still go over them and find the problems. I want to retire now because I want to give Lacey a little room, while I can still give her advice. And my wife is very capable. They won't need much help, but I'll be here. I'm going to hang out."
Gaudet has taught his wife and daughter the old ways.
"The hard ways," Linda said. "Everything we know came from Ed. He's been a good teacher, he really has."
Bailey, the only owner currently working with Gaudet, has been the stable's primary owner for more than 25 years. He calls Gaudet a "great horsemen" and adds he believes Gaudet is comfortable with his decision.
"He's a strong guy, able to perform at a level most people can't at his age," Bailey said, noting Gaudet still rides each morning at the track.. "But I think Eddie thought it was the right time. No one is a better trainer than Eddie. I think with Eddie stepping away from the title, but continuing to add his expertise and Linda and Lacey moving to the forefront it makes the whole operation stronger."
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