Back at Towson, Gaudet signed on for her usual 18 hours of classes, but continued galloping horses for her parents each morning. She also started appearing on Maryland Horse Radio, a show that airs on CBS Sports Radio in Baltimore every Tuesday evening.

The newspaper and radio jobs convinced Gaudet she wanted to be in horse-racing — just not in riding or training.

"Horse-racing has so many incredibly colorful characters in it, but to be honest, it tends to be kind of a closed-in community," she said. "I love collecting their stories, and I want to open that up."

Last year, when Carulli announced he would be leaving his position, the jockey club began a months-long search for a replacement. The finalists included three women — Gaudet and two horse trainers in their 20s — and a 31-year-old man who is a former jockey.

Each candidate had an all-day, on-air audition during the week of March 18.

Gaudet, who had never appeared live on-camera, approached the matter strategically. First, she contacted Jeannine Edwards, an ESPN horse-racing commentator, for advice. ("Just speak to the camera as though it's a person," Edwards said.)

Gaudet also requested the last of the four slots so she could size up her competition.

All were excellent, she says, but some were stronger as communicators, the others as analysts. Gaudet aimed to do both well.

Saturday, March 23, was "the longest day of my life — I can't tell you how tired I was when it was all over," she says, but by the end of the 10 races, she had picked mostly winners, shown off her ample research on the horses and established herself as a welcoming presence on the air.

Ten days after her audition, Gaudet became one of the handful of female handicappers in the nation.

She's thankful that the Maryland racing community has welcomed her with open arms. She also speaks at length of Carulli's help.

Her predecessor has shown her the intricacies of the Formulator, an online resource of The Daily Racing Form, the tabloid paper that prints racehorses' prior performances for the benefit of the betting public. He has advised her to use her industry contacts to serve up unique information veteran bettors can use. And he urged her to view the TV spots as a chance not just to make predictions but to put forth well-reasoned arguments.

"She has improved every week," Carulli said. "There are only a few [handicappers] on my A list. I think she has a chance to be one of them."

ESPN's Edwards, he adds, got her start in 1993 in the very job Gaudet is taking on now.

Gaudet knows her dream first gig won't always be easy. She'll eventually have to criticize horses whose trainers or owners she knows. She'll have bad days as a handicapper and she'll hear it from fans.

She might even get the cold shoulder from a source or two — though she eventually figured out that Breen, a long-time friend of her parents, was aware she was coming that day last summer and was actually putting her on.

She believes the prank helped her get ready for what lies ahead.

"Some people really are just going to laugh at you and walk away," Gaudet said. "That helped me realize I can't have a thin skin in this job. I expect to be doing it for a long time."

Gabby Gaudet

Age: 22

Job: Handicapper at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park

From: Prince George's County

Education: Senior at Towson University majoring in mass communications and graphic design; St. Mary's High School graduate

Parents: Eddie and Linda Gaudet, longtime horse trainers

Previous experience in horse racing: Trained horses for her parents; reported for The Saratoga Special newspaper; appeared on "Maryland Horse Radio."

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