This is Part 1 in my 4 part series to provide thoroughbred horse racing fans a glimpse at the four (4) candidates the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) has selected to be Frank Carulli’s replacement as the on-air television host during Laurel Park and Pimlico Meets. They are Ryan Fogelsonger, Dylan Smith, Jacqueline “Jackie” Savoye and Gabrielle “Gabby” Gaudet. Kudos to MJC for seeking to allure the “Gen Y” crowd as the average age of these four finalists for the job is 25½.
Since 2002, Carulli has been the Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park handicapper and racing analyst, but will leave MJC at the conclusion of the Pimlico spring meet (June 8th), relocating to Las Vegas. Considered one of the best in the business in making the Morning Line (Odds), those duties will be handed over to Equibase chart caller Keith Feustle, when live racing resumes in September at Laurel Park. Feustle can be seen on the “Today At The Races” pre-race show on the Maryland simulcast signal with his co-host, track announcer Dave Rodman.
The brain-trust at MJC decided to give each candidate the opportunity to showcase their talent on-air as part of the interview process. So this week (March 20-23) at Laurel Park, each will have one day to prove themselves worthy of filling Carulli’s shoes. First up on Wednesday (Mar. 20th) is Ryan Fogelsonger. Dylan Smith will tackle the Thursday (Mar. 21st) card, Jackie Savoye will be on-air Friday (Mar. 22nd) and Gabby Gaudet gets a crack at the Saturday (Mar. 23rd) card.
This past Saturday at Laurel Park, I spent a few moments with each of the contenders, to get to know a bit more about them, so I could introduce them to you. All were very impressive and enthusiastic to face the on-air challenge ahead of them. One shared, “It’s kind of weird, this live on-air audition and knowing the other applicants that you’re up against for the job. It feels like American Idol”.
Not quite American Idol because the decision on who will be hired as the new on-air racing analyst is solely an internal (MJC) one. There will be no fan voting, but your feedback is welcomed and should be directed to Mike Gathagan, MJC’s V.P. of Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t envy the MJC decision-makers. It will certainly be a tough call. I wonder if they would entertain a co-host format? It seems to work at other tracks having two people banter about versus one speaking directly into the camera. Just food for thought.
Now let’s meet…
… Ryan Fogelsonger, 31, currently a journeyman jockey, winner of 1,303 races in his career, captured eight (8) riding titles at the Maryland tracks, and was the 2002 Eclipse Award winning apprentice. He has not ridden since early November when he suffered a concussion during a spill. But this gig does not require riding skills, and Ryan is thankful for that, as he views this opportunity as his chance to start a second career.
“Let’s face it. I’m 31, I don’t have a college degree and this (horses) is all I know.”, Fogelsonger stated with a boyish grin.
Well no sheepskin can compare to the energy level and love he has for horses, which didn’t start until age 18. Ryan explained, “I was a track star in high school. One day a buddy of mine said, “You’re the perfect size to be a jockey. I know a trainer… maybe you should talk to him…”. So he agreed and added, “What was supposed to be a 15 minute talk turned into two (2) hours… and the rest is history”. The trainer who met with him that day was Dale Capuano.
When asked what his favorite riding memory is, Ryan took a few moments to search into his memory bank, shook his head and stated, “Just riding horses who loved to run and being a part of it”.
Ok, so we know he can ride and loves horses. So do the other three (Dylan, Jackie and Gabby). But can he command the attention of the horseplayer, looking for “short-term investment” (aka wagering) advice? The answer: No doubt! His confidence borders on cockiness, and he expressed his fondness for being in the spotlight, something he’s ready to tackle on Wednesday as the on-air guest handicapper at Laurel Park.
To describe Ryan Fogelsonger in one word, it would be Confident. After all, when first asked about this opportunity to showcase his on-air and handicapping talent, he exclaimed, “I’m going to kill it”!