Paquette debuted with the Turner Broadcasting affiliate in the weeks before the Kentucky Derby, offering a concise overview of the field of Derby hopefuls, ultimately choosing Kentucky Derby winner Orb as the one.
And, in the weeks leading up to the May 18th Preakness, Paquette will continue to prognosticate as horses are added and subtracted from the card of the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, the unfailingly optimistic horse fan discusses her online sports writing efforts, the Triple Crown, and horse racing.
Q: Jessica, you say you’re Orb obsessed this Triple Crown season. What’s different about this year for you?
I think Orb has just everything going for him. This, for the most part, I feel is a pretty soft group of three-year-olds and I think that since he was able to strongly defeat them in the Derby, he should have no issue doing it two more times. In addition, he is owned and trained by some of the greatest people in the sport. As a traditionalist with a love for racing history, it is impossible to root against the Phipps/Janney/McGaughey trifecta. They do everything the right way and it is about time they got rewarded with an elusive Derby winner.
Q: You picked Orb to win the Derby, despite not knowing how he’d do in the mud. Could you explain how your handicapping prowess pointed to him?
I thought he was head and shoulders the best horse in the race regardless of the surface. Luckily, his pedigree (he is by Malibu Moon, a son of AP Indy who has developed a reputation for producing off track proficient horses) aided my argument that the mud would not be an issue for him. Another strength for him on an off track was the fact he had already proven he could handle getting dirt kicked back at him. Some horses do not handle it well the first time they get dirt or mud kicked back and he had already shown that was a nonissue.
Q: He was pretty far back in the pack, early on in the Derby, and he ran wide. How does this technique or sheer grit impact your handicapping for the Preakness?
He was perfectly ridden by Joel Rosario. Rather than risk getting stopped in traffic, he took him wide and kept him out of trouble. His running style I think will be effective anywhere. He is a closer but he is not the type of closer that has to spot the field a dozen lengths and comes from nowhere. He comes from far back, but is tactical enough to be closer if there is a pedestrian pace.
Q: You’ve recently taken your handicapping skills to a larger audience at online sports publication, The Bleacher Report. How does your career as a handicapper and publicist at Suffolk Downs help inform your newest sports writing position?
I hope that I am able to offer an insider’s perspective on our wonderful sport and because of what I have done at Suffolk Downs for so long as the racing analyst, I am not shy at all about having opinions!
Q: Does The Bleacher Report’s interest in horse racing and the appearance of Orb give you reason to hope for a good year in racing?
I think this could be a stellar year for racing. The television ratings for the Kentucky Derby were extremely high and through interesting venues like The Bleacher Report, racing is able to reach a different, new audience and hopefully gain some fans and momentum. And besides, it is easy to be excited about racing when there are so many horses racing right now to be excited about even beyond the Triple Crown. Of course there is Orb, but there are also superstars like Wise Dan racing and he is tremendous to watch.