Saratoga Springs

Chatting at the track with … NYRA analyst Maggie Wolfendale

NYRA and Fox Sports paddock analyst and Maggie Wolfendale gives commentary on her pony before the 3rd race at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Saturday.
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NYRA and Fox Sports paddock analyst and Maggie Wolfendale gives commentary on her pony before the 3rd race at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Saturday.

Maggie Wolfendale is a third-generation – “on both sides” – horsewoman who says she basically grew up in barn 18 at Laurel Park in Maryland. She currently serves as a racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, for whom she has worked since 2010, and is a fixture at Saratoga Race Course throughout the summer.

In that time, her role has grown, as she quickly became known for her astute paddock analysis. These days, you can find her hosting shows, doing post-race interviews — some on horseback — or pretty much anything she is asked to, since she’s that versatile.

Her versatility comes from putting the hours in, quite impressive given that she is married to a fellow trainer – that’s right, she has her trainer’s license – Tom Morley and is a mother of two young daughters, Willow and Grace. She also is involved with horses’ aftercare as a member of the board of directors for Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Time management, she said, is crucial in her life.

“Absolutely, with two young kids and me not ever wanting to give up on the fact that I love to ride,” Wolfendale said. “Whether it’s on the track or off the track, I’m definitely not going to give that up anytime soon.”

Recently, Wolfendale discussed her career and life with The Daily Gazette. (Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity and space.)

Question: How did you get to be where you are now?

Answer: Once I was a few years into college, I really honed in on what I wanted to do, I decided to go out after that. Actually, I was a public relations major [at Towson University] with a minor in broadcast journalism. I married it all together. Once I graduated, I made a reel and a resume and sent it out to every racetrack.

I started with Maryland Jockey Club. I interned there and did some on-air stuff with Frank Carulli when he was there, then went to Colonial Downs for two summers and started here in the press box in 2010. As I sent out that tape and resume, NYRA and [racing analyst] Andy Serling and [former communications director] Dan Silver were the ones who called me back with legitimate interest in having this vision of what my role has been for the last 12 years.

Q: That role has expanded, though. Has it been fun?

A: Yes, with FOX’s [America’s Day at the Races] shows, getting to do some hosting duties as well. Obviously, I’ve always loved to do the horseback interviews too, so it’s a lot more involved, but the extra work is more than welcome.

Q: I know you used to work at your husband’s barn, too. Do you still do that?

A: If he needs me. At Belmont, if my mom’s up and can watch the girls, I can go out, like, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But up here, the girls can come to the barn more; it’s a little more friendly in that sense. And they go to the daycare right over at Faith’s House. If he needs me, I come, but I also have a horse on a farm about 15 minutes away I’ve been working with.

Q: What are some of your favorite career moments?

A: I’ve loved doing the horseback interviews. Plus, visually it’s interesting, I think, for the viewer. Probably one of the most memorable was interviewing Manny Franco in 2020 after Tiz the Law won the off-put [rescheduled] Travers, if you will. But galloping out, there were fans along the outside fence and The Horseshoe Inn. And those were the only cheers you could hear. When I was interviewing, we were right in front of those people lined up on the chain-link fence, so that was really, really cool. And then just recently I was interviewing Trevor McCarthy, whom I’ve known. He grew up in the Mid-Atlantic as well, started with Graham Motion as well. For him to win his first Grade I on a Graham Motion trainee was extra special. And his kind of raw emotion really kind of got to me. Some of those have been extra special. I’ll never forget interviewing my husband – I don’t know how I did it – the first year we were doing these shows, and he won the Ballerina, and I was pretty heavily pregnant and just an emotional wreck – happiness, tears of joy. That was a surreal moment for sure.

Q: What’s playing in your car, kids’ tunes I’d imagine?

A: Their favorite shows are “Bluey” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” So if you click on Pandora and put those two things in, you get, like, all the theme songs and more, so yes, that is generally what is playing with them in the car. With me, it’s been Sublime Radio on Pandora.

Q: What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

A: “The Yellow House.” I have a soft spot for New Orleans. My husband and I think of it as a second home. We spent several winters there, and “The Yellow House” is about a woman who grew up there; it’s sort of her life story, a memoir. I just found it fascinating, living through Katrina and the bureaucracy and how backwards things can still be down there, but at the end of the day nothing beats family and the love you share between each other.

Q: Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?

A: I’m obsessed with “Peaky Blinders.” I just finished season 6, and it’s a movie within itself. My favorite horse movie of all time – and I tell everybody that hasn’t seen it – is “Casey’s Shadow.” It’s from the 1970s and loosely based on [jockey] Randy Romero’s life. It’s about quarter horses rather than thoroughbreds, but the premise is still there. It’s about a Cajun family that happens to come upon this fast horse that they raced at their little backwoods farm in Louisiana, bush country.

Q: Do you do a lot of external studying or is it mostly just absorbed knowledge?

A: Oh, there’s a lot of studying. You see me here with three screens in front of me. That plays into the time management. I love DRF Formulator when you’re doing the 2-year-olds. Pedigree Query is a good tool to use for all the sales, the sales workouts. XBTV, their morning workouts that you can watch. Then, if you’re dealing with foreign horses, the Racing Post is a great tool as well.

Q: What do you want to see from the sport in the next five years?

A: Obviously we have the [Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act] now, and the foundation of it is good. There’s still a lot of wrinkles to iron out. Also, owners have every right to do with their money what they want with their horses, but we are heading down this avenue where a handful of trainers have the bulk of the horses, so that’s going to ruin everything. Obviously it is already happening with field size, but it also starts with the breeding industry. We just have to make it more attractive, more viable, more financially sustainable for people to want to breed their horses. It all comes down to a lack of foals, a lack of numbers, too. 

On the flip side of that, I do a lot with aftercare. I do a podcast called “Off Track,” and I interviewed Natalie Voss of The Paulick Report, who I think is very astute and so intelligent and has a lot of great ideas. I asked her ‘Where do you think we could do better with regards to aftercare?’ It goes full circle to the breeding shed because some of those horses are the ones who get forgotten. When a broodmare has been bred three times and she hasn’t been able to produce or carry to term, so therefore she’s not purposeful and she has to find a second career, that’s where a lot of horses get lost and fall through the cracks. We have so many organizations that take them and retrain them, give them rehab, second careers. We have TRF that gives them forever sanctuary for horses that can’t go into second careers, but those are horses directly from the racetrack. I think that another area we have to focus on is we have Old Friends – and Old Friends is fantastic, but those are the real known horses. What about the unraced broodmare who hasn’t produced anybody? That’s another area there needs to be improvement. It’s all cyclical. You hope it becomes more attractive for people to breed horses. I don’t know the answers to that, but I have faith that we have a lot of smart people working on it.

Categories: At The Track, Sports

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