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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Jessica Paquette describes herself as a “weird horse girl.” She was 6 when she was first fascinated by them at a New England fair. They were so big, but soft enough that she rubbed her nose.

She wanted them in her life.

His family belonged to the working class, making the life of a young horseman out of reach. But a nearby racetrack, Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire, became his classroom. She studied the horses closely like a warm walker, getting up before dawn to cool them off.

After school, she was back on the track in her Catholic school uniform to learn about the pedigree and rhythm of a group of elderly playing on horseback who, in addition to imparting knowledge, s’ ensured that no one disturbed the girl in the plaid sweater.

At 18, she was taking bets as a mutual clerk at Suffolk Downs in Boston and studying journalism at Rivier University in Nashua, NH.

She embarked on an internship in the Suffolk press gallery, then a job in its marketing department. Finally, she became an internal personality on the air, analyzing the appearance of racehorses in the paddock and choosing the winners.

At 37 years old, it is a multi-milking which has devoted itself to thoroughbreds, during their racing career and after.

Her connection to them was evident at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s summer farm here when she had Brickbat and My Teddy Bear – former racehorses – curtsying on her for peppermint and nuzzles. She is communications director for the foundation, which works to protect retired horses from abuse, neglect and slaughter, housing a few at the summer farm.

“If I could go back and tell myself what she would be doing in 20 years, I wouldn’t have believed her,” Paquette said. “All I have is because of the horses.”

In addition to her work with the foundation, she does public relations work for TVG, the horse racing network. She’s also disabled for The Saratoga Special, a must-read tabloid here for anyone who enjoys racehorses and the human figures around them.

These lessons with the elders at Rockingham Park have paid off. This month, Paquette selected a horse named State of Rest to win the $ 1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational. He did so, rewarding bettors $ 2 with a payout of $ 44.20.

“I don’t like picking my favorites,” she said. “When you’re a public handicapper, you have to pick favorites to satisfy the wheelchair quarterbacks. But it’s more fun to find a horse that’s overlooked.

Every Sunday, Paquette boards a plane in Boston, her home, for Richmond, Va., Where she is a paddock analyst for Colonial Downs.

On Thursday, she returns home with her husband, her dogs and the two racehorses she rescued from the racetrack, What a Trippi and Puget Sound.

There will be no third.

“One more horse, one less husband,” Paquette said, a wry smile creasing his face.

With What a Trippi, however, she belatedly realized her dream of becoming an equestrian. It was love at first sight when Paquette saw him in the Suffolk Downs paddock during his first race. He was handsome and racy.

“I wanted it from the moment I saw it,” said Paquette. “I’ll never know why, but it was him.”

She followed him through a tough 42-race career in which he won nine times and finished in the silver in 10 more races, earning over $ 111,000. In 2007, What a Trippi was named the New England 3-Year-Old Champion.

Three years later, with his running career behind him, Paquette bought him for $ 500.

“He was totally healthy,” she said.

Horse and rider went to work with a show horse trainer, where they learned to jump.

In 2014, they were touring the New England circuit competing as a hunter, where qualities such as manners, graceful movements and correct jumping style are rewarded. In 2017, What a Trippi was named the New England Reserve Champion – or runner-up – in its Hunter Division.

The experience deepened his commitment to finding a home for thoroughbreds beyond their racing days.

“This is the accomplishment of my life,” Paquette said. “They are not machines. Even though they are busts as racehorses, they are athletes, and we have to find them jobs.

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