My guest today for this edition of “Behind the Mic” is Michelle Yu. Whether it’s at Santa Anita, HRTV or now Los Alamitos, you can almost always find Michelle talking about Southern California horse racing year round, and doing it with a big smile on her face!
1. How did you get into Horse Racing?
MY: I was always into horses and found a picture of a racehorse in the LA Times. That led me to start reading the sports section every day to find out more and more about horses. My dad took me to my first race on Big Cap day.
What was your first job in horse racing?
MY: My first job in racing was as a PA for TVG. Around that time I also walked hots for Ron Moquett.
What are some of the key factors you look for when handicapping a race?
MY: I always look for excuses. I generally try and beat the favorite or at least find a price horse to play with the favorite. So I key in on horses with back form that I can make excuses for like a bad trip, an off track, a surface swap or too much competition. I also like 2x lasix, 3rd off a layoff and drop from a maiden claiming tag to half the price for 1x vs winners .
You often do interviews in the winner’s circle after the big races, what are some of the more memorable interviews/races you’ve been in the winner’s circle for?
MY: Gosh, I have done so many and at the time its easy to remember but as the years go by they kind of blend……I interviewed Jess Jackson one time in the pouring rain but I can’t remember if it was for Rachel or Curlin and he didn’t talk to anyone else that day so I got my interview played all over and I was a newbie so that was memorable. A funny one was when I was interviewing Bill Currin (trainer of Stormello) on a colt that had won first time on the grass and we had been noticing that Stormellos were striking at an unbelievable rate on the lawn. So I had asked Bill if he ever thought that Stormello would be a good turf sire and he says (live, mind you) “Well…..you know I think that the only time Stormy ever set foot on the grass was to go and take a piss.”. There have been a lot of emotional moments especially here at Santa Anita with owners that are older or sick winning with a homebred or taking their first stake that everyone is in tears. And even after the 2 year old races…you can see the hope people have.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on camera?
MY: I don’t really get embarrassed. I mean it’s live TV. Sometimes you say something wrong but you just push past. I am always the one to eat weird food or learn a dance or make a spectacle so that’s not a good question for me!!!
As a public handicapper, you get criticized and praised. What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said to you? What about the harshest?
MY: Anything that is nice is always great. Thanks to Twitter especially, fans can connect right with you all the time. They might have played a winning longshot and are thanking you or just appreciate you explaining something they didn’t know or understand. You always get a smile on your face when you read or hear that you made a difference in someones day. The harshest is always the same. “you don’t know anything because you’re a girl”, ” all you know you learned from sleeping with xxx” ” Why show this giggly child when there are real handicappers” and anything to do with a mumbled word. I am first to admit that I am by no means perfect and that I don’t annunciate flawlessly all the time but again, it’s live TV and no one is perfect. I think that I worked very hard to get where I am and I am the first to ask if I don’t know something. And as far as me laughing and having fun, well have you seen my job?? How do you NOT have fun?!! I LOVE it, I can’t help but smile and laugh and cheer. Its amazing.
You have an off the track Quarter Horse. Tell us how you and he met and what you love about off the track horses?
MY: My current OTQH is named It’s Our Secret. I remember I was at the State Championships for gymkhana and I was speaking to my boyfriend at the time asking him what he had claimed that day and he said “we got a horse you’re going to want for a barrel horse. Bay with a blaze and socks”. Im a sucker for a blaze and sure enough, when I got back to the barn I was head over heels. I started working on flexing and stuff with him right away while he was still racing and a year and a half later he was my Christmas present. I have had several off track Thoroughbreds, IOS is my first QH but they are just so smart. They seem to take all this new stuff you’re asking them to do in stride, they are appreciative to have a human around. I have a 30 year old Navajo mustang too and he could care less if I came out to groom him or ride him but the off track horses have always loved it.
What’s your best hit as a gambler?
MY: I don’t really gamble!! I hit the Oaks Derby double with Lemons Forever and got $864 or something for my $2 bet.
In 2015 you get to handicap any race in the world on TV….which race would you choose?
MY: Does this mean I get to GO to the race???? I have always wanted to go to Dubai and I would love to go to the Arc. If its just on TV, then I have to say that I am SO fortunate to be a part of HRTV because we really get to cover the best races. We talk about Dubai, Ascot, The Arc, Derby, Breeders Cup…. You always get to be a part of amazing races.
It’s the last race at Santa Anita and I’m getting hungry. Where are you gonna send me after the races for a great meal?
MY: If I was sending you for food I would probably quiz the heck out of you about what you wanted because I aim to please. If you want to rub elbows with racing, head to the Derby. If you want an upscale meals for a mid scale price Sesame Grill (french based cuisine!). Chicken? Head to Roscos Chicken and Waffles. Just need to drink your woes away? 100 to 1 or Gem City (Can’t promise any food there…)