By Naomi Tukker
A familiar face to most racing insiders, Godolphin Flying Start graduate Gina Harding is a regular host on At The Races, whilst also fronting the coverage of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales. Previously a part of the Channel 4 Racing team, Gina has travelled the globe presenting horseracing and its colourful stories to the wider public. Current Godolphin Flying Start trainee Naomi Tukker caught up with her on a rare day off.
NT: First things first, are you a morning person or a night owl?
GH: Morning. I have a 1 1/2-year-old, I have no choice. However, every morning is different depending on whether I am working in the studio, on location or enjoying a day at home with my son. Needless to say it usually starts early and involves a large coffee.
NT: Was horse racing always your industry of choice, especially as a broadcaster?
GH: I had always harboured a desire to work in racing media however after going to University to study Modern Languages at Cambridge, I couldn’t envisage how I would break into an industry I had no access to or whether it would indeed be feasible to combine a career with my passion. I had completed several law internships during my degree and was all set to apply to do a law conversion course when thankfully I stumbled across the Godolphin Flying Start programme and the Law application went straight in the bin.
NT: What was your first big break?
GH: I would say I have had two pivotal moments in my career so far. The first was landing a job on At The Races in 2008 where I received my formative training and had the opportunity to improve and build experience as a broadcaster. The second was getting the call up to join the Channel 4 Racing team in 2012 which gave me the all important insight into working on a terrestrial broadcast alongside some of the best talent in the business both in front of and behind the camera.
NT: What is the best career advice you can give to anyone wanting to work in the industry?
GH: Make sure you are willing to take the rough with the smooth. A lot of people looking in from the outside probably imagine a racing broadcaster spends a lot of time dressing up in fancy outfits and attending some of the most glamorous race meetings in the world. It’s worth remembering that for every day spent working at a Royal Ascot or a Dubai World Cup, there has usually been 10 spent in the rain midweek at Fontwell or Southwell. Every job involves hard graft for often very little reward, but that is the price you pay to be involved in an industry as rewarding and exciting as this one.
NT: What do you think the racing industry will look like 10 years from now?
GH: Unfortunately, unless the distribution of prize money can be more egalitarian, the industry is destined to become increasingly elite with [a] country’s companies and wealthy individuals dominating the purchase of bloodstock and success on the track.
NT: Currently in its 14th year of operation, do you think there still is space for aspiring industry leaders after 152 Godolphin Flying Start graduates have come through the program so far?
GH: The great thing about the Godolphin Flying Start is the diversity of the students involved, both in terms of their nationality and areas of expertise, which ensures there is always space for more industry leaders to populate what is an ever-growing industry globally.
NT: What role do you believe the broadcasting industry plays in promoting the sport and attracting new people to the racing industry?
GH: The role it plays is huge and in my opinion has been slightly taken for granted on occasion. The racing industry is extremely lucky to have enjoyed an unprecedented level of exposure on terrestrial television and it is something that should not be underestimated. Less racing on mainstream TV has a knock-on effect on revenue from media rights, bookmakers and sponsorship which in turn affects the racecourses and governing bodies’ ability to promote the sport.
NT: Being closely involved at the sales, which first-season sire’s progeny are you most looking forward to seeing on the track next year?
GH: Sea The Moon. A brilliant winner of the German Derby who was a short price for the Arc before suffering a career ending injury. He is throwing some exceptional physicals by all accounts that sold well and he should make an impact with his 2-year-olds towards the end of 2018 before they develop into smart 3-year-olds.
NT: Which horse are you most looking forward to seeing in the Classics next year?
GH: I am a big fan of Karl Burke’s Fillies Mile winner Laurens. She is a huge imposing filly and you always get the impression that what she achieved this year would be something of a bonus. Having already won a Group 1, it certainly bodes well for next year when she will have hopefully strengthened up and prove an even more exciting proposition over further.