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Christina Olivares

From The Guest House

Q&A with
TVG's Christina Olivares

Thoughts on:
Animal Planet's Jockeys...
And more...

Guest House

Christina Olivares will be part of a trio of TVG crews broadcasting important Breeders' Cup preps this weekend from Belmont, Keeneland and Santa Anita/Oak Tree. Equidaily caught up with the popular TVG personality and, with Zenyatta poised this weekend to help continue the theme of 2009 as the year-of-the-female in racing, we posed some timely questions...

Equidaily: As 2009 has progressed it seems like females -- both human and equine -- have become important stories in the racing game (Rachel, Zenyatta, Ventura, Linda Rice, etc).

What impact, if any, do you think this has had on the racing industry?

Christina Olivares: The biggest impact has been the national recognition that Rachel Alexandra has brought to the sport. The amount of people still going to visit Rachel to this day, even though she doesn't have any immediate race plans is proof of that. After her win in the Woodward at Saratoga, I had a friend tell me, "I've been to the Kentucky Derby, I've been to the Dubai World Cup, I've been to the Melbourne Cup in Australia, never before have I heard a crowd cheer like that for a horse."

EQD: Zenyatta goes for win #13 this weekend -- how special is she, and how does "undefeated" add to that "specialness"?

CO: Zenyatta is the most special horse I've been able to follow. I was at Hollywood Park for her debut race and I knew when she crossed the finish line that I had seen the beginning of something special. For any horse to win even two, three, or four races in a row is difficult.....anything can happen out there. What makes Zenyatta so amazing is that she overcomes anything in front of her and somehow manages to win every single time. She can overcome a slow pace, she can chase a fast pace, she can weave her way through traffic, and she's talented enough to take the longest path around and literally run circles around her competition. One stride for her is two for the competition....watching her move when she's on the attack is breathtaking. Her undefeated status makes every race that much more dramatic. I get nervous every time she runs....and she's not my horse! But when something so significant is on the line, her legacy, each race becomes that much more exciting.

EQD: Zenyatta won last time [Clement Hirsch Stakes on Aug 2] in an absolute squeaker -- how do you anticipate she'll perform in The Lady's Secret on Saturday?

CO: I don't want to jinx her, but I think Zenyatta will win The Lady's Secret on Saturday and put herself in the history books alongside another brilliant racemare in Personal Ensign. Her win in the Clement Hirsch was so close because of the slow early pace that she had to overcome. That win was proof of her extraordinary ability.

EQD: If Zenyatta wins this weekend and takes an undefeated 13-for-13 record into the Breeders' Cup which race do you think she'll run in: The Ladies' Classic or The Classic?

And, as a fan, which race would you like to see her enter?

CO: I think she'll run in the Classic verses the boys. I think that her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss and her trainer, John Shirreffs have been seriously considering this for a longtime. It could be her last race and will definitely be her last Breeders Cup. Now is the time. If she wins on Saturday she already ties Personal Ensign, she can earn her own place in the history books if she were to win the Classic. And with Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars most likely not running in the Classic, we need a big star for the Saturday Breeders Cup card, Zenyatta is that star.

EQUIDAILY: Is Zenyatta still in the running for Horse of the Year?

CO: I think a lot of people have already conceded Horse of the Year to Rachel Alexandra. And while I take nothing away from what she has done, I believe strongly in the impact that the Breeders Cup has on that honor. If Zenyatta wins the Lady's Secret and then wins the Breeders Cup Classic then yes, I think she is still in the running for Horse of the Year.

EQD: As recently as this week's NTRA teleconference John Shirreffs seemed to indicate a match-up between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra is still a possibility.

What kind of excitement would that bring to the game -- and when and where could such a race be staged?

CO: How exciting would that be?! And I think it's a definitely possibility. It seems that the Mosses and Shirreffs are being real sportsmen and are agreeing to be open to the idea of a match up later on in the year (their original plan was to end her career with the Breeders’ Cup). In my opinion it should be a race sometime in late November or December at a neutral track. Zenyatta will need time to bounce back after the Breeders Cup, and Rachel Alexandra will need time to train up to peak fitness. That would be one for the ages. Girl power at its best! Two of the best horses in action, male or female, taking each other on.

EQD: We believe we saw you taking a "busman's holiday" at Saratoga this summer. That venue and Del Mar seem to attract more females fans than other racetracks.

Do you agree, and, if so, why do you think that's true? And what can the racing industry do, in general, to cater more to the female audience (if you believe it's not doing all that it can now)?

CO: I think Del Mar and Saratoga attract more fans period, not just more female fans. It's the summer atmosphere, the vacation-towns, and the local restaurants that make both Del Mar and Saratoga big destinations. You get the hard-core racing fan who wants to be there for some of the best Breeders’ Cup prep races, and the sports fan that wants to enjoy a good day with the ocean air, friends and some cocktails.

As far as catering to females, there are events held at the racetrack specifically for women. There have been a few horses associated with breast cancer awareness and "pink campaigns" that have brought many females to the racetrack. But Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have been the best marketing tools we have. Women of all ages have come out to watch them run. Girls with signs that read "Yeah, I run like a girl. Try to keep up." are popping up all over the racetrack.

EQD: Finally, have you had a chance to catch any of "Jockeys", the reality series on Animal Planet, and, if so, what were your impressions?

CO: I love the "Jockeys" show. Anything that brings more awareness and publicity to the sport is something that I'm on board for. I've had friends from college call me and say they watched the show and they want to come to the track. And when they get there, they recognize people. "Hey there's Joe Talamo, that's Kristin Mulhall" etc etc....this is what we need! And when I'm working, I constantly hear people in the crowd asking about horses that were featured on the show. Horse racing can be hard to keep up with, there are so many races and so many horses and Jockeys has brought some of them into the homes of people who never followed the sport. Yes, they do edit the races differently and use new race calls etc etc, a point of contention with some, but the casual sports fan needs that kind of narration to follow along. I'm a big supporter of "Jockeys," I hope there's a third season!

Christina Olivares was born and bred for the world of horse racing. By the age of four Christina was already taking horseback-riding lessons five days a week; she got her first pony when she was six years old. She competed successfully in the world of hunter-jumpers, spending most weekends at horse shows.

Her mother worked at the infield at Santa Anita, where she met Christina’s father, former jockey and trainer Frank Olivares. With her father competing in the Southern California circuit, Christina spent her summers as a teenager working for him at Del Mar. After college, Christina worked for MTV News and Extra, before she was spotted by TVG and recruited as a full-time reporter. In this capacity she affords fans the inside advantage of her exceptional background in racing and her familiarity with the connections.

TVG Programming lineup

TVG will broadcast live coast-to-coast from Belmont Park, Keeneland and Oak Tree with extensive coverage of several races serving as precursors to next month's Breeders' Cup. Highlighting a terrific weekend of racing on TVG will be the $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes at Oak Tree where Zenyatta will attempt to match Personal Ensign’s female record by capturing her thirteenth straight victory to begin her career. TVG’s Ken Rudulph, Matt Carothers and Greg Wolf will be porting trackside reporting on Zenyatta’s quest to remain unbeaten as well as three other Breeders' Cup prep races at Oak Tree -- Oak Tree Mile, Goodwood Stakes and Yellow Ribbon Stakes.

TVG's live daily coverage of Keeneland's fall meet begins this weekend with Todd Schrupp, Simon Bray, Tom Amoss and Donna Barton Brothers broadcasting live from Lexington. The network will be on track offering extensive coverage and analysis of each race during Keeneland’s opening weekend including the Shadwell Turf Mile, Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, First Lady Stakes and Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. TVG’s coverage of East Coast racing also takes the network to Belmont Park where Christina Olivares and Paul Lo Duca will host TVG’s coverage of the Champagne Stakes, Frizette Stakes and Jamaica Handicap.

Following TVG’s announcement of its expanded coverage of East Coast racing, starting this Friday TVG will change the start time of its Wednesday-Friday live programming to 11:00 am ET/8:00 am PT with the introduction of a new show, Morning Line: East Coast Edition.

Below you’ll find a list of the major races TVG will broadcast live this weekend:

Oak Tree
Oak Tree Mile
Goodwood Stakes
Lady’s Secret Stakes
Yellow Ribbon Stakes

Darley Alcibiades Stakes
Shadwell Turf Mile
Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity
First Lady Stakes
Thoughbred Club of America Stakes

Belmont Park
Champagne Stakes
Frizette Stakes
Jamaica Handicap


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