Del Mar Summer: For Andie Biancone, The Horses Are Everything

“I don’t know what I would do without these horses.”

Andie Biancone wasn’t kidding when she made that confession to a visitor who stopped by Barn LL in the Del Mar stable area earlier this week.

Biancone, 26, is the daughter of Patrick Biancone, a native of France who was training in Hong Kong when Andie was born in 1997. Her mother, Elaine Sung, is a former Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant winner who became well known there for her work in television. The Biancone family moved to the United States a few years later, settling first in Southern California, then moving to Kentucky, and eventually Florida.

By high school, Biancone said, she had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was heading in a dangerous direction.

“I struggled with mental health,” she said. “I had a really bad eating disorder and struggled with self-harm – it was really bad. My dad put me on the racetrack and my life has been changed ever since. I can’t imagine my life without horses. They literally saved my life.”

Biancone leads two lives on the track. Early in the morning, she takes care of several horses as assistant trainer for her father, who spends most of his time in South Florida. She arrives at the barn around 4:45 a.m., trains the horses, does their bandages and prepares their feed. Then, on race days, it’s on to her afternoon duties on FanDuel TV, where she is best known for her paddock and warm-up observations of the runners before each race.

Her keen eye was developed when she was a little girl tagging along with her father to the track. Before each race, he would ask her to pick out the horse that looked best, the one that looked to her like it was ready to win.

Now she’s getting paid to do that on horseback.

“I’ll look at the horses in front of me when they go in the post parade, then will follow the field as they warm up,” she said, combining those observations with her pre-race analysis of each runner’s past performances. Mostly, she said, she wants to see horses moving smoothly and confidently before they enter the starting gate.

If there are behavioral changes or different equipment on a horse from a previous race, she’ll note that in her handicapping. One recent example was the Luis Mendez-trained Sassy Nature, who finished fourth in the Daisycutter Stakes at Del Mar, then came back to win an allowance race in her next start.

“Sassy Nature had been super nervous before the Daisycutter and washing out,” Biancone said. “Luis made an equipment change, putting a different bit on her and it helped her relax. Those little things can make a big difference.”

Last year at Keeneland, Biancone recalled, she noticed that the sprint specialist Nashville, heavily favored in the G3 Commonwealth Stakes, was not warming up well. “The track was sealed and he just hated the sloppy track,” she said of the 13-10 favorite. “You could tell by the way he was galloping that he did not want any part of it. Prevalance, for Tyler Gaffalione, was just skipping over the track. He loved it and had an affinity for it. I picked Prevalance because of that and he won.”

Biancone’s father has been at the center of controversy more than once during his career, and he has no bigger defender than his daughter. Long before Andie was born, Patrick Biancone trained the sensational mare All Along to a North American Horse of the Year title in 1983, winning three Grade 1 races in the U.S. and Canada in less than a month (shortly after a victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in her home base in France). By the end of the decade Biancone had moved to Hong Kong, where he enjoyed a 10-year run that ended with a suspension after one of his horses failed a drug test.

Settled in the U.S., Biancone ran afoul of regulators once again in 2007 when a vial of snake venom belonging to his veterinarian was discovered in a refrigerator in his tack room at Keeneland. He served a one-year suspension, after which he relocated to Florida.

“That was hard,” said Andie Biancone. “We had three barns at Keeneland, a farm nearby, and I was always with my dad. Then suddenly we had no income.

“My dad has always been my hero and I’ve always followed at his heels. When I was 10 years old and I heard people around the paddock at Monmouth Park yelling ‘snake venom’ at him, I felt like fighting them.

“He is a hay, oats, and water guy. Our horses don’t get a pre-race (treatment). All of our horses are loved and well-handled and he spoils them rotten – too much at some times. He pays so much attention to detail with each horse.”

In hindsight, Andie Biancone thinks those difficult times helped shape her life in a positive way.

“Honestly, I’m kind of grateful for the situation,” she said. “As soon as my dad was suspended he stopped paying for my riding lessons. I didn’t have my own horse and I had to work to get the lessons, cleaning stalls. It was hard and it taught me a strong work ethic. He told me everything happens for a reason, and I think he was right.”

Andie was a year away from graduation at the University of Florida in 2020 when she learned her father had cancer. She quit school and came to the racetrack to work full time.

“He always taught me, never get down, never lose your enthusiasm,” she said. “During the time my dad was getting chemo, he never missed a day at the barn. He said the horses are the reason he’s alive.”

The cancer is now in remission.

One of the horses in the Biancone barn when Andie came to work for her father was Diamond Oops, a ugly duckling gelding by Looking At Lucky who gave the Biancones Kentucky Derby hopes when he was a 2-year-old.

“Then he tore his digital superflexor tendon, which is a very rare injury and they don’t usually recover from that,” she said. “The vets told us he would never see a racetrack again. My dad gave him a year off, rehabbed him and the horse made it back to the races, became a multiple graded stakes winner and made $2 million. He took me everywhere, and I got my job on FanDuel because of him.”

Biancone traveled with Diamond Oops because of her father’s health condition and wound up being interviewed before major races on TVG, which was later rebranded as FanDuel TV. Gabby Gaudet encouraged her to consider giving television a shot, and FanDuel executive producer Kevin Grigsby gave her an opportunity at Keeneland’s fall meet in 2021.

“They were really patient with me because I don’t have any broadcasting background,” she said. “The first year I was washing out because I was so nervous.”

Biancone said she doesn’t feel pressured to make a career choice between the racetrack and television. “I had always seen myself training horses from the time I was a little girl,” she said.

But television gives her an opportunity to showcase what she says is the best of the sport.

“I love finding the stories,” she said. “Every horse has a story, every one of them is an individual. And getting to share those individual personalities – their quirks – with people who don’t necessarily get to see that very often, that’s what I find really important, and it’s my favorite part of the job.”

The post Del Mar Summer: For Andie Biancone, The Horses Are Everything appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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