Kimberly French — Writer, promoter, reporter
by Victoria Howard
Kimberly French is perhaps the best “double-gaited” writer and promoter in horse racing since standardbred Steamin Demon won both free-for-all pacing and trotting events, virtually at the same time.
Talk about diversification. I can’t remember anybody that went from being the editor of Hoof Beats at one time to the assistant director and production manager at NYRA Today for the New York Racing Association.
French is a dual-breed reporter and writer who writes for both thoroughbred and harness tracks, among others. With a resume like French’s you can see why she has been so successful and why our sport is lucky to have her onboard.
“I’ve been published in more than 30 international and national publications. I am a Hervey Award winner an American Horse Publications Award winner and have worked in television for ESPN, CBS Sports Network, NBC, ABC and now Fox Sports through the contract they have with the New York Racing Association,” said French.
Many exciting perks come when collaborating with major sport networks like Fox Sports, such as French did the feature for the broadcast and helped air one of the biggest upsets in Hambletonian history when 52-1 longshot Cool Papa Bell won for trainer Jim Campbell. She also helped air Bulldog Hanover setting a sensational new world record.
“I have produced the national newsfeed for the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup, and continue to do so. I also help out at Hoosier Park as much as I can for their big events.”
And the list doesn’t end there. At one time Kimberly was the special assistant to the president for Association of Racing Commissioners International and in charge of the Model Rules of Racing.
“I’ve been a production assistant, stage manager, field producer, associate producer and producer for nearly 16 years. My publications internship was at the American Quarter Horse Association and I was a Clyde Hirt workshop participant.
“I also worked for the USTA for roughly 10 years as a freelance writer and Hoof Beats contributor, prior to being hired as an Internet news manager there — and then was editor of Hoof Beats for three years.”
Besides the many hats Kimberly has worn, her resume lists: social media coordinator for Midwest Harness Report, ESPN horse racing broadcasts, production assistant/stage manager/field producer/associate producer, ESPN for college football, golf, bowling, Little League World Series and college basketball.
Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, French didn’t hail from a horse family and has never even owned one, but she always loved horses.
It all began when French decided to not pursue a law degree and entered the equine business program at the University of Louisville. In order to pursue a career in horse racing, French relocated to Kentucky.
“After taking a job at a law firm and only three weeks out from going to law school, I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer and attended the equine business program.
“I had no intention of writing or doing television. I merely wanted a job doing the books at one of the Kentucky horse farms. One of my professors, Rich Wilcke, thought one of my papers was good enough to be published and encouraged me to start writing. I began writing and won a blogging contest for Horse Player magazine.
“I then applied for the internship at American Quarter Association and after receiving it I was accepted by Tom LaMarra who was the news director at Blood Horse to cover Texas horse racing as a freelancer.
“At that time, Amy Zimmerman was the head of HRTV and referred me to Peter Rotundo (at the NTRA) who was with the Breeders’ Cup, and started me out as a production assistant.
“I also reached out to Dean Hoffman at the USTA who provided me with an opportunity to write for the newsroom and then Nicole Kraft asked me to write for the magazine. And as they say, the rest is history.
“At one time, I also worked for the American Quarter Horse Association and have a penchant for fast horses, which is why I love racing — but each breed possesses their own special qualities.
“I love both breeds and am thrilled to be part of covering amazing horses and the people in the industry. I personally have no preference because I love fast horses in general.”
As far as why thoroughbred racing is more popular then harness racing, French said: “I really don’t think that is the case. The thoroughbred industry is just larger. I’m just as passionate about harness racing as I am about thoroughbred racing and I think harness racing fans would say they are just as passionate about their sport as thoroughbred fans are.”
Presently, French travels extensively between Kentucky and New York for her work with the NYRA, covering horses. She says it doesn’t matter if they race or not. She’s just blessed to be living her dream and doing what she loves the most.