Spiral Provides Owner With First Taste of Derby Dream

Events / Travel

If you would have asked me or any member of Justice Racing Stables in January of 2015, if we would be sitting at Turfway Park for the Spiral Stakes, we would have said “no way”.  Fast forward to April 2016 and there we were, at the Spiral Stakes on Saturday, and potentially the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland next weekend!

My family is a member of Justice Racing Stables (JRS), a small racing syndicate started about 10 years ago. Over the years, we have had our own horses, as well as partnerships with other syndicates and owners. Joining one of these organizations is a great way to get involved in the sport of racing without going all in financially. 

Last year JRS was in the market for another horse, but hadn’t found one in our budget. Enter Kevin Warner of Warner Thoroughbreds, who also has his horses in training with Mike Maker.  Kevin had recently purchased two 2-year-old colts in Florida.  He was looking for some additional partners, and JRS thought this would be a great way to get us back in the “game”.

Now Swagger Jagger (Swag, as I call him) is owned by Kevin Warner/Warner Thoroughbreds, Brett Setzer, Jim Setzer, Freddy Lewis III, Jessica Lewis and Justice Racing Stables.

As a lifelong horse enthusiast, being able to go to the barn in the mornings, being in the paddock before races and watching right on the rail, is an awesome experience, no matter what percentage of the horse you own. Added bonus, I get to capture all these moments on my camera, which combines two of my passions: horses and photography.

After making a few trips to Turfway Park this winter, I was anxious to experience Spiral Stakes Day.  Let’s just say every time I went to Turfway this year, the weather was less than ideal, from frigid temps to the insane winds on Saturday.

I started my day off with a trip over to Trackside (Churchill Down’s training track), where our other 3-year-old is stabled with Mike Maker.  Twizz (middle), breezed five furlongs.

Around noon, I started my trek up to Turfway Park, it’s about an hour and a half from my house. Upon arrival I met up with Team Swagger Jagger on the fourth floor, with a view looking over the track.

Our group had a few tables with buffet and open bar. I had never been up to this level, as on most race days people remain on the lower level and enjoy live music and cheap beer.

Of course, I had to try the special Spiral Stakes drink, and came home with a souvenir glass for my collection. 

I went down and watched a few of the other races outside the paddock before the Spiral. It was so windy, making it very difficult to take pictures, let alone stand upright at times!

A porta potty even blew over, providing extra entertainment for the crowd.

When it was time for the Spiral Stakes, I wanted to get in the paddock early to claim my spot right in front of Swagger Jagger’s #9 stall.

Fans also got a special treat when Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner paraded in the paddock.

Kevin Warner talking with Swagger Jagger’s jockey, Francisco Torres

When the horses got to the track, the nerves really set in! Turfway doesn’t have any big screens. With the wind howling and people cheering it was hard to hear the announcer. I always like to watch the race right on the rail, but everyone has their own “watch spot” or superstitions about how to watch a race.

I saw the horses break from the gate, but I didn’t realize about 40 yards away from the gate, Swag clipped heels and came almost all the way down. Somehow, Francisco managed to stay on and recover to finish the race. 

It was an exciting finish to the race, with Oscar Nominated pulling off an upset for the Ramsey/Mike Maker team.

It wasn’t the result we had hoped for, but we are glad that Swag and Francisco were not seriously hurt in the race. I had enough wind for one day, jumped in my car and started to head home.  I always call my Mom, who lives in Florida, after a race to recap everything. We got so wrapped up in talking about Swag’s near fall that I got on the wrong interstate and had to take the long way home!

I had to stop at Starbucks for re-enforcements for the remainder of my drive! Don’t worry we will get your Swagger to your Jagger back soon and I’ll be there to cheer you on!

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