Sunday, January 17, 2016

Guest Blog Contest: Fifth Place | Derby Dreaming: A Tale Of Two Colts, by Jordan Sigmon

Derby Dreaming: A Tale Of Two Colts
By Jordan Sigmon

May 22, 2015: the day I fell in love with a little bay colt that many would soon know. This little bay colt is Swipe, and right from the start he had me dreaming of the First Saturday in May.

May 22 was the day that Swipe debuted. He didn’t win, but nevertheless I had a feeling this colt was special. In all honesty, when they turned for home in that race, and he was still so far back I had lost all hope. Then, he came flying down the outside, just in time to get up for second. After that race Swipe moved straight into stakes company – a bold move – but I knew he’d run his heart out no matter where he finished. He did just that, finishing a distant but gutsy third in the Tremont Stakes just a few days before the Belmont.

I had a friend that was there that day and she took some pictures of him for me. When I received those pictures one thing stood out to me – something that would make me fall even more in love with him. It was his eyes; they had a kind and gentle look to them, but they also looked very thoughtful. If I looked at the picture the right way, it almost looked like he was staring right at me straight through my phone screen.

Photo by Emily Gricco
Then along came Exaggerator. In fact, he debuted on the same day as the Tremont, only his race was at Santa Anita. He finished fifth in his debut and even though it wasn’t all that flashy, something about him just stuck out to me. I still haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. But once again I had had my heart stolen.

About a month later, Swipe went back to California for the Summer Juvenile Championship Stakes. He wasn’t facing the toughest field, but that didn’t mean it’d be easy. I knew with his running style, the long stretch at Los Al would suit him well. The stretch run showed me just how good he was. Not far from the wire it looked like Mrazek was home free; then my boy came flying down the outside to nail him right on the wire. Watching him walk into the winner’s circle for the first time was the best feeling. Not only had he broken his maiden, but he had done it in a stakes race.

Soon after this, Exaggerator made his second start. I had a really good feeling as they loaded into the gates, and as it turns out there was a good reason for that. He displayed an explosive kick down the stretch to get up for the win by a short nose. All bias aside, it was one of the most impressive maiden performances I saw all year.

On August 8, Swipe made his graded stakes debut in the G2 Best Pal Stakes. He was facing a pretty good field, including the very highly regarded Nyquist. He wound up finishing a distant second, but no matter what, I was proud of how he’d run. About a week later, Exaggerator made his own graded stakes debut in the G2 Saratoga Special. He drew the dreaded one-hole, but that didn’t faze him one bit. He sat near the back of the pack early, although he was just a few lengths of the leaders. At the top of the stretch, Exaggerator bulled his way through horses and fought off a game Saratoga Mischief to win going away.

Following this win, Exaggerator got a little virus so he had to take some time off. In the meantime, Swipe continued to race. Next up for Swipe was the G1 Del Mar Futurity, where he would face Nyquist for the second time in a row. Once again Swipe was second, and even though Nyquist won by open lengths, Swipe got closer this time.

After that, Swipe headed back to Santa Anita for the G1 Frontrunner Stakes. Several people thought he may be able to beat Nyquist in this spot, because of the extra distance. And in fact, these people were almost right – almost. Swipe came charging up the rail and even got his head in front twice, but Nyquist bumped him several times throughout the stretch.

The following weekend, Exaggerator returned in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity. He’d been training well up to the race, and it wasn’t going to be easy going around two turns for the first time after a seven-week layoff. Exaggerator made the lead in the stretch and looked like he was going to draw off, but the time off and the stretch-out caught up to him, as Brody’s Cause flew past late to win.

Both colts had run well enough to earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which I was looking forward to watching on TV until my parents surprised me with tickets. I was ecstatic that I was going to get to see my boys run in person, and even though it would’ve been nice for one of them to win, second and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup was more than enough to make me proud.

One picture I took of Swipe in the paddock stuck out to me more than any other picture I took the whole weekend. He was looking straight at me, but the more I look at it, the more it feels like he was looking straight through me.

Swipe before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Photo by Jordan Sigmon

There was a picture of Exaggerator that stuck out to me, too. It was during the post parade, and he was bouncing up and down the whole time. My friend and I agreed that it reminded us of a little jack rabbit, so we started calling him 'Rabbit' whenever we talked about him.

Exaggerator in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile post parade
Photo by Jordan Sigmon
Swipe was done for the year after the Breeders’ Cup, but Exaggerator still had one more race in him – the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot. Not only did he handle a sloppy track in this race, but he showed versatility and fight. Straying from his usual running style, Exaggerator went straight to the front and never looked back, holding off a strong challenge from Sunny Ridge.
After that race, I talked to Kimberly McCormack about what Exaggerator was like as a foal and a yearling. 

“He was always very sure of himself [probably because] his dam always raised very confident foals,”she said. “He also always ate his midday meal laying down, and we would have to walk in and set the pan by their face.” 

One of the most interesting things I found out about him is that, “he loved his Jolly Ball and would play fetch with it.” The last thig that stuck out to me in our conversation was when she said how he always took everything they tried with him, as if they were just supposed to do it.
Towards the end of the year, it was announced that Swipe had had surgery to remove a bone chip, and that it’s possible that he won’t make it back in time for the Triple Crown races. I was devastated, of course, but unlike many who run from things like this, I choose to stay hopeful that the little bay colt that stole my heart last May will make it back in time. I hope that come May 7 this year, both of my boys will make it to the starting gate in the Run for the Roses.

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