Scott Spieth isn’t the type of person to get overly emotional. So it was difficult to gauge his feelings when most of his fellow riders joined the winner’s-circle celebration after he notched career victory No. 4,000 Friday at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 45-year-old Spieth, a consummate professional, eloquently put into words how he felt following his 5 ¼-length victory aboard Reid Nagle’s 4-year-old filly Ula in the seventh race, a $20,500 maiden special weight at five furlongs for fillies and mares.
“It really makes me feel good because I have a lot of friends in the jock’s room, and everybody in there knows how much of a grind it is and how hard it is to get to your goals,” Spieth said.
“Fortunately things have gone well for me, but it means a lot that all the riders are here for me. I also have to thank all the trainers who have stayed behind me and thank my family, because there is a lot of dedication required in this business.”
Spieth – who rode three winners on Friday’s card, his second consecutive three-victory performance at the Oldsmar, Fla. track – followed up right away with victory No. 4,001 in the eighth race, another five-furlong maiden special weight, aboard Lori Smock’s 5-year-old first-time starter Photo Session at odds of 11-1.
“Getting to 4,000 really wasn’t weighing on me at all,” Spieth said. “The only one I really celebrated was my 3,000th. My ultimate goal is to get over 5,000. Down here, the racing is so competitive I didn’t know when I would get to 4,000. It might have been next week.”
Spieth and his wife Rhonda Swan Spieth, also a jockey, have three daughters and two sons. Kirsten Swan, Scott’s stepdaughter and another jockey, currently works in Lexington. The Spieths reside on a 13-acre spread in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
“My daughter Valerie, who is 5, has been riding our horses since she was 2, and I think she is going to be a jockey,” Spieth observed recently. “She would rather watch race replays than cartoons, so I’m in trouble with that one.
“I’m sure I will get a lot of phone calls when I get home, from my parents in Michigan and my family in Ohio. I love that it is 4,000, but there are so many more races ahead of me I try to focus on what is next.”
Spieth currently is seventh in the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings with 30 victories. Last year, he was the top money-winning jockey at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., with earnings of $2.3 million, and third in victories with 89.
He finished 2011 with almost $3.4 million in purse earnings, his best figure since 2006. In October, he won three stakes on the Best of Ohio card at Thistledown.
Nagle, who owns Ula under his Big Lick Farm banner and trains the gray daughter of Wildcat Heir-Smokeumifyougotem, who was making her first career start, said he was honored to be part of Spieth’s career milestone.
“I have only been doing this about a year, and I’m learning from Scott all the time,” Nagle said. “He has ridden six for us and won two and finished in the money two other times, and he always comes back with incredibly insightful observations.
“I thought he rode this horse superbly, as he has in his other five rides for us,” Nagle said. “I couldn’t be more excited. Today is certainly my most exciting day in racing, being part of this accomplishment. She (Ula) has had a host of small issues that delayed her first start, but she is very talented.” Ula paid $8.80 as the second choice.
Spieth breezed Ula in 48 4/5 seconds for four furlongs March 30 and knew she was a runner. “Reid and his crew did a fine job preparing her,” Spieth said. “After I worked her, I told him I really wanted to ride this one because she has a lot of talent.
“I knew I was a winner before I even got to the turn.”