31 July 2020, USA ~ Determination is a good quality in a jockey, and Kirsten Swan can claim a large portion of it. “I’ve been working with horses my whole life,” she said. Swan has been immersed in the horse world since she was born. If she were a horse, one would say she had a racing pedigree.
“My parents are jockeys,” said the slight lady with the sweet smile. “I’ve been running around the racetrack since I was 5 years old. My Dad is Scott Spieth and he still race rides. My Mom, Rhonda Spieth, retired a few years ago.”
Swan grew up on horses, showing Saddleseat on Arabians, barrel racing and following her parents to the track.
“I started galloping at a farm down the road from us when I was 15. The next year I started galloping at Thistledown Race Track near Cleveland, Ohio. At 17, I got my jockey’s license across the border at Mountaineer Park, in West Virginia, because in Ohio you can’t get a jockeys license until you are 18.
“Throughout all of this, I still went to school. I actually got high school credits for galloping horses. My Junior and Senior years I would go gallop from 6 am until 10 am, then drive back to school by 11am for my two classes, then head back for races at Thistledown and Mountaineer at night. Then I would do it all over again the next day. I ended up graduating a semester early in my Senior year so I could go ride at Penn National for the winter season.
“When I came to Delaware and saw they had Arabians racing, I knew I would get along with them. They are such a smart breed even when they are ”corky”. My first racing Arabian was Spin Doctor for Kathy Smoke. He is such cool horse.“
Being jockey, trainer and owner for a racehorse is not easy, and a bit unusual in US racing due to state and racing commission restrictions. On 23 July at Delaware Park, when Swan mounted her own horse for the Maiden Allowance, that determination kicked in again. Deemed A Mistress won her first out and the video shows Swan guiding the mare with keen deliberation up the outside and taking the race in the final strides.
Swan was working for Lynn Ashby when she first saw the mare. “I remember Mistress came to Lynn’s barn as a 3-year-old late in the year. She wasn’t quite mentally ready; she was a nervous filly. By the time she was ready the racing season ended and she went back home to Cre Run. After sitting out her 4-year old year, Mistress was sent over to the Castro training barn around April in time to get ready for the 2020 racing season.”
The horses were ready, but there were not enough trainers and races due to the COVID-19 situation. Swan was open for another horse and she accepted the offer to work with the little bay.
“Let me tell you the Castro barn did a wonderful job with her and she wasn’t as nervous as I remember. Jeremy Castro galloped her and got her to where she is now. I feel bad that he didn’t get to run her because I know what it’s like to work hard on a horse that gets taken away from you. I definitely can’t take all the credit in the training part; it was team work.
“Riding her was thrilling. What a mighty little filly she is to go out there the first time against the boys and go a mile. I’ve always loved Cre Run fillies as they always try so hard for me.” Deemed A Mistress is the first US winner sired by the UAE stallion, Sadeem.
“I’ve always wanted to train and ride my own horses,” continued Swan. “I feel that I am an average jockey so why not ride my own horse when I have the chance? Not very many states allow a trainer to be jockey and owner. Luckily for me, Delaware Park and Ohio are states that do allow it.”
At 30, Swan admits that this is a tough life but she does not shy from the struggle. Her training barn now includes two Thoroughbreds and two other Arabians, and she gallops horses for some of the other trainers.
Travel to the UAE has expanded her world. For two consecutive seasons, Swan traveled to Abu Dhabi to the HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown race. Her job was to gallop the US entries, Thess is Awesome in 2017 and QuickandRich in 2018 to prepare them for the world’s richest Arabian race.
While there, she visited some of the top Arabian farms including Wathba Stud Farm, and Al Asayl. Invited guests had dinner at one of the Palaces, and one trip included an elevator ride to the top of the world in Dubai in the world’s tallest building at 2,716 feet, the Burj Khalifa.
Swan is grateful for her support in the racing world including Cre Run Farm’s Deb Mihaloff and Alan Kirchner, and trainers Lynn and Mark Ashby. “I also have to thank the grooms and my blacksmith and vets who have helped me when I needed them,” she said.
Lynn Ashby has worked with Swan for many years. In a 2016 interview Ashby said of her, ”That girl can do it all. She is amazing. She rides, she flies with the horses. She will make an excellent trainer.”
“Sometimes you think you can do it all by yourself but you can’t,” said Swan.
“It really does take a team.”
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