Dance to Bristol walks the shedrow at Bowie Training Center before shipping to California for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. (Special thanks to Scott Serio of Eclipse Sportswire, who followed Dance to Bristol from his home in Maryland to Southern California to capture in photos the great story of her run at the Breeders' Cup and the success of trainer Ollie Figgins III.)
He walks quietly in the early morning dawn through the dark aisle of the barn. The morning workouts are over. The track is now closed and the sunrise is slowly coloring the sky. He stops and takes a look at the filly inside stall number one.
There is a Breeders Cup purple placard hanging above her feed bin. The filly is a stunning chestnut with long feminine eyelashes, a small star, and a soft pink and white snip on her nose. His daughter softly calls his name and he doesn’t hear her. He is deep in thought.
Ollie Figgins III is the trainer of Dance to Bristol, who is racing in the 2013 Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Figgins hails from Charles Town, W.V., where he was raised in a horse racing family. From the sound of it, everyone in his family has been involved in horses. His father was a jockey who rode for 20 years, his grandfather used to foal mares, and his uncles and cousins trained horses.
As a young man, Ollie tried his hand as a jockey and rode 40 races. He smiles and says, “I got too big.”
Figgins obtained his trainer’s license in 2005. In 2008, he came to the Breeders Cup with Rouse the Cat in the Turf Sprint. He says the experience was overwhelming and he doesn’t remember much.
“It’s over before you know it,” said Figgins, whose horse finished 12th.
This time his Breeders Cup experience is a family affair. He has brought his wife, Carisa, and his older daughters Kelsie, Kenzie and Emilie with three of his barn staff including exercise rider Jesse Cruz. All three of his daughters ride show horses. He smiles proudly as he says, “They’re horsemen and if that’s the path they want to take, then I will help them the best I can.”
BOWIE TO BREEDERS' CUP
Special thanks to Scott Serio of Eclipse Sportswire, who followed Dance to Bristol from his home in Maryland to Southern California to capture in photos the great story of her run at the Breeders' Cup and the success of trainer Ollie Figgins III.
Figgins said that for his family this Breeders Cup is a “special time.”
“In our business, we don’t get this type of opportunity very often,” he said.
The filly has turned around in her stall and is giving her full attention to Figgins. He steps inside the stall and rubs her neck. She leans into him and relaxes.
“She is the sweetest horse to be around,” Figgins said. “She just loves her job. She is just a nice easy horse to be around.”
Dance to Bristol is owned by Susan and David Wantz. Figgins has been training for them since 2010.
Dance to Bristol was purchased in 2011 in Timonium, Md. at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“She missed her first start; she was second in her second start and broke her maiden in her third start,” Figgins said. “She is the type of filly that has speed. If you need her to go closer to the pace, she can. Or she can settle back off the bridle and make one run. She has been a special horse from the start.”
Now 39 years old, Figgins has 35 horses in Charles Town and 14 at the Bowie Training Center facility in Maryland. When Dance to Bristol won the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, he knew then he had a Breeders Cup horse. “She made a statement that she belongs.”
On Friday, Figgins and his family plan to watch the races at Santa Anita. Figgins is proud that there is another West Virginia representative at the Breeders Cup. Giovanni Boldini was bred and raised in Charles Town by his neighbor Charles Woodson, Jr. (He raced in the Juvenile Turf and came in second).
Long before the sun rises on Saturday, Figgins will arrive at the track at 4 a.m. He might have Dance to Bristol jog.
“I let her tell me. She might jog an easy mile and then get a bath and give her a little lunch. Then we let her rest and wait until it’s time to go. She knows when it’s race day.”
Then the family will gather at Santa Anita to watch the pride of West Virginia - and Maryland - as friends and family cheer them on from home. The Figgins family and crew have a lot to be proud of when they hear the call to the post. The sweet filly with the long eyelashes is sure to be speedy in the sprint.