Jayson Werth, a racehorse owner originally from Springfield, Illinois, spent over fifteen years in a much different sport – playing Major League Baseball.

It begs the question of how this former pro baseball player found his way to both living in Florida and the world of racehorse ownership.

“I’ve always been fascinated by horses and horse racing, so I followed it over the years. When I was a kid I also had a chance to work at a harness racing horse farm by my house,” says Jayson Werth. “But it was just a few years ago, while I was playing golf with a guy named Rich [Averill] who has owned and raced horses for about 30 years, that I really inquired about it. I just started picking his brain about how he got into the whole racehorse thing. He told me if you want to own a horse, we can go in on a horse together. So, I claimed a horse with him here in Florida shortly after.”

The horse he bought with Averill had finished last in the race they claimed her in and did not race again. Werth and Averill’s second try also detoured all too soon.

“I think it was her second race out she got claimed, and I remember thinking man, this a tough business! Rich told me sometimes it goes that way, but you just keep taking shots and try to find some good ones,” Werth says.

Instead of giving up on the racehorse business, he bought a few more horses and tried again. One of those horses, R Calli Kim, would end up being a very special horse to Werth.

“R Calli Kim ran at Churchill Downs once, and I had friends from back home come down for it too. She won a great race, eight to one, and it was just the best day. Some of my buddies are from very small towns, and one of my friends was asking me ‘if she wins, do we get to be in the winner’s circle?’ I mean, the way he said it, you would have thought we were about to win the Super Bowl! It was extra special because it was some of my oldest friends, and it was just an amazing day overall and one I’ll never forget,” Werth recalls of one of his favorite racehorse ownership memories.

R Calli Kim later went up to Saratoga and placed third, but then was scratched in her next race due to injury.

“At first, we thought she was done and would need to be permanently retired. However, we decided to give her a year off instead to let her just go be a horse and heal,” says Werth. “I would visit her at the farm up in Ocala during that time she had time off, and she he had such long hair, she’d be dirty from rolling in the mud, and she wasn’t groomed up like I was used to seeing her, so she was almost unrecognizable. I would go over to see her, and she came right over to me and do this little head shake thing that she does, and I’d think yep, she’s still in there! She’s just the funniest, sweetest horse. She has this big personality, and she lights up when I come up to see her. I remember asking her back then – are you ever going to race again?”

But Thoroughbreds like to prove just how much heart they have -even when the odds are against them.

“R Calli Kim came back after all, and she’s been on this crazy racing run ever since! She runs this Saturday at Gulfstream actually, and she’s been one of my best horses, as well as one of my first horses. It’s been quite the journey with R Calli Kim, but a memorable one! She’s just one of those standout horses.”

As if to emphasize the point, R Calli Kim won the Grade 2 The Very One Stakes this past weekend, March 2, by two lengths at nearly even-money.

R Calli Kim combined with another developing superstar, Dornoch, just four races later on the same card to escalate the thrills for the former baseballer. Werth owns 10% of Dornoch, who won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and now sits nearly atop the the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard.

“Just to have to own a horse like Dornoch, even at 10% ownership, is incredible. If I did this the rest of my life, I still don’t know if I’d ever have a horse like him. To be this early on in my racehorse ownership career, and to have a horse like Dornoch is something beyond special – it’s literally what you dream about as a racehorse owner.”

Averill and Werth also have R Harper Rose, which is a filly that’s looking very promising.

“I think she picked up twenty points for The Kentucky Oaks, but I don’t think she’s pointing toward to The Oaks just yet – maybe someday! But there’s just nothing like running in the big races in Kentucky at Churchill Downs.”

“Obviously you have the horses that don’t work out. One day you’re winning, and the next day you’re like, what’s going on? Those times can be hard to swallow, when you think you have something, and you don’t. But then, you have this special connection with a horse that’s hard to explain. When you end up with horses like R Calli Kim, Dornoch, R Harper Rose, or some of the other horses I’ve been fortunate enough to own, it’s a great game – it really is just great game.”

Return to the March 5 issue of Wire to Wire