Veteran jockey Scott Spieth was quick to don yellow-and-black silks for trainer Joseph Cheeks in Wednesday's seventh race when the scheduled rider on 6-year-old mare Shiny Surprise became ill.
Despite a fourth-place finish, Spieth was glad to help a trainer in need.
“I do a lot of business with Joe during the summer, up at Presque Isle Downs (in Erie, Pa.),” Spieth said. “We go back a long way, and any time he needs me, I’m there for him.
“That’s part of this business – the people that treat you well, you’re going to treat good, and the ones that take care of you, you’re always trying to take care of them,” Spieth said. (For the record, Shiny Surprise was claimed from the race for $8,000 by owner-trainer Anthony F. Rini).
The 52-year-old Spieth isn’t the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month for helping a trainer by picking up a mount; he earned the award for winning six times over the judging period, more than all but a handful of Oldsmar jockeys who have already been honored.
The award is also a tribute to Spieth’s work ethic and consistency as he continues to pursue his goal of riding 5,000 career winners. He’ll start Friday’s action at 4,737, more than any Tampa Bay Downs rider. That total is 42nd all-time in North America (Eddie Arcaro is the guy directly ahead of him) and 19th among active jockeys.
“I stay fit, that’s for sure,” said Spieth, who began his career at Glendale Downs in Michigan on Quarter Horses in 1981. “I do a lot of jogging, I usually exercise five or six horses in the morning and I play golf, so I’m always on the go. Maintaining your fitness and a good diet is a big part” (of riding longevity).
The only concession he makes to age, he says, is taking a little longer to loosen up in the morning. “That’s why I don’t mind getting on horses in the morning,” he said. “Plus, I’ve been very fortunate in my career not to have any broken bones or major joint issues.
“Just a few aches and pains, but other than that, I’ve been fortunate,” he said.
Spieth celebrated his two-year wedding anniversary last week with Tampa Bay Downs trainer Aldana Gonzalez. He likes the way they work together. “We’ve got two good opinions, me from a jockey’s viewpoint and her as a trainer, and that helps us a lot, especially with the horses in her barn,” said Spieth, who is 10th in the Oldsmar standings with 17 victories. “And we leave what happens at the track here. Rarely do we argue about horses.”
Indeed, Spieth is among the most even-keeled of riders at the Oldsmar oval. “I think it’s mostly because I’ve been doing it so long,” he said. “I don’t want to say I had a temper on me when I was younger, but more so than I do now. I’ve ridden a lot of races and won a lot of races, and I try to go with the flow.
“Any rider that’s competitive, you’re going to get aggravated or upset sometimes, but in the long run it doesn’t do you any good. You can’t change something that’s happened.”
Spieth rode 58 winners last spring and summer at Presque Isle Downs in his return there after a three-year absence and hopes to improve on that mark this year. Perhaps in 2-to-3 years, the suspense will revolve around whether he hits the 5,000 mark here or in Pennsylvania.
Gone are the days when he averaged 269 winners a year (from 2005-2007), but he still knows how to stack up victories and do right by horsemen.
“I don’t come down here to knock ’em dead; I just come here to stay fit, win races, pay the bills and help my wife build her business some, too,” Spieth said. “And any time I can build more business for myself up north, I do.”