Figgins family affair rolling right along
by Ted Black
In his gradual ascension to being among the leading trainers at Charles Town in recent years, Ollie Figgins, III, has not lost sight of the fact that the success of his operation is largely contingent on his immediate family, including younger brother Jason Figgins and daughter Kelsie Figgins.
Four years ago Figgins, who has horses at both Charles Town and Laurel Park, earned some moments in the national spotlight thanks to the success of Dance to Bristol, a multiple-graded stakes winner who prevailed in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga and later ended her four-year-old season by running sixth in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
In more recent years Figgins has enjoyed ample success at Charles Town with various homebreds, including recent allowance victories with Ello Govna on June 3 and Poseidon’s Prize on June 8 and stakes winner, Hot Mic. Jason handles the 30-horse operation at Charles Town and Kelsie oversees the 21 horses at Laurel.
“For me, it’s great knowing that I have help that I can trust at both tracks,” said Figgins. “My brother is really good working with the horses. He never had any interest in riding, but he’s a very good horseman. When I can’t be there, I know that he’ll take care of the horses. Kelsie is really, really good with the horses. She gets on some of them in morning and she’s probably learned enough and worked hard enough to go out on her own some day.”
Figgins has saddled nearly 700 winners in his career, and on Thursday at Charles Town he will give jockey Matt McGowan a leg up on Hot Mic, who has won twice in three starts, including the $50,000 Coin Collector Stakes in April. Hot Mic, owned and bred by Naomi Long, coincidentally McGowan’s mother-in-law, will actually push Figgins past the 4000 start mark.
On Sunday afternoon at Laurel, Figgins saddled Baduke to a four-length score in a claiming event and met Kelsie in the winner’s circle with one of her favorite horses.
“I always loved the horses,” said Kelsie, 21, who resides in Columbia and gets aboard five or six horses each morning at Laurel. “I followed my dad around since I was little. I did the show horses for about five years and then when I graduated I came up here and I learned how to gallop and all that. Eventually I would love to go out on my own. Right now I’m really content working under my dad and learning what I can. Eventually I will go on my own. I think [training horses] is what I really want to do.”
Already this month at Charles Town, Figgins trainees Ello Govna and Poseidon’s Prize won two-turn allowance races. Ello Govna, a five-year-old Charitable Man gelding owned by Figgins’ wife, Carisa, and bred by the couple, dusted $24,500 allowance foes to notch his first win in three starts this year and now owns a 6-2-2 slate and $120,000 banked from 19 lifetime tries.
“I think we finally found the ideal distance for Ello Govna [seven furlongs],” Figgins said. “He was a little short in his debut [April 22] and then a mile and an eighth was probably not his best distance. But he looked good winning that last start. I think he’s probably got a couple of allowance events ahead of him before he jumps back into the state-bred stakes this summer.”
Ello Govna’s best stakes result came in a runner-up effort in last fall’s Frank Gall Memorial over the Charles Town strip.
Poseidon’s Prize, a homebred sophomore son of Pure Prize for Dr. E. Clinton Lowry, scored for the third time in seven starts this year and now owns four wins and $70,000 banked from nine career outings. On June 8, he rallied to win a 6 ½ furlong allowance test as the favorite.
Poseidon’s Prize had run sixth in the Robert Hilton Memorial on the Charles Town Classic undercard April 22 and followed that up with a third-place finish in allowance company before finding his winning form.
“Poseidon’s Prize ran really well the other night,” Figgins recounted. “I backed off of him a little bit after the stakes and he was probably a little short for that previous race.”
Although both Ello Govna and Poseidon’s Prize are West Virginia-bred runners who thrive in two-turn allowance events, their age difference will keep them on separate paths throughout the summer and fall. Figgins noted he began training horses for Lowry soon after now-retired trainer Chris Grove, who had been stabled at the Bowie Training Center when Figgins was also there, recommended Figgins to Lowry. Figgins is eager to see how well Poseidon’s Prize fares in state-bred stakes ahead, such as the Robert Leavitt Memorial and the seven-furlong West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic, and he also is waiting to unveil that one’s two-year-old half-brother by Fiber Sonde for Lowry.
“I’ve been fortunate to have Dr. Lowry as a client,” Figgins said. “He’s always had more West Virginia-breds and now he’s got them based with me at Charles Town. I was glad that Chris Grove recommended him to me. I’ve got eight two-year-olds that I’m getting ready to start up here soon and six of them are West Virginia-breds and one of them is the half-brother to Poseidon’s Prize for doc Lowry. I’ve got some two-year-olds down at Laurel and Kelsie has been keeping me abreast of how well they’re doing.”
“That’s one of my favorite things – getting on babies,” Kelsie said. “Just the potential that they have in them. Getting on a young horse and being able to teach them your ways and kind of transforming them into what you want them to be is really cool. This is my second crop of two-year-olds that I get to help start. That’s a big deal for me. When they win it really means a lot.”
But win or lose, for the time being, the Figgins operation will remain a Figgins family affair.
“I think it’s great that we’re one big ‘happy family,’” Kelsie Figgins said. “It keeps us close and connected. In the long run, it’s a big deal.”