A Dream Year
Just For Trix gives Teri Jenkins a 2022 to remember
story by Gordon Waterstone
The calendar has turned to 2023, but please forgive Teri Jenkins for not wanting 2022 to end.
Jenkins and her father, James Wilson, share ownership of Just For Trix, who gave them a “dream” season in 2022 with seven wins and $128,365 in earnings, competing primarily in the Kentucky Commonwealth Series at the Red Mile.
“He had seven wins, and that’s unbelievable,” said Jenkins, who resides in Fort Wayne, Ind. “He’s a dream horse. We’ve never had a horse this good.”
A native of Michigan, Jenkins was introduced to harness racing by her father after he fell in love with the sport attending the races at Saginaw Valley Downs. Jenkins said her dad—who is now 89—wanted to become involved, so he purchased a 30-acre farm in Swartz Creek, Mich., the home of Sports Creek Raceway.
“He decided to buy a horse, and from there it just blossomed,” said Jenkins, who was in her 20s at the time. “He bought land; he built a barn and a track. I think we had up to 13 horses at one time.”
Jenkins said her dad sold the farm in 1990 and moved to Fort Wayne, Ind., where he purchased another 30-acre farm. Jenkins soon made her way to the Hoosier State, as well.
“We moved (to Fort Wayne) because my husband got transferred,” said Jenkins, who retired three years ago from her longtime job as a treasury systems analyst for Lincoln Financial Company, for which her daughter Shanna still works as a business analyst.
Jenkins said the family’s prior best horse was B L Bright Willie, conditioned by her father (who retired from training seven years ago). The Bright Viking trotter’s biggest victory came when he captured the 2003 Indiana Sires Stakes final for older horses at Indiana Downs.
Jenkins and her father purchased Just For Trix privately from Tom Hicks in July 2021, after five starts in his 2-year-old season, and moved the original $7,000 yearling purchase into the barn of veteran Kentucky-based trainer Mike Murphy. A son of Trixton out of the unraced Credit Winner mare Falling For Flori, Just For Trix’s maternal family includes the millionaire trotting mare Falls For You, who won the 2006 Goldsmith Maid and 2007 Kentucky
That Just For Trix was winless in his first five career starts didn’t deter Jenkins and Wilson from purchasing the big trotter, who stands 17 hands tall.
“Somebody told Mike that they were going to sell this horse, and Mike went and looked at him and he called us to see if we’d be interested,” said Jenkins. “We said yes and went ahead and bought him. We are always looking if something comes up, and he came up.”
Just For Trix hadn’t won in his first five races, but Murphy believed he knew a primary reason: the trotter’s large size.
“When I saw the horse for the first time, I knew I wanted him,” recalled Murphy, a former director of the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association. “They tried to race him on the half-mile racetracks and county fair tracks, and he’s a big horse and was hitting. He wasn’t doing really good.”
Just For Trix raced 13 more times for his new connections in 2021, but still never found the winner’s circle. With three second- and four third-place finishes to show for his efforts, Just For Trix finished his 2-year-old campaign with just $20,517 in earnings.
“No, I was never frustrated,” Murphy said about the trotter not being able to earn a victory. “He could trot in 1:55.2 for us, and he was second in that big race at Delaware, Ohio (the $45,330 Standardbred).”
After wintering with Murphy at Pompano Park in Florida, Just For Trix returned to the races as a 3-year-old in 2022 and showed signs of improvement with fourth- and fifth-place finishes in Kentucky Sires Stakes events at Oak Grove.
“It got to where he was trotting in (1):54 on the five-eighths track at Oak Grove, but he was real rough in the turns,” said Murphy. “He’s a big horse, and I thought the mile track (at the Red Mile) would pick him up a lot.”
Murphy was correct in his prediction, as Just For Trix finally broke his maiden in his first start in Lexington—his 24th overall—scoring in 1:57 on July 13 in a Kentucky Proud Series division with Kevin Wallis driving.
Moving into the Commonwealth Series and picking up the driving services of David Miller, Just For Trix finished third in the first leg and then rattled off three consecutive victories—including a career-best 1:51.3 effort—before finishing third in the $100,000 series final on Sept. 19.
“Kevin (Wallis) drove him in the spring, and between Kevin and David (Miller), they really taught him how to race,” said Jenkins. “Once he figured it out, it was like he was unbelievable! He raced OK (in 2021), but we had no clue that he would put it together like he did.
“He was a late (May) foal, so it took him a while to learn. He’s a huge horse and he’s the most beautiful horse, and if it was a beauty contest, he’d win every week,” she added, with a laugh.
“You don’t have to train him to keep him sharp,” said Murphy. “He’s one of those horses that can go without training. When he races, it’s usually the only time he gets a hard work. And he thrives on it.”
Following the Commonwealth Series final, Just For Trix added another pair of victories at the Red Mile—but the year ended on a down note when he broke stride in his last two starts. Murphy said Just For Trix then underwent surgery to remove OCDs in his hocks, and also required some dental work.
“We are really looking forward to (this year),” said Murphy, whose stable is spending the winter in Hawkinsville, Ga., as a result of the closure of Pompano Park. “I think he’ll be tons better, although he was awful good (last year).”
Jenkins agrees with her trainer’s assessment.
“He will definitely race (this year),” she said. “We’ll have him ready. You don’t know what he can do.
“And he’s bred really well and he’s still a stallion, so maybe in the future he’ll be standing (in Kentucky).” HB
Gordon Waterstone is a USTA editorial specialist. To comment on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.