During a break from his CSS Training in Long Beach, Rochester Crewmember Tony Destino journeyed to Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California, to chronicle the story of an amazing thoroughbred race horse who carries a unique name. As Tony reports, this filly has already raised the eyebrows of her connections — who honestly believe she may be something really special.
As we approach the day when JetBlue Airways will celebrate its 10th anniversary of operations, all of us have heard many of the stories about what this company has meant to various people. The veterans who have been with us from day one recall the struggles of those very early days in our history; our perception in the public marketplace may be traced throughout the growth; and frequently, our customers fondly bring up many of the instances where JetBlue has made a difference in their lives.
And then there’s the tale of one man who loves jetting with us so much, that we became the inspiration for a heart-warming story whose success continues to grow each and every day.
Ladies and gentlemen of JetBlue Airways, allow us to introduce you to a thoroughbred race horse named “Jet Blue Girl.” She’s not only a promising, just-turned-3-year-old filly, but also a talent who began her racing career only five short months ago in Southern California. And if the early results are any indication, she’s really good now and may become great in a little while as her connections feel “the sky’s the limit” with Jet Blue Girl.
Jet Blue Girl was bred and raised in Florida by George de Benedicty, who for more than 35 years has owned American Eagle Farms in Ocala, Florida. George owns her mother and her brother, too, but quickly was impressed after weeks of observing his very young filly frolic in the meadow on his farm.
“She had worked a preview eighth (of a mile) in a quick 9.4 seconds before we were going to take her to the Ocala Breeders Sale,” de Benedicty remembered. “That was an ace time. And she did it so gracefully and did it so fluidly that I wanted to name her before taking her to the auction. I wanted the name to reflect all those qualities I saw during that youth.”
And that’s where JetBlue Airways enters the picture. George and his family flew other airlines until he decided to give us a try for the first time about five years ago. He has grown to become a loyal follower of The JetBlue Experience, admiring our variety of destinations, consistent performance and award-winning customer satisfaction.
“So here I am sitting on a beautiful JetBlue flight one day and I’m still thinking about what to name my horse,” he said. “I’m thinking about her qualities, bringing her to the upcoming sale and all that, and I’m looking out the window of the plane ride and then ‘wham,’ it hits me.
“I’ll call her Jet Blue Girl! And I did it because I felt it was sort of my own, personal tribute to the airline I love so much. It fit perfectly and I was really happy to come up with it.”
Due to the economic climate, Jet Blue Girl was sold in Ocala for a $25,000 price tag, and was purchased by California-based trainer Peter Eurton on behalf of three separate ownership interests. The 52-year-old Eurton is a 30-year veteran of the horse industry himself and admits Jet Blue Girl was the only horse he bought at that sale last April.
“We loved her time in the preview workout, liked the way she moved and overall athleticism — and felt the price was right for us, too,” says Eurton. “Once we got her out here to California and worked her she maintained those qualities. She really took me because there were no hiccups whatsoever. I hadn’t raced a 2-year-old at the Del Mar meet (near San Diego) in … whenever. But she did so well and seemed ready to go that I decided to enter her into her first race and to see what she could do in competition.”
So on August 28th — racing in a $50,000 claiming race — Jet Blue Girl went to the post as a promising but unproven commodity. The starting gate flew open and Jet Blue Girl raced to a second-place finish. Jockey Alex Solis was impressed, too, and told Eurton after dismounting that she navigated her way around the course with relative ease.
Racing switched to the Oak Tree Meeting at Santa Anita and Eurton moved Jet Blue Girl into an $80,000 claiming race to see how she’d do against a tougher bunch. That was on October 17th and this time she was victorious, scoring her first victory in just her second trip to the race track.
Up next was a November 15th date at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, in an allowance race versus an even better group. Jet Blue Girl didn’t really like the racing surface that day, and had a hard time getting her footing but still overcame the obstacles to again run second.
“After that race, Alex told me he thought she’d really like to run on the turf,” Eurton said. “So I started looking for another allowance race to enter her into but the one we were targeting didn’t fill (attract enough entries).
“Still, she needed a race and on New Year’s Day (back at Santa Anita) there was a small stake race scheduled called The Blue Norther. We felt she needs to run so let’s give her a try.”
Now the waters were really deep. The race was longer. The competition again wasn’t like anything she had ever faced. And the betting public also thought so and sent her postward as a 10-1 longshot.
When the starting gate opened Jet Blue Girl was aggressive from the start and settled into second tracking the race leader. As the field rounded the far turn and entered into the stretch, Jet Blue Girl sped ahead and took the lead heading for home. She looked home-free but at the finish line the race favorite closed from dead last to nip her by a head at the wire.
“Once she got the lead she relaxed just a little bit,” said Eurton. “But Alex again noted that if she had stayed aggressive throughout she would’ve won again. I’m very impressed because she’s so young, already has run a route of ground, raced on various surfaces with great results and has even participated in her first stake. She is something special.”
At home in her stall Jet Blue Girl is a spirited soul in the mornings, has become a “cribber,” or a horse who likes to nibble on everything, likes to play in her surroundings and plays her own games with the grooms and people who tend to her daily.
“If you tease her long enough she’ll get mad at you because she’s full of herself,” Eurton says. “But so far she’s passed every test we’ve given her and her owners have given me carte blanche to do with her what I believe is best.
“I haven’t made any decision on her next start yet but it’ll probably be between four to six weeks from her last start (meaning February). We sure would like to travel with her if the opportunity comes up. But Jet Blue Girl will tell us what’s next. All the good ones do.”
Back in Florida, breeder de Benedicty has followed her racing activities with keen enthusiasm, too.
“Her last race in the stake was really thrilling,” de Benedicty said, “and I would not be surprised to see her moved up to a $100,000 stake race in the near future. I think she’s that good.”
And every time Jet Blue Girl takes another step forward — as her earnings approach the $50,000 mark – George fondly recalls the reason this all got started in the first place.
“I’m delighted with her and I’m delighted with JetBlue,” he says. “JetBlue’s been great for me and my family and I feel in some small way I’ve been able to show my appreciation by naming this horse after my favorite airline.”
And in our next decade that’s truly the goal for every one of us — to make JetBlue the Americas’ favorite airline.
If there are others out there who feel the way George de Benedicty and Peter Eurton do, we’re heading in the right direction.