|Daily Racing Form|
|Wednesday, November 15
|Goetz and Griggs' deal with the 'Devil'|
By Bill Finley
Special to ESPN.com
It's not that Mike Goetz dislikes his lot in life. Working in the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, isn't half bad, he will tell you. Decent pay, good benefits, a solid company behind you, good camaraderie among the co-workers. It's just that Goetz always had a little Ralph Kramden in him, that gnawing desire to be something other than ordinary.
So Goetz took a big chance, and convinced Griggs to go along for the ride. Last year, the two, both assistant managers at the Toyota factory, took out second mortgages on their houses and bought a Devil His Due yearling for $30,000. A year later, Goetz and Griggs are most certainly living life outside the box. They bought the winning lottery ticket.
In just a matter of days, the two regular guys will go up against the heavyweights of the sport in the Breeders' Cup. That $30,000 yearling buy turned into a classy, fast 2-year-old filly named She's A Devil Due, and she will be among the favorites in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Win or lose, she represents the most poignant and interesting Breeders' Cup story in years. Not only is she owned by the ultimate underdogs but she is trained by Ken McPeek, whose wife, Sue, is bravely fighting cancer. It's hard not to root for this team.
Goetz knew McPeek from their days together at Lexington's Tates Creek High School. While McPeek went into training, Goetz, 35, took a job on the assembly line at the nearby Toyota plant, but always had one eye on the racetrack and its promises of riches.
"I've gambled all my life," he said. "I'm a risk taker, a dreamer, someone who needs that adrenaline rush. I've never wanted to be an average Joe. I've always had high expectations for myself. I just didn't know how to get there."
That is until he came up with what seemed like a far-fetched plan. He would buy a horse, hoping that it would change his life. One problem: he didn't have any money. Neither did Griggs. But that didn't discourage Goetz, who went to work on his co-worker, convincing him that this was their ticket to riches.
"I tried to pump him up," Goetz said. "I told him that maybe this will get us in the limelight, written up in some magazines or on ESPN. Deep down, I never really thought that would happen, but if I could make him believe that maybe he'd go for it."
The sales pitch worked on the 36-year-old Griggs, another self-described "go for the gusto kind of guy." Still, he knew what would happen if their horse didn't pan out.
"We'd be eating a lot of beans for dinner," he said.
Goetz and Griggs raised the money and entrusted McPeek to find them their horse. McPeek settled on a bay filly by Devil His Due out of Fapulous Star, which he bought privately prior to a Fasig-Tipton yearling sale.
It was apparent early on that She's A Devil Due was going to take her owners on some kind of ride, though neither could have ever anticipated what a ride it would be. She won her career debut, a maiden special weight race at Arlington, by six and, three weeks later, won an Arlington allowance race.
McPeek tried a stakes race next and She's A Devil Due came through again, winning the Top Flight Stakes by a nose.
Though 3-for-3 and a stakes winner, she still had more to prove. McPeek took the next logical step and placed her in a two-turn graded stakes race, the Oct. 15 Alcibiades at Keeneland. Ridden by Mark Guidry, She's A Devil Due handled the challenge, winning by a head.
"As a young kid I partied a little bit and got crazy," Goetz said. "But I can tell you I never got the feeling or the hit of adrenaline I got when this horse won. It's like the Master Card commercial. It was priceless."
With her Alcibiades victory, She's A Devil Due's career earnings rose to $358,520, good money but chump change compared to what Goetz and Griggs could get were they to sell the filly. They've had offers in the seven figure neighborhood and must decide whether or not the thrills actually are priceless.
Goetz said he'd listen to reasonable offers and might use the money he could make in a sale to buy his ticket out of the Toyota factory. He might even buy a McDonald's franchise, he said. But neither one wants to sell the filly before Nov. 4, for them the highlight of this fairy tale.
"I don't want to look stupid and pass up a good thing," Griggs said. "If we get some ridiculous offer we'd have to take it. But I'd never give up the right to go to the Breeders' Cup with her. We can make history. Factory workers just don't go to the Breeders' Cup."