Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Crawfish herald Spiral week

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — After nearly 30 years at Turfway Park, General Manager Greg Schmitz has done just about every job at the thoroughbred track that hosts the $600,000 Spiral Stakes race Saturday.

        Tuesday night, he was helping cook crawfish and grill burgers and hot dogs for the 11th annual Crawfish Boil, a party for the jockeys, grooms, trainers, exercise riders and track employees who keep the track running all year. One of his fellow cooks was Turfway President Bob Elliston.

[photo] Emily Regalado of Florence walks back to her table after filling her plate with crawfish Tuesday.
(Mike Simons photo)
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        “I started out in the parking lot when the track was still known as Latonia.” the Erlanger resident said. “I guess I'm the historian here.”

        The Crawfish Boil is in its 11th year, and Mr. Schmitz recalled when it started “as a little party to say thank you to the horsemen who ran with us. We probably had about 300 people.”

        The in-house event has grown to attract 1,000-1,500 people connected with the track, who all donate to a track-related charity selected by the horsemen each year. Mr. Schmitz said they regularly raise about $2,500.

        A group of horsemen from Louisiana provide the crawfish, freshly caught and trucked here in a tanker. Mr. Schmitz has seen the Spiral Stakes grow from a dream of the late John Battaglia, the Latonia general manager, to a Grade II stakes race and Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-olds.

        “At one point we had 10 or more events connected with the Spiral,” Mr. Schmitz said.

        The Spiral Stakes eventually changed its name to the Jim Beam Stakes with the bourbon maker as the major sponsor after developer Jerry Carroll purchased the track in 1986. After Mr. Carroll sold the track in 1999, the decision was made to return to the name Spiral Stakes.

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