Rome: 'Highs Always Outweigh the Lows'
Jim Rome’s passion for horse racing appears to exceed his passion for his popular syndicated sports talk show. There’s no denying his love of Thoroughbred racing. Rome, 51, was the keynote speaker Jan. 13 during the Thoroughbred Owner Conference at Gulfstream Park. He said he felt right at home something he wouldn’t have expected several years ago.
“In reality I’m the most unlikely Thoroughbred owner ever,” Rome said. “This wasn’t meant to be. I’ve said much worse about other sports on my show and I’ve been forgiven quicker than by people in this sport.
“When I was asked to speak at this conference, I thought, ‘What could I possibly have to share with them?’ Well, one of the best things about this business is we are among like minds. Even my best days at work aren’t as good as the most electric days I’ve had at the track. It’s good to be around horse people.”
Rome didn’t grow up around the racetrack. He said he visited California tracks to watch some races and have a few drinks but didn’t think about ownership until he kept running into Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing, who repeatedly prodded him into buying into a horse. He eventually did, and his first horse was a winner.
“I felt like somebody snuck up behind me and injected me with a drug,” Rome said. I couldn’t wait to get back to the radio program and talk about the experience. I tried crack. It was horse racing. I couldn’t stop.”
Rome’s Jungle Racing, which he operates with his wife, Janet, has been fortunate in having co-owned two standouts: Mizdirection and champion Shared Belief, who died as a result of colic last year. The former was retired and sold at auction after her 5-year-old racing season in 2015.
“I was very, very sad,” Rome said, “but she had nothing left to prove. I really didn’t want to see her out (on the track) anymore. Athletes very rarely get to go out on their own terms. She had a chance to go out with two Breeders’ Cup wins. And we had all lost so much money (in the business). We sold her to stay in the game and reinvest in it.”
Then came Shared Belief, who was purchased privately on the recommendation of bloodstock agent Alex Solis II.
“The thinking was for a gelding he wasn’t cheap that maybe we would get our money back (racing him),” Rome said. “We had no idea what we would get. I still can’t figure it out, but we knew it was an amazing thing.”
Shared Belief won all three of his races in 2013 to be named champion 2-year-old male. In 2014 he won his next four races, and then finished a troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). He returned to win his first three races in 2015 but was injured in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) and went to the sidelines for about nine months. The gelding was back in training when he suffered from colic and couldn’t be saved. Rome said he got a call from Solis minutes before his radio show was to begin, and during the program found out Shared Belief had to be euthanized.
“I’m not very spiritual, but when I was doing the show, all I could think was, ‘Do not take this horse. I don’t care if he runs again. He needs to be on a farm.’ When I finished the show I went back to my office. I was a 51-year-old man crying at my desk. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. It may sound clich , but go hug your horse. You never know what can happen.”
The experience didn’t damage Rome’s passion for the business. He said Jungle Racing now has five newly turned 2-year-olds; the 3-year-old filly Stays in Vegas, a four-time stakes winner; a Pioneerof the Nile  3-year-old that hasn’t yet raced; and shares in eight horses that will be pinhooked.
“We’re all better for (the experience of having owned Shared Belief),” Rome said. “The thing I’ll always remember about him is the horse was absolutely fearless. He loved his job. He was an alpha.
“So we’re still in the game. We love the game. It may still be a bet but it’s a beautiful sport. We’re going to stay with the horse. The highs always outweigh the lows.”
- ^ Mizdirection | BloodHorse.com Horse Profile (www.bloodhorse.com)
- ^ Shared Belief | BloodHorse.com Horse Profile (www.bloodhorse.com)
- ^ Stays in Vegas | BloodHorse.com Horse Profile (www.bloodhorse.com)
- ^ Pioneerof the Nile | StallionRegister.com (www.bloodhorse.com)
- ^ EquineLine Reports for Pioneerof the Nile (www.equineline.com)