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Cool Runnings is Julianne Watkins' pride and joy
Friday, February 08, 2013 - by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Charlene Sharpe
Dover, DE --- Julianne Watkins believes in bucket lists.

That's what she'll tell you when you bring up her striking roan broodmare.

"I'd always wanted a strawberry roan," she said.

After Watkins saw the roan mare Gifted Debutante in the winner's circle at Dover Downs one night, the Falcon Almahurst mare stayed in the back of her mind. When she noticed that she hadn't raced in some time, she tracked her down and eventually purchased her as a broodmare.

Watkins, who grew up watching the races at Brandywine and Liberty Bell with her stepfather, decided to get her own horse about a decade ago.

"Financially it was the right time for me," said Watkins, who'd always liked horses.

Her first Standardbred was Lavros Victoria N, a claimer close friend and trainer Janet Davis campaigned for her for several years. It was during that time that Watkins purchased Gifted Debutante, who she started breeding in 2005.

Julianne Watkins and Cool Runnings in the paddock at Dover Downs.

It's one of her foals that is currently the star of the Watkins stable. Cool Runnings p,4,1:51 ($120,989), if not recognizable enough by his roan coloring, can be seen in the paddock wearing a Rasta hat on race nights. The Three Olives gelding shares his name with the 1993 movie based on the story of the first Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.

"He's finished second the last three times I've made him wear the hat," Watkins joked.

She said she decided to dub her colt -- who she thought was a bay until his hair fell out at four months old and he turned into a roan -- with a Jamaican themed name since it was such an important place to her and her husband. Watkins said they've been traveling there twice a year since the 1980s.

"We just love everything about it," she said, "the culture, the music, the food."

And so Cool Runnings walks through the paddock with no less than a towel in the green, yellow and black of the Jamaican flag, typically accompanied by Watkins in a matching shirt.

His patriotism hasn't gone unnoticed, as Watkins has friends in Jamaica who make a point to watch him race. She was even able to show one of his win photos to Wayne Blackwood during a visit to the island. Blackwood was the "brakeman" on the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1998 Olympic Games.

"That was pretty cool to meet a real bobsledder," Watkins said.

Cool Runnings has banked more than $120,000 in his career.

Entering his fifth season of racing, Cool Runnings has had three seconds and one third from four starts at Dover Downs this year. He took his lifetime mark of 1:51 as a 4-year-old at the Meadowlands.

"We were so excited," Watkins said. "We didn't expect him to go out there and go in 1:51 his first time at the Meadowlands. I don't think I could breathe for a minute."

So far Cool Runnings has made more than $120,000 for Watkins, who says she is happy as long as her horses are paying for themselves. From 104 lifetime starts Cool Runnings now has has eight wins, 16 seconds and 15 thirds.

In addition to Cool Runnings, Watkins has two other foals from Gifted Debutante. Four-year-old Shoo Shoo Baby is currently recovering from a knee injury while yearling Reggae Renegade is enjoying his time in the field before he heads to the barn this fall.

Photos courtesy of Julianne Watkins
Gifted Debutante with her 2012 foal, Reggae Renegade.

While watching Gifted Debutante's foals grow up has been one of the highlights of horse ownership for Watkins, she has also experienced some lows. Gifted Debutante was carrying a foal by Art Director in 2010 when she miscarried on Christmas Day. Watkins said she considered it her Christmas gift that the mare came through the ordeal fine.

"You get the highs and the lows," she said.

Watkins says she's officially retired Gifted Debutante from breeding now but she is eagerly awaiting watching Reggae Renegade start the journey to becoming a racehorse this fall. She remains in touch with Ohio horseman Glenn Huber, Gifted Debutante's breeder, who enjoys hearing how her foals are doing.

Watkins says that even though she doesn't train them herself, she loves watching the animals she's raised become racehorses.

"It's fulfilling knowing I've done the whole cycle," she said, "raising them and watching them qualify. For me these are my kids."

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