Fox Sports reporter’s horse racing dream comes full circle at Kentucky Derby

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When the gates open and the horses make their way down the track at Churchill Downs on Saturday, it will culminate a full circle moment for Fox Sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak.

As part of America’s Best Racing’s “A Stake in Stardom,” Czarniak, along with other media personalities, became minority race horse owners through a partnership with West Point Thoroughbreds. Czarniak, along with Fox sports talk show host Joy Taylor and NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, took ownership of Jace’s Road, a colt bred in Kentucky.

Czarniak was already planning on going to the Kentucky Derby this year, but her role changed when Blazing Sevens withdrew from the race less than two weeks before the race, allowing Jace’s Road to enter the field. Now, Czarniak will go to Louisville as an owner in the biggest horse racing event in the country. 

“I still don’t know that I believe it,” Czarniak told USA TODAY Sports. 

Learning horse racing from dad 

Czarniak’s interest in horse racing started when her dad, Chet, joined USA TODAY in 1983 and covered horse racing. Czarniak said she remembered seeing all the credentials throughout her house, and would sometimes talk to him about his job, even getting to tag along to meet horses.

“It’s been on my radar for so long,” she said. “It was kind of one of these things where it always felt like something that was sort of a part of our life.”

Her early memories with her dad are why she eventually got to work with America’s Best Racing in 2022. A few months later, it offered her the chance to be a horse owner. Always wanting to learn more about the sport, Czarniak knew right away she was interested, and her dad was “pumped” to see his daughter become an owner. 

“It’s one of those pinch me things because it was sort of like, something you think about as a kid, and you really are like, how would that ever possibly happen,” Czarniak said. “It’s really surreal, but also just really awesome.”

A joint venture

The three owners have had some conversations about their horse, which Czarniak said have been nothing but great. Czarniak and Rapoport got to meet another horse they own in Florida, a filly named Parnac, and described the experience as “awesome.’ They’ve also been part of ownership meetings within West Point Thoroughbreds to learn more about what goes into the experience. 

All three were just as ecstatic to learn their horse would be in the race, with Taylor calling the chance “legendary” and Rapoport adding “this changes things.”

“The Derby is always the best, our favorite weekend of the year. But to have our own horse likely running in it is wild. We always root for our favorites, but now we’ll really have our horse in it,” Rapoport said in a statement. 

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‘I feel like I could cry’ 

Czarniak will meet Jace’s Road on Thursday, which will be the official beginning of a “surreal” weekend. Not to mention she’s still trying to figure out what her outfit is going to be for an event known for its patrons’ lavish style.

As a sports reporter, Czarniak knows the profession can desensitize sporting events, but she has constantly been told “how majestic” the Kentucky Derby is, and thinks it will be like when she went to the Indianapolis 500. 

But the best part about it? She’s going with the man that started the interest in the first place: her dad.

“I can barely talk about it because I feel like I could cry,” Czarniak said. “Just feel kind of emotional because he’s the reason that I’m getting this experience. It would be really cool to be at the Kentucky Derby with my dad, but to be at the Kentucky Derby with my dad and for us to be rooting for a horse that we have a small stake in, is like bananas.”

‘The wonder of sports’

It’s expected to be a fun weekend, but it will be filled with nerves, too. With 15-1 odds, according to FanDuel, Jace’s Road isn’t a favorite to win the race, but it doesn’t mean the horse doesn’t have a chance. Czarniak said she’s confident because “every horse in the field has a shot.”

“It gives me chills just thinking about it,” Czarniak said. “The competition is going to be so tough. But I really believe in the wonder of sports.

“There is a chance, and I just can’t even fathom what I would do if that horse actually won. I really can’t.”

This post appeared first on USA TODAY