A horse born and bred on Whidbey Island recently won the Longacres Mile Handicap, one of the most prestigious horse races in the Northwestern United States.
The year’s champion, Slew’s Tiz Whiz, ridden by jockey Jose Zunino, is a 4-year-old thoroughbred who was born on the North Whidbey farm where Darlyne Krieg and her late husband, Karl, raised their five children.
Horses from all over the country come to Emerald Downs in Auburn to compete for the $150,000 purse money. Only 12 horses are picked every year to run the race. According to Emerald Downs’ website, Slew’s Tiz Whiz is the first Washington-bred horse to win the Longacres Mile since Stryker Phd did so in 2015.
“It’s the biggest money race at Emerald every year and there’s a lot of prestige and tradition to it,” said Tom Wenzel, who has trained Slew’s Tiz Whiz – or Slew, as Wenzel calls him – since he was 2 years old.
Slew has now won three races in a row and won the Longacres Mile by two and three-quarters lengths.
“It seems like a lot of horses that have won this race have been 5-year-olds,” Wenzel said. “So he’s done it as a pretty young horse and did it pretty convincingly.”
Despite his recent success, Slew didn’t always seem to be destined for glory.
Wenzel said he finished dead last at his first race as a 2-year-old, but won his first race as a 3-year-old and has been steadily improving ever since.
Karl Krieg, owner of Krieg Construction, passed away in 2019. Slew’s Tiz Whiz was from one of the last breedings that Krieg put together while he was fighting cancer.
The Kriegs have had incredible success breeding champion horses, according to Roy Brewer, who helped Karl with pedigree research for many years. Their success is even more remarkable given the fact they have a relatively small farm.
“Karl and Darlyne only usually had three or four mares on the property at any one time, and to have all these horses come from that small a group of mares is unheard of,” Brewer said. “We said there was something in the grass there at their farm on Whidbey.”
In reality, it was because Karl was very astute in studying the horses’ pedigrees.
“His homework and his eye for the horses was what brought these combinations together and for some reason it just clicked,” Brewer said. “I’ve been in the business for 40 years and I don’t know anybody who’s had the amount of success that Karl’s had with his horses, with that small a group of horses to choose from.”
Brewer said larger operations have had the same amount of success but have used hundreds of mares. The Kriegs only used a handful.
“It’s really been a fun ride to be on, to be with them and to watch this happen,” Brewer said. “and to see somebody that didn’t have a gazillion dollars to throw at this have the success they had.”
Darlyne and Karl bought their property on North Whidbey in 1957 and raised their family there. At the time, they didn’t have any thoroughbred horses – only work horses. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that they decided to invest in a thoroughbred horse named Late Sailing. Now the farm has over 20.
“We raise them, we race them, now we’re getting more into the selling,” Darlyne Krieg said.
She said the farm keeps the horses even after they’re are retired.
“We’re not going to just dump them, that’s all there is to it,” she said.
She now keeps eight retired racing horses on the property.
“They’re called pasture ornaments,” said Karlyne Larsen, Karl and Darlyne’s daughter. She lives down the road on her own farm but continues to help with her mother’s horses.
The Kriegs were not just horse owners but breeders as well.
“A lot of people buy race horses,” Larsen said. “My mom and dad did it from the start. Not a lot of people do all that.”
Larsen and Darlyne agreed all of their success was because of Karl’s dedicated pedigree research.
“It was quite a science,” Darlyne said. “I respect the way he did it.”
JoDee Snyder, who has worked for the Kriegs for several years, said there are still stacks of papers of his research lying around the Krieg home. She said raising horses is a lot of hard work for occasional small rewards. Slew’s Tiz Whiz winning the Longacres Mile was one of the biggest.
“Those wins somehow outweigh all the hours of work and tears because we’ve not been without heartache,” Snyder said. “We’ve lost horses, had horses hurt, had ourselves hurt. You know, it’s not easy.”
She said it was scary having Slew up against so many big-name horses in the Longacres Mile.
“He’s just a home-grown Washington horse that has a limited number of races,” Snyder said.
Larsen said it was always a dream of her father’s to have a horse win the Longacres Mile. He actually had a horse he thought could win at one time, Makors Finale, but the thoroughbred got hurt a month before the race. Another one of their horses, Absolutely Cool, ran the race at 9 years old.
“We knew that he wasn’t going to win but Dad always wanted a Mile horse,” Larsen said. “He wanted a horse in the race.”
Slew’s Tiz Whiz, who was in the middle of the pack and riding the rail for most of the race, passed the other horses in the last few seconds. Slew and Zunino were covered in mud by the time they crossed the finish line; the other horses remained pristine.
“Needless to say our box seats up there were loud,” Darlyne laughed.
Larsen’s brother, Chuck Krieg, passed away earlier this year, also from cancer. Chuck helped out on the farm a lot.
“It’s really ironic that the year that they’re both gone, we win the Mile,” Larsen said.
It was one thing the two of them would have loved to see.
Out of Darlyne and Snyder, Larsen said she was the only one who expected Slew’s Tiz Whiz to win first place.
“I had a vision,” she said. “Dad’s going to give him wings.”