Where are they: Keith Swagerty

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Where are they: Keith Swagerty

Postby rlee » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:04 am

By Scott Hanson
Seattle Times staff
AUBURN — From basketball to horses, Keith Swagerty is used to winning.

A couple of weeks ago, the former Seattle Pacific basketball coach set the Emerald Downs record for season victories by an owner with his 24th. Swag Stables is at 26 and counting with more than two weeks remaining.

"It wasn't one of my goals [to break the owner record], and it hadn't even occurred to me," said Swagerty, 63, who promised his wife he would cut back on the horse business if he wasn't successful this year.

As it turns out, there was no need to worry. Not with horses like No Flies On Doodle, a 3-year-old filly that Swagerty bred and raised.

No Flies on Doodle is coming off two stakes victories, including last month's Washington Oaks, the showcase race of the meet for 3-year-old fillies. She will look to cap her season Sunday on Washington Cup VII day at Emerald Downs, where she will be the likely favorite in the $50,000 John & Kitty Fletcher Stakes.

Seven $50,000 stakes races for Washington-breds are on the card. Swag Stables is expected to run Eighty Eight in the Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings.

Decades before buying his first horse, Swagerty was setting records as one of the greatest players in University of the Pacific basketball history. When Swagerty finished at UOP in 1967, he was the school's career leader with 1,659 points and 1,505 rebounds (18.3 per game).

Swagerty, who is 6 feet 7, remains the school's all-time leading rebounder and was the first player in school history to have his number retired. He led the Tigers to a 60-22 record in three seasons and made two NCAA tournament appearances.

In Swagerty's senior season, the Tigers beat defending champion Texas Western in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual champion UCLA, led by Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Swagerty, who once grabbed 39 rebounds in a college game, was known for his incredible intensity. Think Jon Brockman, the recently graduated Washington Husky, if you're looking for a comparison.

"The same size and our styles are very similar," Swagerty said. "I coached his dad [Gordy] at Seattle Pacific. I've known Jon since he was a baby."

Swagerty played two years in the ABA and one year in Italy before moving into coaching. He was an assistant at Seattle Pacific for four years under Les Habegger before getting the head-coaching job in 1974.

He had a record of 87-61, but was fired in 1980.

"We were 18-9 with four freshmen and a junior," he said. "The next year, they went [13-14]. Really, it was a blessing, though. My family would have never lived the lifestyle they are accustomed to living now if I had stayed at Seattle Pacific."

Swagerty left basketball to work for Financial Network Investment. A horse lover all his life, Swagerty liked the idea of owning horses but didn't know who to trust or who he should get as a trainer.

About 12 years ago, Swagerty was at a Mariners game and was introduced to Vann Belvoir, who had finished a short but outstanding career as a jockey and was moving into training.

"He liked country music, baseball and horses, and that was good enough for me," Swagerty said.

Belvoir now manages Swagerty's West Coast Training Center near Black Diamond and trains all of Swagerty's horses. Swagerty owns about 40 horses, including 10 broodmares and stallion Liberty Gold.

Swagerty has bred and raised many of the horses he races.

"That makes it more special," he said.

No Flies On Doodle is Swagerty's first stakes winner owned solely by him. He said watching her win was possibly more exciting than making a big shot in basketball.

"In basketball, you don't have perspective when you're playing," he said. "You don't know that you're going to get the big shot. In horse racing, you know when the big race is coming up and there is all the anticipation. It's very exciting."
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