Jareth Loveberry knew he was good for only a few words. To make himself heard, he knelt in front of Stan Kowalski, a 91-year-old  World War II veteran, during the Memorial Day ceremony last Monday in the winner’s circle.

Loveberry thanked Kowalski for the speech he has just given and then his words ran out.

“I choked up. I only got out ‘my brother,’ ” Loveberry said. Kowalski seemed to understand and nodded an acknowledgement only those who have undergone similar experiences can provide.

While Kowalski paid tribute to all the men and women who’ve lost their lives in the service of the United States, Loveberry was thinking of his brother, Justin, three years his elder.

The conversation shifted. “What horse are you on in the next race?’’ Kowalski asked. “The four horse,’’ Loveberry said. “I’ll be rooting for you,’’ Kowalski said.

In those brief moments, the past became the present.

“ It was November 13, 2004,’’ Loveberry said, the date branded in his memory.

Jareth, then 17,  was across the street from the family home on the edge of Mount Pleasant, Michigan that day, mucking stalls with a younger brother at the farm where he had worked since he was a  youngster. “Our boss told us we should go home early that day,’’ he said.

Jareth’s father gathered the family in the living room.  Justin, 20 years old, had been killed earlier that day in Iraq.  He had put himself in front of an IED, losing his life and sparing those of his comrades. “They were returning from a mission,’’ Jareth recalled.

Justin Ellsworth   Fallujah, Iraq. November 13, 2004. “We had different fathers, but we grew up together,’’ Jareth said, explaining the difference in their last names.

Jareth and other members of his family are invited to a dinner at the White House on Monday as part of a Gold Star Family acknowledgement. He’s not certain what to expect. “I’ve never been to D.C.,’’ he said.

Will the President be there? “I don’t know. They haven’t told us much,’’ Loveberry said.

Loveberry will fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday and return Tuesday to Minnesota, where he is riding at Canterbury Park for the first time.

Loveberry will turn 30 in August and originally saw himself as an architect. He began school at a career college in Michigan before relenting and returning to what already had a hold of him _ horses. He had been breaking babies since he was 13 years old, and rode his first race at Great Lakes Downs on what would have been Justin’s 21st birthday in 2005.

He has ridden in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arkansas. “I knew some Oklahoma people who liked coming up here,’’ he explained. “And while I was at Remington, Mac Robertson suggested that I come up here, too.’’

He is off to a good start, recording his ninth win of the meet on Friday’s card.

“I like it here,’’ Loveberry said, “everything about it…the weather, the community, the racing, the public. It’s kind of like Oaklawn (Park). People come out for the racing. That’s really neat.’’

Loveberry arrived without an agent but quickly found one in Richard Grunder. They had never met but Grunder had seen him ride on racing simulcasts. “I talked to people I trust who know him,’’ Grunder said. “He’s a good rider. I’m blessed to have him.’’

“This is a good place to be,’’ Loveberry added. “A good location.’’

Loveberry’s family _ his wife, Stacie and two children _ are living in Texas but are looking for a house in Oklahoma, something between, say, Remington Park and Oaklawn, where they can set down roots around Jareth’s career that takes him from place to place throughout the year.

Originally, his wife was to accompany him to the Gold Star dinner, and although she will accompany him to Washington, D.C., only immediate family members will attend the dinner after officials changed original plans.

The Loveberrys have two children, five-year-old Kennedy and seven-month old Colton, whose middle name is Justin.

That’s an additional tribute to Jareth’s brother, as was that win aboard the four horse on Memorial Day, with Kowalski rooting him on.

“It’s become my favorite day to win a race,’’ he said.



  1. Jareth Loveberry says:

    Thank you so much. This means a lot to me.

  2. It was our filly Java Chick that won in the fourth that day. She was not picked to win, and we were hoping for a third. Now I understand… she had a little heavenly help along with a great jockey gliding her across that finish line in a perfect ride!

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