Seeing Double: Twin Fillies Race for Twin Teens

Twin 2-year-old fillies owned by twin teenagers competed in Santa Anita's first juvenile race of the season Wednesday. Brother and sister Kyle and Kayla Williamson own Kyles Rocketdancer and Kaylasrocketdancer, twins produced from the Nijinsky's Table mare Banta's Dancer and bred by their father, J.R. Williamson, in California.

J.R. Williamson pointed the two fillies toward the first Santa Anita race once he realized that they were developing well and could both make it to the races. He put them in training with Keith Craigmyle at Fairplex Park. It is "the first time in our knowledge" that twins have raced in the same race at Santa Anita, track spokesman Mike Willman said.

“I thought there might be a little bit of history here to be made, if these foals can stay sound and are taken care of, to try to enter them in a race together,” J.R. Williamson said.

According to The Jockey Club, the 2-year-old fillies would be the fifth set of twins born since 2000 to each make it to the races. Of the four other sets to race, there are no instances in which both twins are winners.

The 1-2 favorite, Excessive Heat, won the two-furlong event by 1 1/4 lengths and the twin fillies ran ninth and 10th, but the Williamson family felt that the fillies accomplished their goal just by getting to the race. And it didn't take long for Kayla Williamson to turn to her parents and say, “My horse beat his horse.”

Though twins are rare in Thoroughbreds and often don't survive, Banta's Dancer not only foaled the two fillies, she was able to nurse them both.

“She's a big, strong mare, and she did fine,” said Williamson. He said that the twin pregnancy occurred because early veterinary tests failed to detect two heartbeats.

Dr. Matts Troedsson, a specialist in equine reproduction at the veterinarian school at the University of Minnesota, said in a 2001 article for The Horse that twins occur a little more commonly in Thoroughbreds than in other breeds; about 20% of ovulations in Thoroughbred mares are double ovulations.

"Overall, the incidence of double ovulations is about 20%, half of which will result in a twin pregnancy by day 14," reported Troedsson. "If we calculate spontaneous reduction, we're left with an incidence of twin pregnancies between 2% and 5%. The majority of these cases end in abortion, with less than 1% giving birth to live foals."

Williamson had bred Banta's Dancer to the stallion Rocket Cat, and she foaled at Ben Warren's Warren's Thoroughbreds in Hemet. Williamson owns a local feed store, W W Feed Supply, and he and Warren became friends. Warren persuaded Williamson to buy some Thoroughbred mares about four years ago, and they included Banta's Dancer.

When Banta's Dancer began to foal, Warren telephoned Williamson with the news. Williamson and his wife, Carla, were driving over to the farm when Warren called back to tell them the mare was having twins. At first Williamson didn't believe him.

“We have twins, and you get teased about it,” Williamson said. “We got there and we had two babies on the ground.”

Though at first one foal was smaller than the other, they are now of similar size. Kaylasrocketdancer, a bay, has a small star and strip and two back white socks, while Kyles Rocketdancer, a chestnut, sports a wide blaze and three white feet.

The now 15-year-old twins didn't choose which horse they got, Williamson said, but Kayla liked the bay anyway. Kayla and Kyle went through the California Horse Racing Board application process and are licensed owners. They attend West Valley High School in Hemet, where Kayla, who also rides horses, is a cheerleader. The two skipped school Wednesday so that they could watch their horses compete.

“When the horses were born, it was amazing to me,” J.R. Williamson said. “And we have twins. We named them after the kids and said, 'we'll see.' And it worked.”

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