Case study: Ramiro Restrepo and Fasig-Tipton

How Latin Americans are playing a role in U.S. Thoroughbred sales

Ramiro Restrepo, Latin American Market Representative for Fasig-Tipton, focused on his work at the 2016 Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Linzay Marks photo

Ramiro Restrepo refers to his base in Miami, Florida as being like “Latin America part 2,” emphasizing the high-volume Latin American influence in the city, from decision makers, government and civic leaders, real estate, media and entertainment, and Latin American natives with second homes in the United States.

Restrepo was based at Gulfstream Park a few years back when he connected with Fasig-Tipton, the oldest Thoroughbred auction company in North America (“History”). The company then met with him to discuss their upcoming project: hosting the 2015 Florida 2-year-olds in Training Sale at Gulfstream Park for the first time. Several attributes made Restrepo an obvious candidate for a position that did not yet exist at Fasig-Tipton: a market representative for Latin America. Restrepo called the creation of his position a “connect the dots thing,” due to the recent impact of Latin Americans at Fasig-Tipton sales, and described the initial meeting during an interview before the 2016 Saratoga Sale of Selected Yearlings in Saratoga Springs, New York: Continue reading

Horse Racing in Latin America

Money, galloping bareback, and international competitive outlook

According to the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities Facts and Figures, during the 2015 horse racing season, Chile distributed the equivalent of $27,519,145 US in prize money for Thoroughbred flat racing. Argentina distributed $52,690,252. Brazil’s numbers are considerably lower, at $12,851,015.[1]

Kitcat after winning the 2016 Clásico Club Hípico de Santiago

The same year, the United States distributed approximately $901,641,183 in prize money for flat racing alone – not including steeplechase competitions. These statistics alone provide a clear reason for why the U.S. is seeing considerably more Latin American involvement. Not only are there more racing opportunities at tracks across the nation, but there is more prize money. To provide an example, the Gran Premio Club Hípico de Santiago-Falabella is a Group 1[2] race in Chile that serves as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race of Chile (meaning the winning horse has an automatic berth into a Breeder’s Cup race in the U.S.). The 2000-meter race (the equivalent to 1 ¼ mile) on the turf, is open to horses 3 years of age and older. At the 2016 running, $35,000,000 Chilean Pesos were awarded to the winner, Kitcat. This amounts to about $53,969 U.S. dollars. To compare, we can look at the Grade 1 Arlington Million, also a Breeder’s Cup Challenge race, run in the U.S. with the exact same conditions (1 ¼ miles run on the turf, open to 3-year-olds and older). With a total purse of $1 million, the 2016 winner, Mondialiste, took home $570,000 for his connections. Continue reading

History of Latin Americans in the U.S. Racing Industry

From immigration to the jockeys who started it all

There is a tendency to group the Latin American[1] immigrants coming to the United States into one lumped sum. However, by breaking them apart, you can better analyze the demographics per each country. I will outline a few of the statistics from South America alone. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2015, 72,309 people from South America sought permanent residence in the United States: 1,596 from Chile, 3,730 from Argentina, 158,619 from Mexico, 9,144 from Venezuela, 10,148 from Peru, among many other countries (Table 3). The Department of State 2016 Report of the U.S. Visa Office accounts 669 Employment Preference Immigrant Visas Issued (by Foreign State of Chargeability or Place of Birth) for people from South America for the fiscal Year 2016, along with 241 from Mexico, which is included under North America (Table III). These give a general idea of current immigration rates. Continue reading

Introduction

From Viña del Mar to Saratoga

Lifeless brown leaves crackled under the weight of feet on the grey cobblestones of the Valparaíso Sporting racetrack paddock in Viña del Mar, Chile. Their dying colors contrasted with bright red, yellow and pink pompoms braided into the manes of Chilean Thoroughbreds, leaving their saddling stalls to stride around the ring. I leaned against the paddock rail, scrutinizing the foreign race program and glancing up at Thoroughbreds walking past.

Trabajaste en Saratoga? – you worked in Saratoga?” a man in a baggy tee shirt asked me in Spanish as he walked by, racehorse in hand. Word had spread that the United States exchange student girl who hung around the track every Wednesday had worked at Saratoga Race Course in New York. Continue reading

Preface: Furlongs Across Frontiers

The fruit of my labor is finally being published!

The following series of blog entries is the result of the final capstone research paper for my International Studies major at North Dakota State University. I graduated from NDSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Communication and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. International Studies is a secondary major designed to provide a more global perspective to your primary degree track and career goals by taking additional courses with an international focus, and studying abroad. The objective of the capstone paper is to select a topic that combines your anticipated profession with your study abroad experience and primary major. The series of events that led me to my topic began two years ago.

In January of 2015, I traveled to Amarillo, Texas for an internship with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). Because of my hard work and passion for horse racing, I was enlisted to work at the 2014 AQHA Racing Champions Announcements and Heritage Place Winter Sale in Oklahoma City with Andrea Caudill, editor of the AQHA racing magazine, Quarter Racing Journal. Interested in applying my Spanish skills during the experience, I was intrigued when she asked me to join her in a bilingual interview with Mexican horse breeder, Anselmo Aguilar. Andrea did not speak Spanish, so she spoke through an interpreter to learn about his transition from doctor to businessman, and now horse racing enthusiast (Caudill, 2016). Continue reading

El Derby, mi caballo Larry, y SCUBA

What’s better than horse racing in Chile, my own horse, and learning to breathe underwater?

This is the third time I’ve restarted this blog, because I no sooner write a few paragraphs that I have to stop. ‘This will be an easy semester,’ I once thought. Joke’s on me, because it’s been anything but! For now, I’m sitting in the NDSU Minard Hall coffee shop, enjoying a much-needed coffee after my 8:00 am intro to acting class, writing a fun little read for your Tuesday.

Three things:

  1. El Derby
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Bad screenshot, but quite the crowd at El Derby, 2017! Screenshot from Sporting.cl live feed

I’ve had the itch for a while now to write about Chile. In fact, I’ve never missed Chile as much as I did on Sunday, February 5. Memories from last February keep nudging me, reminders of when I was packing my bags to study abroad, oblivious to the challenges I would face and overcome – challenges that created a human of more substance than I was just a year ago.

Sunday the 5th, after a mouth wide open, dead to the world nap on a van back from an IHSA horse show (where I rode and practiced my Spanish by interviewing my teammates and translating their responses), I walked in the door of our house, on a mission to finish homework and return to my sleepy bliss as soon as possible. Continue reading

Songbird and Edgar Rodriguez

A brief interview in Spanish with Songbird’s rider Edgar Rodriguez (Spanish & English version)

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Edgar with Songbird Wednesday

Edgar Rodriguez, a 29-year-old native of Mexico, began working for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in southern California six years ago. Now he works as a rider and groom to the amazing Songbird, champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and winner of the July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course. Today she goes to post for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes.

I caught up with Edgar on the Wednesday afternoon before the Alabama while Songbird grazed outside her barn on the backside of Saratoga. A quiet man who doesn’t waste words, Edgar did not have much to say, but his facial expressions as he spoke and the way he interacts with Songbird speaks volumes that I can’t possibly describe through a Q & A. In a nutshell, it’s pretty clear that he adores her. Continue reading

Our World Series

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships was one for the history books

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending a 108-year drought. The “World Series” of horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, took place over the weekend.

bcwc_logo_4cIn my favorite sport, I cheer for multiple teams – as do most horse racing fans. My game hats and tee-shirts don’t sport a single set of colors or a solitary name of who I stand behind. Red and white for Songbird, orange and purple for Beholder, silver and white with the word “Chrome” for California Chrome, one fan can have alliances with one or all.

Our sport is unique in the sense that nearly every “player” has their own jersey with distinct colors and symbols to represent their team – a team that consists of a jockey, trainer, owner, hot walker, groom, veterinarian and exercise rider, or maybe multiples of each.

Our series is spread out throughout the year, with each team picking their games based on the ability and necessities of our superstars – the equine masterpieces that have been bred for centuries just to play and excel at this game. Each game is strategically selected based on the horse’s level of training, ability, stamina, speed and preferred distance. The other teams are also taken into account, with the “coaches” speculating about the right time and place to challenge a particular foe. Continue reading

Thoughts from a journalist

The complete and utter truth about my experiences as a horse racing journalist

To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for a career. One thing is certain: I want to work in the horse racing industry. But I also want to travel, speak Spanish, be around horses, continue writing and work with people. If someone could please design a job to capture all of those things in one awesome package, it would be very much appreciated!

I’m grateful that I’ve had so many opportunities within the horse industry to try my hand at a variety of jobs and internships. The majority of them have been communications-related, but each one has taught me a number of different skills and lessons.

One of the most rewarding and challenging jobs I’ve ever done is worked as a journalist.

I cringe every time I see a blog titled “An open letter to ‘whatever blippity blah’…” because it’s so overdone, so I don’t want this to sound like that. However, I would like to lend my readers a bit of insight into the human interaction standpoint of journalism. I’ve met wonderful, sweet, kind, loving and thankful people. I’ve rooted for them, shared their emotions and sometimes even tears – internally more-so than outwardly because I have to remain unbiased. This piece is about my day-to-day work as a journalist at Saratoga Race Course this summer and last.

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Scanning the horizon for my next interviewee. Linzay Marks photo

You see me in the mornings, walking from one end of the racetrack to the other, always on a mission. One second I’m strolling past the clocker stand of the Oklahoma Training Track, on the hunt for a trainer, and the next I’m clear across Union Avenue, standing by the Morning Line Kitchen.

Only a few hours later you’d hardly recognize me. Like the racetrack version of Cinderella (except looking for horse owners, trainers, jockeys, anyone but a prince) I’ve transformed my baseball cap with a  tangled pony tail sticking out the back, jeans and dusty hiking shoes into a dress and curls. “Somebody’s wearing makeup today,” an acquaintance coyly comments as I walk into the paddock. In reality I’m not wearing any more than I put on when I crawled out of bed at 5 a.m., because who has time for that? Maybe I just look a little more awake now. Continue reading

Back from Saratoga

Transitioning from work life to school life (aka real life)

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How could I resist a selfie with the beautiful Songbird?!

I’m still used to waking up early. Six a.m., there are horses to be fed. My alarm goes off, the most annoying ringy-dingy sound I could possibly find on my phone. It reminds me of a circus. Our little hobby farm along the Red River is far from a circus. Saratoga was a little closer, mornings, days and nights never slowing down. Track work in the mornings, races in the afternoons, parties raging through the night (for people who don’t work for The Saratoga Special). Here we’re surrounded by farm fields. Green soybean plants, higher than my hip as far as I can see. A few fields over, corn and wheat.

The nice thing about the level horizon is the sunrises. A vivid pink haze, painted with purple streaks seeped into the morning sky today, reminding me of when you dunk a black tea bag into a steaming cup of water and the steeping spices meld with the liquid until it becomes a rich brown.

Saratoga has made me into a coffee addict. Three years of college and I never once relied on a caffeinated beverage to get me through a long night of writing essays. Continue reading