Tale of the Track Kitchen

Four days out from Justify’s attempt at the Triple Crown, MY reflections on what his Kentucky Derby meant to me

You know you’re doing things right when your child-self would be proud of your 22-year-old self.

Justify and trainer Bob Baffert, the morning after winning Kentucky Derby 144

That’s how I felt on the first Saturday in May, walking across the roof of Churchill Downs racetrack and looking over the twin spires at the huge oval below. The grey sky, intermittently spitting sprinkles of rain, could do nothing to alter the mood. Continue reading

When Not in Saratoga

At the time this is published, I’ll be just three days away from going to Saratoga.

However, I started writing it in my head a couple weeks ago. That means my outlook is a lot more positive at this moment that it was when I first scratched most of this blog down on yellow sticky notes as I sat at my desk in Kentucky on Saratoga opening day.

Friday, July 21st:

If you’d have told me a year ago that a year from then I would be living in Kentucky, interning with one of the most prestigious thoroughbred sales companies in the world, I would have been thrilled, and maybe even cried a little. Don’t get me wrong, I still am thrilled, but my emotions are a bit displaced at the moment.

For two strait summers I was spoiled, living in Saratoga for almost the entire duration of the race meet while working as a staff writer for The Saratoga Special. This opportunity launched me full-on into the thoroughbred industry and opened doors that would have been unimaginable, had the guys who run The Special not taken a risk on a young lady from Fargo, North Dakota.

One of my friends who I met at the historic racecourse in upstate New York once told me he would rather be dead than not be at Saratoga on opening day. Now that’s insanely dramatic, and I was heavily criticized when I tweeted his quote. But if you’ve been there, you can empathize with where he’s coming from. Saratoga is not real life. You’re transported to another universe when rich and poor, young and old, horses and humans come together in a setting that fosters passion, heartbreak, sin and euphoria. Continue reading

Case Study; Conclusion: Roberto Rodriguez, Spanish Media and the Clásico del Caribe

Moving forward, what can be done to encourage Latin American involvement?

Roberto Rodriguez was born in Venezuela and came to the United States in 2001. While he grew up a horse racing fan, it was not initially where he planned to make his living. Five years ago, he began working as a journalist, in charge of the sports section of a local newspaper. When he requested media credentials for the Florida Marlins, Miami Dolphins and Gulfstream Park racetrack, Gulfstream was the only one who opened the door and offered him the credentials. He began covering the sport and connecting with people in the business. Rodriguez eventually began working with a company who partnered with prominent horse racing industry trade publication, The BloodHorse, to create BloodHorse en Español. After 6 months, the project failed because of lack of interest on behalf of Latin American readers to purchase the online subscription. When deciding on his next step, Rodriguez decided to begin his own project.

Roberto Rodriguez at the 2017 Belmont Stakes

“The idea of the magazine, it was good, the only thing is people has [sic] to pay for it,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview. “So when we finished that project, I say well, I’ve got to do something because I figured it’s still a good idea, but we could manage the other way. So I said let’s put together a website, and I was pretty much by myself. I’ve got nobody else working with me right then. I said well, I’ve got to put my name because people know me as “El Potro”, and I’ve got to put my name on it.” Continue reading

The U.S. Diversifying

Spanish resources in the U.S. are making the sport more accessible to Latin American fans

One of the photographers I met while covering the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race in Chile asked if I had ever heard of the Spanish horse racing website, ElPotroRoberto.com. I hadn’t, so he suggested I look it up as a way of improving my Spanish. I began following the stories and updates on races in the United States, and found it very helpful for expanding my equine Spanish vocabulary.

During the summer of 2016, I worked as a staff writer for The Saratoga Special, a publication that covers the races at Saratoga Race Course. One morning, on my way to interview a trainer, I recognized Roberto Rodriguez, the founder and owner of ElPotroRoberto.com.

Spanish horse racing media is growing. And it makes sense, considering the afore-mentioned percentages of Hispanics working in the United States horse racing industry, that there would be specific media presented in their native language. The commencement of the 2015 University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program Global Symposium on Racing began with a panel presentation of ideas to improve and market the sport of horse racing. One of the first of 45 suggestions was offered by Steve Byk, host of At the Races radio program, who highlighted the New York Racing Association’s race calls in Spanish, but pointed out that despite the high level of Hispanic involvement, the racing industry does little to develop them as fans (Angst, 2015). Continue reading

Case study: John Fulton and The Breeders’ Cup World Championships

The Breeders’ Cup is doing its part to encourage Latin American involvement in the U.S.

Club Hípico de Santiago racetrack from the backside

On May 22, 2016, I walked through the stone arch and wrought iron entrance gates of Club Hípico de Santiago racecourse (CHS) to claim my press and photography passes for a race called the Clásico Club Hípico de Santiago-Falabella. The 147-year-old grandstands of Club Hípico looked like a castle, crowned by swaying flags of Chile and the CHS logo. Run for the first time in 1903, the race’s history and prestige stands for itself. However, the 2016 edition would have added incentive, as it had been designated the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race of Chile – a “Win and You’re In” for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park in California.

The Breeder’s Cup, founded in 1984 and operated by Breeders’ Cup Limited, is a two-day horse racing championship held in the United States each year. The event offers $28 million in purse money and attracts horses from around the world. The Breeders’ Cup includes a lucrative nomination program and the Challenge Series, also referred to as “Win and You’re In” races. These races, held across the globe, allow the winning horse and their connections to travel to the Breeders’ Cup by paying their expenses and offering a berth into the race. The Breeders’ Cup website states “And while these two days have seen legends born, history made, and fortunes won, the greatest part is that the best is still yet to come” (“About”). Continue reading

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


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