Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Successful lads and soon-to-be-crowned Laddie in Louisiana.

Quarter Racing Journal

Successful lads and soon-to-be-crowned Laddie in Louisiana.

J.R. Ramirez accepts the Mother's Day Stakes trophy.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

The Joy of Winning Shared by Close-Knit Ramirez Family
By Martha Claussen

There is a very heart-warming story unfolding these days at Delta Downs. The 2016 Quarter Horse meet is in full stride with the Lassie and Laddie futurities set for this weekend. But perhaps the horses might be taking a back seat to the return of jockey J. R. Ramirez and the amazing support of his older brother, Saul and cousin, Raul Ramirez Jr.

Beginning in 2002, Jockey J. R. Ramirez was rapidly building a name for himself as one of the top young riders in the country. He was experiencing unprecedented success in Texas. When he was just 23, he clinched a rare sweep of riding titles at each Texas racetrack: Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, Retama Park and Sam Houston Race Park. He joined Saul on the West Coast, winning several major stakes at Los Alamitos including the 2005 Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1) and back-to-back victories in the prestigious Golden State Million Futurity (G1) with Higher Fire in 2005 and Jess You and I in 2006.

Ramirez and his wife, Elizabeth, make their home in McDade, Texas, and are the proud parents of a son and three daughters. The loss of first-born son, Jose Jesus, affectionately known as "Pepito" was devastating for J.R., and was one of the reasons he took a three-year break from the saddle beginning in 2013.

However, he never lost his passion for riding and the thrill of winning, and was fueled by the dominating performances of cousin, Raul, who won back-to-back editions of the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity at Evangeline Downs in 2014 and 2015.

"Raul was riding great," said J. R. "He's been knocking it out of the ballpark. My father and uncle brought us up to be competitive, but always to be happy for each other's success."

So with the support of his family, J. R. got in shape and embarked on his comeback. Since getting his license in 2016, he has won eight races and was grinning ear-to-ear on May 7 when he notched his first stakes of the comeback. He guided Lester Colomb Jr.'s PYC First Prize Mia to victory in the $28,900 Mother’s Day Stakes and might have an even bigger smile on Saturday when he rides Ricardo Cantu's Dragon N Panther in the $281,007 Laddie Futurity (RG2) for his brother, Saul.

Saul Ramirez, Jr. is the older brother of J. R. After three decades in the saddle with success in California, Texas and Louisiana, he retired from riding last December and has transitioned to training Quarter Horses. He has won three races from 24 starts, including a victory Wednesday, May 18, at Delta with 21-1 longshot, Quik Romance.

"I am starting over as a trainer and enjoying the challenge," said Saul.  "I rode Quik Romance and broke his maiden in Houston. He needed some time off and the owner called me and asked if I would train him."

On Saturday, Ramirez will saddle Ricardo Cantu's Dragon N Panther Saturday in the Laddie Futurity and give a leg up to J.R.

"It's an honor to have a qualifier, and means a lot to have my brother ride for me," said Saul. "There will be no pressure come race time; he knows what to do."

"Saul is pretty laid back," explains J. R. "We both feel that if you have put in the work and are prepared, that's all you can do. If it's meant to be yours, it will happen."

Walter Layland, clerk of scales at Sam Houston Race Park, has known all three for close to two decades.

"They are all great riders, that's for sure," stated Layland. "But, if you picked on one of them in the jocks room, you picked on them all!"

Saul, Raul and J.R. have a combined ton of knowledge and experience in the Quarter Horse racing world. Their support for each other provides an added ingredient that they do not take for granted.

"We are competitive, for sure, but never lose sight of who we are," states Raul. "It will always be family first. If J.R. wins and I run second, I am tickled for him."

Hard to pick against this winning trio!

 Watch the Laddie Futurity at Delta Downs!

Crowning the Laddie Futurity Champion Saturday at Delta Downs
by Jennifer Hancock

Freshmen stakes races are heating up, and the Pelican State will be the focus of Quarter Horse racing this weekend. Delta Downs will host the Lassie Futurity for 2-year-old fillies on Friday night and the Laddie Futurity for the boys on Saturday night. Wrangler Q-Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock analyzed the $281,007 Laddie Futurity (RG2) and offers these handicapping suggestions for the 330-yard stakes on Saturday:

Jennifer’s Laddie Stakes picks: #10 Dash To Intrigue is the ninth-fastest qualifier, but won his trial by the biggest margin – one length. The Dashin Bye gelding ran third in his first out, but has reeled off two daylight wins coming into the Laddie. Smiling Joe Badilla Jr., who has been the AQHA Champion Jockey four times, will be in the saddle.

#4 Royal Quick Patriot is the fastest qualifier and broke his maiden on first asking in the trials. Trainer Kenny Roberts is known for having a magic touch with youngsters and has four of the ten finalists. Roberts is winning more than a quarter of all the races he enters at Delta Downs.

#6 Blue Courage is another Kenny Roberts trainee and the second-fastest qualifier. The Jess Louisiana Blue gelding was sixth out of the gate in his first race and rallied to win his trial by a head. With a quicker break out of the gates, Blue Courage could be a force to reckon with in the final. 

Don Griffin’s homebred #8 Fire On Ease is the fourth-fastest qualifier after winning his first out by half a length. Fire On Ease broke out in his maiden effort, but a straight trip could help him land in the winner’s circle again.

Wrangler Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock's Top Four Selections:
#10 Dash To Intrigue
 #4 Royal Quick Patriot
 #6 Blue Courage
 #8 Fire On Ease  


Wrangler Racing Aces in May

Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen will make her way to Delta Downs on Saturday, May 21. She will join track announcer Don Stevens for paddock previews and analysis of the races, including the $281,007 Louisiana Laddie Futurity (RG2).  Stop by the Aces table for a free tip sheet, handicapping materials and $2 betting voucher, courtesy of LQHBA (while supplies last).

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Remington Park, Sam Houston Race Park,  Indiana Grand and Delta Downs.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.