Q-Racing Blog: Riding High

Jockey Ricky Ramirez is living his dream.

Quarter Racing Journal

Jockey Ricky Ramirez is living his dream.

Jockey Ricky Ramirez is living his dream.

The 32-year-old Ramirez – who is quick to add that he feels like 22 – surpassed the 1,000 career win mark recently at Remington Park. Then, at Ruidoso Downs over Memorial Day weekend, he was aboard each of the Trey Wood-trained runners that dominated the trials to the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity and Ruidoso Derby.

Ramirez and the father-son Wood tandem of Blane and Trey, qualified two horses for the Ruidoso Futurity and then took charge during Sunday afternoon’s Ruidoso Derby trials. They won six of the 12 trials and qualified four horses for the 400-yard derby. The Wood horses are running under Trey’s name for the first time this summer at Ruidoso Downs.

When Ramirez looks at his official AQHA record that shows his 1,000 wins, he’s amazed. “What’s this,” he asks. I respond that he is looking at a list of his career stakes wins. He can’t believe it. He counts his Grade 1 wins. “How many,” I ask. “Fifteen,” he responds.

The rider estimates that about 600 of those 1,000 wins have come aboard Blane Wood- or Trey Wood-trained horses.

From Odessa, Texas, Ramirez has always been around horses.

“My dad had horses ever since I was born. He had horses in Mexico and when he came to the states he had horses,” said Ramirez while sitting outside the Wood barn. A horse passes by and he points out that it is Texas Classic Futurity (G1) winner High Plains Perry. He is the fourth-fastest qualifier to the Ruidoso Derby and looks grand. He raced 18 hours earlier and walks out like he could run again today.

“My dad rode in Mexico and got too big for it. Ever since I was a kid it was the only thing I wanted to do.

“I wasn’t raised in a rich family. We couldn’t afford to come to Ruidoso when we were younger, but my dad brought us every year for the All American. Watching G.R. (Carter), Jacky Martin, Jerry Nicodemus and all those good, good riders, Cody Jensen, I could go on and on. Watching these guys ride I wanted to be in their shoes and now I’m there. It’s a good feeling.

“I started riding match races at the age of 13 and I wanted to come to the track at the age of 16, but my dad wouldn’t let me. He wanted me to graduate high school so I graduated from Permian High and then, once I got my diploma, he turned me loose.”

Ramirez set out for Ruidoso, got his jockey’s license and ran into agent Dominic Rivera, who wanted him to ride thoroughbreds because of his light weight. “I got my apprentice license and rode a few thoroughbreds, but my heart was for Quarter Horses; I wanted to ride Quarter Horses,” said Ramirez. “I was getting on nice Quarter Horses and slow Thoroughbreds, so it wasn’t making sense. I stuck with Quarter Horses and have been enjoying it.”

Good decision.

“The first horse I rode for Blane was in 2007 and I was riding second call under J.J. Gonzales,” said Ramirez. “In 2008, he gave me first call. I was helping with the babies in Lubbock. When we got to El Paso (Sunland Park) he gave me first call and we’ve been together ever since. I was very excited when we had a little talk and he said I was his man.”

Of course, the morning after the derby trials, Ramirez has not decided which horse he will ride in each race. However, he offered insights into his process.

“We’ll see how the futurity horses pull up. It’s been 36 hours since the trials and it’s kinda early to tell,” said Ramirez. “I study the replay and try to refresh my memory because after riding 26 trials it all becomes a blur after a while. I look to see if there were any mistakes and at little details that you didn’t notice because you’re trying to win the race. I look at any fine detail and see if I think there is room for improvement or not. It’s a minor thing because it’s a lot gut feeling from what you were feeling that day. I look at what the wind was doing and look at the times. A lot of it is gut feeling.”

The Wood/Ramirez Ruidoso Futurity qualifiers were each first-time starters — U R My Queen and She Eat Fire.

Terry and Irene Stennett’s U R My Queen won her trial by one-half length with the second day’s second-fastest time of :17.922 for 350 yards while facing a five-mph headwind. The Walk Thru Fire filly also turned the fastest time of the day when she ran in the Ruidoso Downs training races.

Paragon Farms, LLC’s She Eat Fire set the fourth-fastest time on the first day of futurity trials. She stepped up to her task and won by a game neck in :18.155 with a 14-mph headwind.

The Wood/Ramirez derby qualifiers are third-fastest qualifier Corona Carmeltia, High Plains Perry, ninth-fastest qualifier Tough To Bee and 10th-fastest qualifier Mighty B Cartel.

“I’m just blessed to qualify four and excited to be able to ride such good horses,” said Ramirez.

An eye-catching Corona Cartel filly bred by Juliana Hawn Holt, Corona Carmelita was making her second career start in the derby trials after easily taking a maiden race at Remington Park.

“Corona Carmelita wasn’t a surprise to us,” said Ramirez. “She was a good filly that didn’t start (last year) and had some issues. She was so fast early that she had some soreness in her shins. Not crippled, just soreness. Blane and Trey decided to lay back and bring her back as a three-year-old. We ran her in the three-year-old schooling races at Remington and she beat them for fun. Then she ran in a maiden race and beat them for fun. We were by no ways surprised. We were going against (All American Futurity winner) Imperial Eagle, a very good horse and my respects for him. That performance she gave yesterday, we were excited, but not a surprise.”

The filly won by a neck in :19.636 for 400 yards with an eight-mph tailwind.

“High Plains Perry has been a very good horse,” said Ramirez. “He had bad luck here at Ruidoso last year. We got to Lone Star and luck was on our side and we ended up winning the Texas Classic Futurity.

“Yesterday’s performance was just awesome. He broke well and got out there in front and kinda wanted to play around. I had to get after him because they don’t know they’re running against time. I was very impressed with him.”

High Plains Perry won his trial by one length in :19.641 with a seven-mph crosswind.

“Tough To Bee was also a very good 2-year-old,” said Ramirez. “He ran a good third in the Ruidoso Futurity and came back to run a close third in the Texas Classic. He’s always right there and has made a quarter of a million dollars ($265,726). He’s one to watch for. Yesterday he kinda had a little stumble. About two or three jumps out of there he kinda missed the ground and that cost me a little bit of time. He’s a nice horse.”

Tough To Bee won his trial by one-half length in :19.769 with an eight-mph crosswind.

“Mighty B Cartel is improving with age, said Ramirez. “He’s getting better every trip. I’m excited to see him later in the summer. The future will hold his better performances.”

Mighty B Cartel won his trial by a head in :19.778 with an eight-mph tailwind.

Ramirez is a top professional jockey, like the riders he idolized.

“I’m a lot further in my career than I ever thought I would be,” he said. “Just coming from the bush tracks, I almost get teary eyed just thinking how good this sport has been to me. I’m very blessed to represent good people and good owners. Hard work pays off. It’s an example right here and very blessed.

“World champion was one of my goals in life and we accomplished that in 2015. Of course, I’d like to do it again. But, that’s off my bucket list. The All American is on top of my bucket list. It’s something I sure want to do before the end of my career. I’d like to win it for the Woods. They’ve been good to me and they’re chasing it just as bad as I’m chasing it. To win it together would just be awesome.”

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