By DJ Ramirez

Trumpets fanfare over the speakers of the paddock as a disembodied voice shouts: “Riders Up!”

The jockeys in their brightly colored silks mount their saddles and head out into the track.

Spectators rush to the railings to get a better view of the finish line. The owners, trainers, breeders and wealthier fanatics sit in their reserved boxes above. The betting lines are still crowded as people try their luck at getting rich. The horses are brought into the gate and a quiet chatter settles over the crowd. Then the bell rings.

“And they’re off!”

For as long as I can remember, horse racing was my family’s business. I spent a lot of time at the barn as a little girl. My grandfather began training horses 50 years ago. My dad and his siblings grew up taking care of the horses in the stables grandpa had built in Jalisco, Mexico. My dad began to love horses from the first time my grandpa put him on one at six years old. By the time he was twelve, my dad was riding in quarter horse races.

DJ’s father racing | Photo courtesy of DJ Ramirez

At 16, he came to the United States for the first time and got a job picking oranges in Martin County, Florida before going to work at Payson Park Thoroughbred Training Center as a hotwalker and groom. My parents got married three years later and I was born a year after that. Then we moved to Texas where my dad got a job at Sam Houston Race Park as a rider.

My dad has always been a hard and determined worker. It is something that he and my mother have instilled in my brothers and I since we were young. Even though he spoke very little English, his goal was to succeed in this business. Not long after we moved to Texas, he had someone translate the rule book for him so that he could get his assistant trainer’s license. He then worked as an assistant trainer for eight years in Texas and six more in Louisiana.

Three years ago, my father made a decision. He was going to set out to train horses under his own name. It took patience and work, but so does anything truly worth doing. As my brothers and I worked hard in school, my parents took a risk to put together a company, and so, Ramirez Racing was born.

It began with just a few horses, but as he won races, he gained more patrons, and has now raced in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. One of his proudest accomplishments is training Heitai, the winning horse of the Louisiana Bred Premier Night Sprint Stake on February 6, 2016 at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. I remember my dad was super excited when he was first asked to take this horse on.

My dad has told me that horses are noble animals. They teach you a lot about humility and strength.

“They are strong enough to run long distances even when they are in pain,” he said. “They have taught me to be strong enough to face any obstacle I have to face.”

Like any trainer, my dad’s dream is to have a horse run, and win, the Triple Crown. He has taught me that when you love what you do, you are willing to put everything you have into it. He has pushed me to be the best I can be by setting an example of hard work and perseverance.

I have always believed that it was bad luck to bet on your own horse, but I still bet on my dad being in the winner circle any night.