With the last rays of daylight fading behind the rolling central Kentucky hills, a back and forth dialog played out in John Ortiz’s mind as he left his barn at the Churchill Downs Trackside Training Center.
John’s day had begun what now seemed like countless hours ago, well before the break of dawn, driving the now familiar stretch of interstate that stretches between his home in Lexington and the Thoroughbreds he would work and care for that rainy, foggy December morning. His body was now aching for the warmth and comfort of home—and his heart yearned to see the faces of his wife Crystal and sons Xavier and newly born Jaden. Making the thought of home even more appealing was the fact that his mother, Magnolia, was also there, as she had come for a short time to help with the baby.
Life is often full of choices and balancing work responsibilities and family, and a voice in the back of John’s mind reminded him that his fledgling stable had a starter running that night at Turfway Park just outside of Cincinnati. While John had complete faith in his crew to take care of getting the horse ready for the race, he also knew the importance of being present as a trainer for his horse owners when one of his charges ran. A sense of obligation pulled at John’s emotions as he wrestled with the direction his car would take him that chilly evening.
Should he follow his heart and take the concrete path east toward Lexington and home and family—or should he first head north to be there for Red Charm’s trip over the Turfway oval?
And then the answer hit him in the face as sharply as the chilly 5:00 a.m. air had that very morning…
Read the full story of “John Ortiz: Of Family and Photos” in the Winter 2019 issue of The Thoroughbred Experience. Subscribe today and don’t miss this and many other amazing stories that truly capture the heart of horse racing.
Photo of John Ortiz with his wife Crystal and son Jayden at Keeneland Race Course following Zula Alpha’s win in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes courtesy of our friend Averie Levanti.