Claudia L. Ruiz is the editor-in-chief of Thoroughbred Today magazine and the founder/president of EverythingEQ.com, both publications focusing on the world of racing. She’s a fan of the sport first, with her passion for horses having been sparked at age 10 when she took her first riding lessons. Ruiz tells us a little bit more about herself and her background in racing in a new edition of #FanFriday.
My introduction to horse racing occurred when ... I had watched the Kentucky Derby since the early 2000s, but watching the movie “Secretariat” in 2010 gave me a better idea of the sport, though it didn’t actually cause me to get involved. That happened in 2014 with California Chrome’s run in the Kentucky Derby. His story ignited a fire in me and I fell head over heels in love with the sport overnight. I taught myself how to handicap between the Derby and the Preakness and then found myself at Belmont Park to watch Chrome make his Triple Crown run. I’ll never forget that day. Even though it was devastating, it was also exciting because it became the first of now countless days at the track for me.
My top three favorite racetracks in order, and what I like about each one: Keeneland – Its old-school beauty makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.
Santa Anita Park – The grandstand is so big and the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains takes my breath away every single time.
Belmont Park - It has so much history. This year, I went on the track on an off day, closed my eyes and imagined Secretariat winning by 31 lengths. It was chilling.
Favorite place at the racetrack to watch a race: Actually on the track. Next best place: right on the rail. Nothing beats hearing the sound of the horses or feeling the ground as they pass by.
Managing a racing publication is like: This is going to sound ridiculous, but it’s not an exaggeration. It’s like walking through Times Square wearing a blindfold. There’s a lot that goes into each issue of Thoroughbred Today magazine. Not only do I manage it, I create it from scratch. Everything from the vision for each issue to the storylines, photo selection, interview coordination between writers and connections, design, article flow, ad sales, editing, print, and distribution, it all falls on me. Deadline week is always a circus, there’s always something that throws everything off completely and causes me to miss several nights of sleep. But it’s all worth it.
The best part of my job is: The behind-the-scenes access: getting to go into the barns to meet the horses one on one and talk with trainers. I spent the entire month of January with Team California Chrome at Gulfstream Park and then found myself on Tex Sutton (aka Air Horse One) to bid Chrome and Arrogate farewell after the Pegasus [World Cup Invitational Stakes]. That’s like winding up on a private plane with Steph Curry and Lebron James and getting to just hang out with them. Wild.
One thing that most people don’t know about me is: I’m a bit of a bird freak. I love bird watching so much; I’ll spend hours in a pasture, standing on a chair with a pair of binoculars, and I get so excited whenever I spot a new bird.
Accomplishment I am most proud of: Creating Thoroughbred Today magazine. I started it on a whim, with no money, no commitment from advertisers, and absolutely zero experience in the realm of publishing, and I’ve turned it into a successful publication with a readership of 25,000. Publications of our caliber are typically assembled by small armies and deep pockets. Not Thoroughbred Today magazine … and we just published our seventh issue.
Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Passion, dedication, courage
What is your go-to or signature bet to make at the racetrack: Superfecta box
My biggest gambling score ever at the racetrack was: The 2015 Suburban Handicap. Because it was a smaller field, I played a straight exacta of Effinex and Tonalist for $40, which resulted in a winning ticket for just over $500
My toughest beat while betting the races was: The 2016 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. I loved Venus Valentine on paper and had the superfecta, but at the last minute I hesitated (because she was 75-1) and dropped her. She won, and that super would’ve paid me just over $8,000. It still stings.
Best advice I could give to anyone who wants to learn about betting on the races: Learning to handicap isn’t just about betting; it actually teaches you a lot about the sport. The more you understand the Racing Form, the more you will enjoy the races. You’ll feel more comfortable interacting with other people, and you’ll have much more appreciation for the horses and jockeys.
Biggest mistake new handicappers and bettors make: Getting overconfident after one win and betting every race after. It’s a sure way to leave the track empty handed.
Favorite racehorse currently competing: I love Gun Runner, but Arrogate blew me away in the Dubai World Cup. It’s mind-blowing to me that so many people have jumped off the Arrogate train after his back-to-back losses; I’m not one of those people and I’m not going to hold those losses against him, especially after what he showed in the Pacific Classic – that effort was honorable even though it didn’t result in a win. I’d love to see him prove all the naysayers wrong.
Favorite all-time racehorse: Secretariat
Should the Breeders’ Cup rotate from coast to coast or have a permanent home: Definitely rotate. It gives us a reason to enjoy different racing venues, cities, and climates, and keeps things exciting.
Three ways to attract more fans to the sport: Advertising – we can’t expect to grow by advertising within the sport; that’s not how it works. We have to reach outside of the box to reach new people.
The horses – It’s easy to relate to a horse when you’ve grown up around them, which is not the case for most people. If we want to create true fans, not only do we have to teach people about the horses, we have to humanize them. That, in turn, makes them more relatable, which makes it easier for people to form an emotional connection – and emotion is everything.
Transparency – now more than ever people want to get involved in things that make the world a better place. The more we work to reform the sport for the welfare of our equine athletes, the more people will feel comfortable supporting the sport.
Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended: The Devon Grand Prix at the Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania.
My favorite athletes of all-time: Muhammad Ali
What book(s) I am reading or have recently read: “Headless Horsemen,” by Jim Squires
Favorite magazines: Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue
Hobbies, other than Thoroughbred racing: Spending time in the pasture with my pony and dog [Charlie], which is quite entertaining because my dog hasn’t exactly figured out how to act around horses yet. He gets really excited and tries to give my pony kisses but makes evil faces and noises and upsets the pony in the process. He always looks at me after like, what did I do wrong? I also like spending time on the back of a horse, traveling and working out.
Favorite foods: Burgers
Favorite cocktail: Moscow mule
Favorite movies: “Secretariat,” “Seabiscuit,” “Something to Talk About,” “Remember the Titans,” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Favorite actor/actress: Meryl Streep
Twitter handle: @Claudia_WMS
What apps are on your phone: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, The Weather Channel, Bejeweled Classic, Equibase: Today’s Racing, Equibase Yearbook, Horse Races Now, TVG
Favorite animal other than a horse: Dog
Favorite top three fashion brands you prefer to wear: Antonio Melani, Vince Camuto, BCBG/Max Azria
Favorite month of the year: October
I’d like to have dinner with the following three people inside racing: Seth Hancock, Frank Stronach, Kiaran McLaughlin
I’d like to have dinner with the following three people outside of racing: Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie
My philosophy on life: Chase your dreams with conviction, try to make a difference along the way, and no matter how hard it gets, never give up.