Ramiro Restrepo Discusses ‘Obsession’ for Racing, Breaking His Budget for Kentucky Derby Hopeful Mage

The Life
Ramiro Restrepo Fasig-Tipton Mage Kentucky Derby Florida Derby Fountain of Youth
Lightly raced Mage, left, has carried lifelong racing fan Ramiro Restrepo, third from left in image on the right, to the brink of the 2023 Kentucky Derby. (Gulfstream Park/Lauren King photo/Ramiro Restrepo photo)

Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers and jockeys as they travel the Road to the 149th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve May 6 at Churchill Downs.

This week’s installment features Ramiro Restrepo. He works for Fasig-Tipton Co. as its South Florida market representative and is a bloodstock agent who is part of the group that owns Mage. Restrepo, 44, partnered with OGMA Investments, Sam Herzberg’s Sterling Racing, and CMNWLTH, which sells shares in promising horses, after he purchased the Good Magic colt for $290,000 as a 2-year-old in training.

Mage has been on a fast track to success for South Florida-based trainer Gustavo Delgado and his son, Gustavo Delgado Jr., who assists him. The blossoming 3-year-old registered a front-running win in his Jan. 28 debut at Gulfstream Park before finishing fourth in the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes and coming within a length of upsetting 2-year-old champion Forte in the April 1 Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa.

Restrepo, who is from Miami, discusses his “obsession” for racing, what led him to break his budget to acquire Mage, and the remarkable progress this lightly-raced 3-year-old has made.

UPDATE: Mage rallied powerfully to win the 2023 Kentucky Derby by a length May 6 at Churchill Downs under Javier Castellano.

PEDULLA: How did you come to be interested in racing?

RESTREPO: I am a fifth-generation horseman. My family is from Colombia. They were jockeys, breeders, owners, prominent people in the industry there. My grandfather, Luis Alvarez, was fully dedicated, first as a jockey, then as a trainer, then as an owner. My grandfather and his wife and seven kids moved to New York in 1968 and immediately went to work on the New York circuit. I got that exposure [to racing] since I could crawl. I didn’t watch cartoons. I watched horse races. It was just an obsession since I could crawl. It led me to spend time with my grandfather and uncles that furthered the attachment.

PEDULLA: Have you worked in areas other than racing?

Courtesy of Ramiro Restrepo

RESTREPO: In 2000, I graduated from the University of Miami. I worked in the nightclub and entertainment business, opening up lounges, restaurants, music festivals, doing the marketing and promotional aspect. It was something I dedicated my life to 365 days a year, 24-7 for almost 14 years, all the while maintaining the horse-racing obsession. From 2012 to 2015, I worked in beverage in marketing for certain brands.

PEDULLA: What is your role with Fasig-Tipton?

RESTREPO: I was so blessed to begin to work for Fasig-Tipton in 2015 to help promote its Gulfstream 2-year-old sale. Fasig-Tipton is such a fun, amazing company to work with because you are not confined to one particular role. Everyone can do a little of everything. You are not confined to just where you are.

PEDULLA: And you are a bloodstock agent as well?

RESTREPO: I have been able to develop amazing relationships in and outside of Fasig-Tipton that have led to more opportunities. I opened my own bloodstock agency called Marquee Bloodstock and I do a little bit of everything – pinhooking yearlings to 2-year-olds, foals to yearlings. I’ve done some international private purchases, some stallion deals, racing partnerships, and picking out horses at sales for clients to go racing.

In 2018, my partner, Joe Pickerrell, and I purchased a yearling for $160,000, a son of Palace Malice. Six months later, I sold him for $850,000 and that horse went on to win the [2019] Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His name was Structor.

PEDULLA: How did it come about that you purchased Mage?

RESTREPO: That was at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale at Timonium. I have been working sales with Gustavo Delgado Jr. for about three years now, not only domestically but in Europe. I’m usually there first and go through the entire catalogue and walk the sales grounds completely to kind of filter out a lot of horses. Then Junior would fly in and we go over this filtered-down list. We trim it down to a final list.

Courtesy of Ramiro Restrepo

PEDULLA: What happened from there?

RESTREPO: At the Timonium sale, the father could not go, so it was just Junior and I. We had purchased horses previously in the year, so we had a limited budget. We worked the sale and we were down to two horses, a City of Light filly and this Good Magic colt.

PEDULLA: As I understand it, you went well past your limit to buy Mage.

RESTREPO: It was such a razor-thin decision and I think in the end it just came down to instinct and gut in the heat of fire. The Good Magic colt was in the ring, the bids are going up, we’re bidding, we get to our threshold.

PEDULLA: What was that number?

RESTREPO: We had $200,000 in our minds. We always joke about this because Junior is more of a maverick and a risk-taker than Senior. Whatever Papa Delgado thought was not happening. There have been many times where he has told us this and we’re doing that.

PEDULLA: Is that because you are so confident in your ability to recruit partners?

RESTREPO: To be responsible, we’ve done this before. We’re not nervous. We’re accustomed to having the backing of partners.

PEDULLA: Hadn’t the father set a $100,000 limit?

RESTREPO: I know what Pops thought, $100,000, but we knew that was not going to happen. Junior and I said, ‘Let’s go to $200,000 and we can find a couple of partners and we’re fine.’ So the bidding started and it got there pretty quickly. I started trying to pull out and Junior was in my ear, ‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to keep bidding.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He was ‘Come on, man, let’s do it. Let’s do it.’ Looking at him in the ring, his presence, he was there like a bronze statue. That’s something I won’t forget.

PEDULLA: How did it feel when you got him for $290,000, a lot more than you planned on?

RESTREPO: The consignor is coming up to me to say, ‘Congratulations.’ Other friends of yours are there and they are saying, ‘Great get.’ In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Well, we’ve got to get to work. We need some strong partners here because I just signed for a ticket that I’m going to have to go under the floor boards, under the mattress to get.

PEDULLA: What were your expectations for Mage?

RESTREPO: Anybody who tells you they have a Derby horse when they’re just starting to gallop is nuts. That’s just dreaming.

PEDULLA: He won his debut, going seven furlongs, by 3 ¾ lengths. How did you assess that?

RESTREPO: It was an educational piece. The horse was, by no means, cranked to the gills. We hadn’t gotten to the bottom of him at all. He broke out of there and took himself to the front and the horse just went right around the track. It was awesome.

PEDULLA: When he came in fourth in the Fountain of Youth, what did that tell you?

RESTREPO: I was more impressed with a fourth-place where he could have quit five separate times. That right there left me more impressed than with a clean second-place finish to Forte [in the Florida Derby].

PEDULLA: Some people were surprised that Mage came within one length of upsetting Forte in the Florida Derby. Were you surprised?

RESTREPO: No. We were there to win the race. We know the ability of the horse and Gustavo has had horses in the division that have had success. There is a baseline to compare talent. It’s not like he has never danced in big dances before. The trainer has. We knew the horse had ability. Obviously, he had to prove it. We believe we have a very talented horse who has come out of the race in fantastic shape. He has come back even better than in the Fountain of Youth.

PEDULLA: What does it feel like to be in this moment?

RESTREPO: The horses have been such noble servants to my family for so many years. Not necessarily the success, but the dedication and time and energy that my family has devoted to these horses, it means more to us than many people will ever know. My grandpa and my uncles had one dream when they came here in the late 1960s, and that was to lead one over in the Kentucky Derby. To say that I could realize their dream, there are no words.


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