Derby Dreaming: Young Trainer Ortiz Gets First Shot at Kentucky Derby


Every year, the Kentucky Derby is a dream destination for horse owners, jockeys and trainers. A new face on the Derby trainer scene this year is John Ortiz. The 36-year-old has only been training horses on his own for six years and on May 7 he’ll saddle his first Kentucky Derby runner, a horse named Barber Road.

Ortiz sat down with Ren Carothers to talk about how he got started in the sport and what it means to have arrived on racing’s biggest stage. Hear some of the parallels between the name Barber Road and the journey that Ortiz and his team have been on in recent years.

It all started for Ortiz in Colombia where he grew up in a family that worked with horses. Like his father, Ortiz wanted to be a jockey. He ultimately crossed path with several noted trainers including Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Ortiz explains how the influence from those trainers led him to where he is today.

The story of Barber Road is an interesting one as well. The horse started at one of the lowest level races when he first made it to the track. Despite acting slightly immature, he quickly turned it around and won in his second career start. He then won his next race at Churchill Downs, the same track he’ll be running at in the Kentucky Derby. He earned his spot in America’s biggest race by finishing second and third in three consecutive major Kentucky Derby prep races.

Want to learn more about Barber Road and other Kentucky Derby contenders — as well as their trainers, jockeys and owners? For all of your Kentucky Derby information, including tips on winning when you play the Derby, visit

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