Starter Miguel Ramirez’s typical day includes climbing into constricted
areas in the starting gate with hot-blooded, 1000-pound thoroughbreds, and
helping ensure that they are in proper position for the start of the race.
What Ramirez’s typical day does not include is hanging onto the
reins of a tightly-wound thoroughbred when it rears up, forces its way through
the starting gate, and bursts onto the track at full speed.
But that is exactly what happened before last Saturday’s Grade 3,
$200,000 Bay Shore with Royal Currier,
prompting NYRA Starter Roy Williamson to say, “That was one of the best
saves that I have ever seen.”
Ramirez, who has been an assistant starter with NYRA for seven years, was
“I’ve never had a horse break through like that,”
said Ramirez, who grew up in the Dominican Republic and started
working with horses at age 11. “When he was moving forward, I started
yelling ‘no no no’ to let Roy
know he wasn’t comfortable, and right at that moment he reared up and
then broke through the gate. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even
really know what was going on, I acted purely on instinct.”
It’s those instincts and horsemanship skills that have made
Ramirez, 35, the perfect “outside man” for Williamson.
“I have one guy on the outside and that is Miguel,”
Williamson said. “He is an incredible horseman and can handle anything on
The outside man of the starting gate crew has the most difficult job of
all the assistant starters, explained Williamson.
“Not only is the outside man in the starting gate the least
amount of time, but he knows that everyone else is waiting for him, so there is
a lot of pressure,” said Williamson, who added that given the proximity
of the outside man from the starter, he also has to be the loudest and most
vocal in case there is a problem in the gate. “Miguel is the right guy
for the outside.”
If Ramirez had not been able to hold onto the reins, Royal Currier, a
multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old son of Red Bullet, would have gotten loose
on the track and likely scratched from the race.
Instead, Ramirez’s miraculous save allowed Royal Currier to run
in the Bay Shore, finishing fourth of seven
runners and earning $8,000 for his connections, owner Mat Stables and trainer
In addition, Royal Currier’s jockey was Eddie Castro, who went on
to win the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial two
races later aboard Toby’s Corner.
“Eddie thanked me later in the day for helping to protect him and
his horse,” said Ramirez, who credits Williamson and former NYRA Starter
Bob Duncan for helping him learn how to work the gate.
Ramirez, whose uncle was a trainer and father rode horses, came to the United States
12 years ago and spent five years working with trainer Joe Orseno before making
the transition to assistant starter for NYRA.
“When I started working at the track in the Dominican Republic, I never thought I would make
it to the United States and
work at the big tracks in New York,”
Ramirez said. “I love horses and this is my dream job.”
While there is no way of knowing right now
who will be the final horse to enter the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes
and the Travers, that horse is guaranteed to be in great hands – those of