Ruidoso Downs holds first ostrich race

Posted at: 08/30/2013 6:58 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

There was time for some fun before the business of big money horse racing this weekend at Ruidoso Downs.  Horses were replaced with ostriches, and with jockeys aboard, the birds wobbled down the track for the first ever ostrich race.

The jockeys traded in four legs today for two. 

“It just feels like you're riding a beach ball with legs.  You know, just keep your balance in the middle and just enjoy the ride," said jockey Ricky Ramirez.  “I tried to run with her but I didn't keep up and I fell down but it was fun."

Fun for the crowd too.

“That’s the first time I've seen it and people who missed it sure did miss a lot of fun," said spectator Bonnie Johns.

Trainer Joe Hedrick said they raise the birds to race.  Hedrick said they start training the ostriches to race from the moment they hatch.

“And we start working with them, putting some blankets on them when they're two-year-olds and start putting some weight on them. Then we start taking them to just a few races when they're three-year-olds," said Hedrick.

That’s when their racing career begins.

“They live about 50 years, but we will race them for about 10-15 years is all," said Hedrick.

Ramirez said it was nice to mix it up.

“A race horse you got a lot more balance then you do on an ostrich. But you know race horses you do every day so it kind of becomes a routine so being on a different animal is something exciting," said Ramirez.

The ostriches will race Saturday too, but the main events of the weekend are the All American Futurity and the All American Derby.  Together they offer more than $5,000,000 in purses.