Beyond the Game: The horse for those who bet with their heart

Karla Ximena Ortiz and Miss Ximena (KATV photo).JPG

If you bet with your heart this season at Oaklawn, this is the horse for you.

"I guess the word is pride," said Johnny Ortiz, the filly's trainer.

Johnny's sister, Karla Ximena Ortiz, suffers from scleroderma. The rare, chronic disease tightens the skin. It is incurable.

"Day by day, it's the same thing, same routine. She doesn't live an abnormal life. Still her, still my sister."

In 2017, Johnny purchased a horse for $9,500. When it was injured with symptoms similar to those of his sister, he saw something.

"We noticed that when she was recuperating, my sister came around the barn more. My sister and her, they kind of clicked together.

"My sister's spirit just became a little happier and more outgoing."

Naturally, Johnny jumped to name the horse "Miss Ximena."

Previously unbeaten, Miss Ximena did not fare as well in its Oaklawn debut on Friday. But any winnings this season will help cover Karla Ximena's medical bills. (Miss Ximena has already earned around $25,000). As a bonus, any publicity this season helps bring awareness to the disease.

"It is special to see a horse for my sister, representing my sister," Johnny said. "I think it's really special. It's a little bit more meaningful, deep inside your heart."

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