HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — For John Ortiz, horse racing is a family affair. When you consider how big this weekend is for the sport, it's easy to see why they're excited.
"I saw my dad yesterday at the racetrack with me and his eyes lit up, and he's so excited," Ortiz said. "He's like a kid in the candy shop."
Ortiz's dad was a a jockey. Eventually Ortiz started working under others as a trainer, but this year is different.
This time around, it's his time to shine.
"It's just hard to get there, and let alone, just to have a live shot to win the race," Ortiz said. "That's what I'm experiencing right now, it's so exciting."
His horse, Barber Road, has a shot of winning it all on horse racings biggest stage – the Kentucky Derby.
Ortiz flew back from Louisville on Friday to watch two other horses he's training, and you could tell as soon as he walked in that the stress of this week just melted away.
"I walked into the doors, it felt like home," he said. "All that pressure from the Kentucky Derby is really wearing off already."
It's one of the reason's why Ortiz and the other training staffs are happy to represent this place.
"They're representing us, representing our family here at Oaklawn, representing Arkansas," Bob Thacker, promotions manager at the racetrack, said. "To step up at Churchill Downs and to perform-- pride."
Thacker has seen some legendary horses represent Arkansas in Louisville, and he's hoping another will soon join those ranks this weekend.
"It's Oaklawn. It's Arkansas. Representing and maybe, hopefully, a couple of them in the top four finish," Thacker said. "Maybe announcing a victory in the winners circle on Saturday."
It's been a long road to get here for Ortiz, but he hasn't forgotten the city that made him. And he's ready to be one of the next greats to come out of Hot Springs.
"I look at that American Pharaoh statue out there. I just look at it like, it's an honor, it's an omen," Ortiz said. "It's like, I'm going to make you proud boys, I'm going to make you proud."
Post time for the Kentucky Derby is set for just after 6 p.m. Alongside Barber Road, are Cyberknife, and Zozos that are also racing.