LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


You won’t find a lot of background information on Quarter Horse trainer Orlando Orozco, which is kind of a shame as he has just won back-to-back training titles in Louisiana! So, who is this talented horseman who has flown under the radar? Let’s get to know him in this edition of the LQHBA “Insider”!

Quick Ascent in Seven Years

Orlando Orozco,40, grew up in Weslaco, Texas, a small community in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

“I was raised around horses,” said Orozco. “My family went to Mexico each summer and my uncle introduced me to racing.”

He was an assistant to Guadalupe Tristan at Hialeah in 2009 and took out his training license the next year.

The first year, Orozco had just 26 starts and two wins. Maybe the numbers were not spectacular, but one horse, Ex Gustav, had a significant impact for Orozco.

“I claimed him at Delta for $10,000, but I had no stalls in Vinton,” recalled Orozco. “Donald Rubin had two empty stalls, so I asked him if I could stable Ex Gustav with him and he said yes.”

On July 3, Orozco entered the 2-year-old son of Panther Mountain in a $24,000 allowance race at Delta Downs and with Jose Vega in the irons, won at odds of 6-1. The winner’s share of the purse was $15,600, so his debut in the “claiming game” was a success. But it also was the start of a solid friendship with Rubin.

“We called Ex Gustav “Christmas” as he always won big races on holidays,” said Rubin. “Orlando is a very likeable guy! He needed a place to keep his horse and I had room. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Claimers Got Him Titles at Evangeline and Louisiana Downs

Orozco’s biggest year came in 2016, when he made 397 starts and won 50 races. He won 19 races at Evangeline Downs, winning his first leading trainer title over Trey Ellis, Lanny Keith and Carlos Saldivar, who tied for second in the standings with 17 wins. At the recently concluded Louisiana Downs meet this year, Orozco made 29 trips to the winner’s circle, topping Kenneth Roberts, Sr. and last year’s leading trainer, Saldivar, who each won 18 races.

“I run most of my horses at the claiming level,” said Orozco. “My owners are hard-working people who love to come out to the races and watch their horses run. I try to run my horses where they belong, and in the end, a win is a win.”

His owners are happy, and Orozco is grateful to Louisiana for the four race meets.

“Louisiana is a great state to run in,” added Orozco.

Hard Work Pays Off

Orozco underwent back surgery last year and his three-month recovery kept him away from working in the barn. His brother, Maurico Orozco, Jr. helped him out. He reports that his back is “a whole lot better” and able to take on a full workload.

“I am a ‘hands-on’ trainer,” admitted Orozco. “I love the morning works and even enjoy grooming my horses. To this day, I can honestly say I do not have a favorite. To me, they are all my babies.”

Orozco has tremendous support from his wife, Esmerelda, as well as a big extended family in Texas.

“She understands that the horse business is seven days a week, and that there is not a lot of time for much else.”

Encouragement from Fellow Louisiana Horsemen

Orozco credits Rubin for his help along the way and his many owners who have remained loyal.

“I am lucky that I do not have owners who grab a condition book and tell me where to run their horses,” stated Orozco. “My owners let me do what I need to do and I understand that if we make money, they will continue to stay in the game.”

He also appreciates his friendship with Chad and Margie Loup.

“They are all around good people,” said Orozco. “I remember both of them reaching out to congratulate me on my Evangeline Downs title.”

Delta Downs gets underway on April 21 and Orozco, who will have 36 stalls this meet, is humble about his chances regarding another training title.

“I’ll be facing the “big boys’ who have some really nice 2-year-olds,” said Orozco. “We all want those stakes winners, but I know if I am in this long enough, it will happen.”

His good friend Donald Rubin knows that Orozco will have plenty more success in the future.

“Orlando is a hard worker and will help anybody,” stated Rubin. “He’ll get some good 2-year-olds in the future and the big wins will come, for sure.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.