Horse racing a passion for GGF's Bautista family
40 years ago, Angel Bautuista moved to California in pursuit of his dream to own and train a race horse.
If you’ve ever been to Golden Gate Fields, no doubt you’ve probably invested some time and money into a horse. If it won, you left happy. But more often than not, you’ve sweated it out, heart pounding. Did you pick the right horse? All of your hard earned money, in the fate of one horse.
Welcome to Angel Bautista’s daily life.
At 4 a.m. each day, Bautista arrives at Golden Gate Fields. Before the sun even rises, he’s carried loads of hay to the stables, he's watered the grounds, washed, walked and groomed the horses. If there is cleaning to be done, Bautista's the guy.
“He’s what you call a workaholic,” his son Jose says with a grin.
And before most people have even had breakfast or lunch, Angel has moved on to his day job: Walking the 100 yards over to the grandstands, and reporting to work as a janitor at Golden Gate Fields. He doesn’t know if he’ll be sweeping up behind patrons in the stands, or horses on the track, but to Angel it doesn’t matter, he’s living his dream.
[RELATED: Golden Gate Fields official website]
Angel grew up in Mexico, and worked “24-7” he told me. Even as a child, he was working hours on end, but in his mind, the work was worth it; he had a dream.
So 40 years ago, Angel moved to California in pursuit of his dream to own and train a race horse. Not having the funds to do so at the start, Angel did the next best thing. He began 'working' at Golden Gate Fields. But to Angel, it's not work.
“It is not work, it is my passion.”
It’s also now his family business. His son Jose, who is in his 20s, grew up in Walnut Creek, with more of an interest in race cars than horses. But on Saturday mornings, he would accompany his dad to the tracks. He went for the doughnuts, hot cocoa and adrenaline he felt watching the races, but he left with a love for horses, and an appreciation for hard work.
In 1996, the Bautistas did a little gambling of their own. They invested in a horse for $1,500.
That amount is also roughly what it cost each month for boarding and feeding. We're not including race fees that can cost up to $50,000. But nevertheless, the Bautistas put their money on their passion, teaming up with renowned trainer Keith Nation.
[RELATED: Golden Gate Fields visitor guide]
And on February 17, 2013, their hard work together paid off as their jointly-owned horse, Frank and Go took First Place at Golden Gate Fields.
The Bautistas only regret? “I think we all wished we had put more money on the horse,” Nation joked, in explaining the horse's big payout.
Watching Frank and Go cross the finish line first left the Bautistas speechless. “I don’t have the words,” Jose told me. But he wore the emotions on his face.
“I feel blessed.”
The moment was especially significant because he was able to share the moment with his son, and his family. Jose told me the greatest lesson his father taught him is one we can all learn from.
“Never give up, never give up.”