Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman Makes Successful Return to the Saddle

January 15, 2023

Ramsey Zimmerman (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Ramsey Zimmerman has launched another riding comeback and although this sample size is small, it’s already a success after he guided Enchanted Nile to a front-running nose victory in Friday’s third race at Oaklawn. It marked the jockey’s first victory in almost 5 ½ years. 

“It’s truly everything to me,” Zimmerman, 40, said roughly two hours after the race. “I take it very seriously.”

A Chicago-area native, Zimmerman has amassed 1,740 victories and $31,125,413 in purse earnings in his career North American career, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He owns riding titles at Prairie Meadows and Lone Star Park, ranked fourth nationally in victories in 2004 (326) and captured the $2 million Pattison Canadian International Stakes (G1) in 2007 at Woodbine aboard Cloudy’s Knight.

But substance abuse has derailed Zimmerman’s once-promising career several times since he began riding in 1998. Zimmerman didn’t ride in 2013 and 2016 and had only 116 mounts in 2015. Prior to his comeback earlier this month at Oaklawn, Zimmerman hadn’t ridden since Oct. 18, 2017, at Gulfstream Park. 

“All that’s behind me,” Zimmerman said. “I’m actually really proud of having six years clean and sober.”

Zimmerman said he did prep work for 2-year-old in training sales and managed a Thoroughbred farm after he stopped riding. He said he began to get the itch to ride again last summer and was working as a driver for a horse-drawn carriage company in St. Louis when he traveled to Oaklawn in early December to begin laying the groundwork for his latest comeback. 

Zimmerman reunited with agent Scott Hare of Hot Springs and had his first mount of the meeting, Sahm Tequila, Jan. 6 for trainer Nevada Litfin. Zimmerman’s second was Enchanted Nile ($7.40) for trainer Chris Hartman. Zimmerman’s only other mount Friday, Benissimo, finished 10th in the fifth race for trainer Rachael Keithan. 

Enchanted Nile represented Zimmerman’s first victory since Aug. 4, 2017, at Gulfstream Park and his 106th for Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015.

“Coming back and making the connection with Mr. Hartman, that’s awesome,” Zimmerman said. “Some other trainers are offering mounts, so I just feel so blessed, really.”

Zimmerman said he plans to ride the remainder of the Oaklawn meeting. Oaklawn’s scheduled 68-day season ends May 6.

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