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In this July 4, 2014 photo, jockeys get ready to ride to their starting posts before a race at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. There are approximately 200 registered jockeys that are skilled enough to ride a half-ton race horse in Mexico. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's only major horse racetrack comes to life at 5 a.m. each day as hundreds of stable workers begin to take the 1,400 racehorses out of their stalls and gallop them around the track before washing and feeding them.

Despite ranking low among racetracks in Latin America because of its small purses, the Hippodrome of the Americas bustles with activity, and with jockeys lured by Mexico's proximity to the United States.

"Here the jockeys dream to go to the United States to ride and not to stay here in Mexico," said Ricardo Mar, the track's director.

Purses pay out an average of $2,300 for the winning horse, which is enough to pay the jockey and cover two months of expenses for the horse.

In this July 4, 2014 photo, Fausto Esteves, 63, pushes a wheelbarrow full of saddles at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. Esteves will later
In this July 4, 2014 photo, Fausto Esteves, 63, pushes a wheelbarrow full of saddles at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. Esteves will later separate the saddles from the pads and straps and oil all of the leather.(AP Photo/Sean Havey) (Sean Havey/AP)

"We don't have enough people involved in the big betting, so we can't get the wagers we want for higher prizes," Mar said.

But low prizes don't keep jockeys from across Latin America from coming to Mexico City with hopes of earning a reputation that will let them venture to the United States, where a top rider can earn millions.

Among those who have made the move are Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinosa, Mario Gutierrez and Panamanian Elvis Trujillo.

Many of the stable workers at the 71-year-old racetrack have worked in the United States, another incentive for riders hoping to hear about how things work in American tracks.


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Stable worker Carlos Moreno, 22, lived for a while in the U.S., where his father worked at tracks in Detroit, Indianapolis and Houston and taught him about racehorses.

"The horses are our friends and I like working with them every day," Moreno said, even though he'd recently been kicked in the face by one of them.

Moreno suffered a cut nose and some bruising.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said, in perfect English.


In this June 24, 2014 photo, stable workers ride past on race horses, at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. Mexico?s only horse racetrack comes
In this June 24, 2014 photo, stable workers ride past on race horses, at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. Mexico?s only horse racetrack comes to life at 5 a.m. each day as hundreds of stable workers begin to take the 1,400 racehorses out of their stalls one by one and gallop them around the track for their daily workout before washing and feeding them. (AP Photo/Sean Havey) (Sean Havey/AP)

In this July 25, 2014 photo, employees at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City wait for more horses to come to the starting gate for training.
In this July 25, 2014 photo, employees at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City wait for more horses to come to the starting gate for training. Everyday trainers bring their horses to the starting gate in order to familiarize them with the process. (AP Photo/Sean Havey) (Sean Havey/AP)


In this July 4, 2014 photo, jockeys joke around in-between races at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. With the exception of two new female
In this July 4, 2014 photo, jockeys joke around in-between races at the Hippodrome of the Americas in Mexico City. With the exception of two new female apprentice jockeys all the jockeys at the Mexico City racetrack are men and horseplay is commonplace. (AP Photo/Sean Havey) (Sean Havey/AP)