Faith before the race at Louisiana Downs

Louisiana Downs chaplain promotes faith and prayer before jockeys take to the track.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:08 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The usual phrase you think of at the beginning of a race is “... And, they’re off.” However, the last thing jockeys hear before leaving the locker room at Louisiana Downs is the Lord’s Prayer from Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk.

“The main focus here at Louisiana Downs as a chaplaincy is to connect people with God. If we can do that [endless] possibilities can happen,” said Sistrunk.

Throughout the complex, he’s known as just Chaplain Jimmy. He wears the name proudly printed on his vest and runs the Winners Circle Church that’s on the Louisiana Downs campus. He holds services for the jockeys, workers, and others on Wednesdays and Fridays, services that jockey, Gilbert Ortiz, regularly attends.

“We try to be there every Friday night. Thank God for Jimmy,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz is a jockey who is well traveled. He has won more than 3,000 races and has raced throughout Texas, Louisiana, California, and elsewhere throughout the United States.

Sistrunk has been serving the jockeys and the community for more than two decades in total and 19 years in his current role as head chaplain.

“When people ask me where I work, I say I don’t work. They look at me funny, but when you do something you love, it doesn’t feel like work,” said Sistrunk.

Finally, Sistrunk believes the most important thing he can do as a the chaplain is simply continue to promote faith with everyone.

“That’s what it’s all about. That we keep our faith in God and we keep strong,” he said.

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