FRANKLIN, Ky.— Newly crowned Ellis Park training champion John Ortiz is scheduled to send out his first two starters of the 2022 FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs on Saturday, notably Mr Dumas in the $1 million WinStar Mint Million Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at a mile.
Ortiz won 12 races at Ellis Park to capture his first career training title, edging multiple Eclipse Award winners Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox by one during the 23-day meeting that concluded Sunday.
Boosted by his numbers earlier this year at Oaklawn Park (he was the co-fourth-leading trainer; Asmussen and Cox were first and third, respectively) and at Ellis Park, Ortiz entered Wednesday with a career-high $3,789,398 in purse earnings in 2022, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. His 50 victories were just off his career-best 53 in 2018. Ortiz, a former assistant under trainer Kellyn Gorder, saddled his first starter and winner in 2016.
“It’s all coming together,” the Kentucky-based Ortiz said. “They (Asmussen and Cox) were both focused on Saratoga while I came here and focused on Ellis. I figured I could sneak one through. It’s a chess game, you know, because if I follow them to Saratoga and only win three races there, as opposed to winning 12 over here, who is going to recognize that? So, we’ll go to Saratoga when the right time comes and then we’ll compete with them up there. But right now, I’m just happy to be able to compete and have my horses winning where we can win.”
Ortiz, 36, now turns his attention to Kentucky Downs, which opens its seven-day meeting Thursday. Mr Dumas, in his only Kentucky Downs appearance, finished third in an entry-level allowance sprint in 2019. Now 6, Mr Dumas enters the WinStar Mint Million off a closing second, beaten a neck, in the $100,000 Evan Williams Turf Mile Stakes on Aug. 7 at Ellis Park. He won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile Stakes on June 22 at Canterbury Park.
“I think it’s a fantastic race for a million dollars, to be honest,” Ortiz said. “We’ve run against some of these horses over and over again and we’ve been trading blows back and forth, so I think it’s just a matter of who likes the track the best and who gets the perfect trip. It’s a tricky track to ride, but Mr Dumas, he’s has been on his A-game all summer, since his Canterbury Park victory and then a fantastic start at Ellis. Just a little traffic problem there, but that’s horse racing, you know. It’s just going to come down to the best trip in this race, I think.”
Mr Dumas is scheduled to break from post 6 under Reylu Gutierrez, among Ortiz’s go-to riders, and carry equal top weight of 126 pounds. Mr Dumas is 5-1 in the program for the WinStar Mint Million, which drew a field of nine.
A son of Grade 1 sprint winner Majesticperfection, Mr Dumas is owned by longtime Ortiz clients Brian “Hootie” Moore, an Arkansas native, and former Walmart executive William Simon. Mr Dumas has bankrolled $575,499 after compiling a 7-5-6 record from 24-lifetime starts.
Ortiz has one career Kentucky Downs victory.
The WinStar Mint Million goes as the 10th of 11 races, with a probable post time of 5:31 p.m. (Central).
By Robert Yates – Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: John Ortiz soaked up winning his first training title at Ellis Park (Coady Photography)