Optimistic About Return to Racing
LAUREL, MD – Laurel Park-based jockey Angel Cruz has been finding ways to stay busy in the four weeks since live racing has been paused in Maryland, and Friday’s agenda included sitting for a virtual interview with fans.
During the #AskAngelAnything question and answer session, shown live on the Maryland Jockey Club’s Instagram page, Cruz expressed optimism that racing will be back up and running.
“I am so busy during quarantine,” Cruz said. “I’m working a lot of horses and keeping my shape because I think we’re going to race soon.”
According to Equibase statistics, Cruz ranked eighth at Laurel’s truncated winter meet to open the year with 14 wins from just 59 mounts, including Princess Cadey in the Beyond the Wire Stakes for 3-year-old fillies March 14. Laurel’s last live race program was March 15.
“I want to win races, that’s what I want to do,” Cruz said. “And ride horses. I love to ride for the fans.”
Cruz won his first race on April 8, 2014 at Charles Town in West Virginia and has also spent time riding in California and New York, where he captured Aqueduct’s 2015 spring title. His most enjoyment, however, has come in Maryland which he now calls home.
“Everyone is so happy in the jocks’ room. That’s what I like most about Laurel,” Cruz said. “It’s a happy place.”
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico who turned 25 March 29, Cruz grew up with Eclipse Award-winning brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz, coming to the U.S. at the age of 11. He won 119 races in his first season of riding and was a finalist for the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice of 2014.
Equibase shows Cruz with 481 career victories since 2014 including two graded-stakes, both at Keeneland in 2016 – the Alcibiades (G1) aboard Dancing Rags and Sycamore (G3) with Renown. Their respective trainers, Graham Motion and Elizabeth Voss, are both based in Maryland.
Cruz named Florida-bred Classic Salsa as his favorite horse. The retired 11-year-old gelding raced 39 times with 12 victories from 2014-17 and registered four wins, one second and one third in seven starts with Cruz aboard between Dec. 10, 2014 and July 25, 2015.
“I get on a lot of different horses,” Cruz said. “Horses are my favorite animal.”
Cruz’s uncle, Joel Hiraldo, and grandfather, Jose Hiraldo, were also jockeys. Joel Hiraldo won 200 races between 2001 and 2011, the last coming at Charles Town.
“I have one family member that’s riding,” Cruz said. “He is galloping horses right now. His name is John Hiraldo. He will be joining me as a rider soon.”
Cruz named Jose Ortiz as the most influential rider on his career, and every day carries with him a valuable piece of advice from the 2017 champion jockey.
“Jose told me one day, ‘If you work, you’re going to win,’” Cruz said.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Angel Cruz gets his first win at Santa Anita October 28, 2018. Credit: Zoe Metz/Santa Anita