Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Forte secure the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Coady Photography)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— The 2022 Breeders’ Cup, which was conducted on Friday and Saturday at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, K.Y., saw a host of New York-connected entrants post strong performances across the 14 championship races.
Leading the charge for New York-based riders was three-time Eclipse Award-winner Irad Ortiz, Jr., who scored three Breeders’ Cup triumphs to bring his career total to 17, the third-most of any jockey. Ortiz, Jr. finished second to jockey Ryan Moore, who also won three events, in the standings for the Shoemaker Award for outstanding jockey at this year’s event.
“It feels great,” said Ortiz, Jr., who returned to Aqueduct Racetrack to ride Sunday’s card. “Thank God, and thank you to my agent, Steve Rushing, and all the owners and trainers for letting me ride those kind of horses. Without them, none of this would be possible. It was an unbelievable weekend.”
The first of Ortiz, Jr.’s wins came on the Future Stars Friday card, rousing 2-year-old colt Forte to an off-the-pace score over heavy favorite Cave Rock in the $2 million FanDuel Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The win marked Ortiz, Jr.’s third Grade 1 in a row aboard the son of Violence, adding to wins in the Hopeful in September at Saratoga Race Course and Breeders’ Futurity in October at Keeneland.
“He’s great. He keeps getting better and better,” said Ortiz, Jr. “Last time, I think he was still a little green, but he stills gets the job done. He’s a nice horse.”
Saturday saw Ortiz, Jr. guide Goodnight Olive in similar fashion to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint for four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown. He had previously ridden the Ghostzapper filly to her first Grade 1 win in the Ballerina in August at Saratoga.
“She’s been honest since Day One,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She always shows up. Last time, it was a big race at Saratoga, and yesterday we expected a big effort from her. She showed up again, like she always does. She’s a nice filly and the trainer did a great job with her.”
Ortiz, Jr.’s third triumph came aboard Elite Power in the $2 million Qatar Racing Sprint, upsetting reigning Champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior to secure the son of Curlin’s first Grade 1 score for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It was the first time I rode him,” said Ortiz, Jr. “He won his last four starts and he’s doing great. The pace set up perfect for him and he was a strong closer. He’s very tactical and could run at six or seven furlongs. He looks great so far.”
With his three wins, Ortiz, Jr. now boasts 72 total stakes victories this year, as of Sunday morning. As reported by Daily Racing Form columnist David Grening, the record for most stakes wins in a year by a jockey is 76, set by Hall of Famer Garrett Gomez in 2007.
“If we can get it done, that would be great,” said Ortiz, Jr. “Hopefully, we can do it. We’ve been working so hard to try and do it, so we’ll see what happens.”
Flavien Prat, who moved his tack to New York this spring, celebrated his first victory in the $6 million Classic with a sublime performance by multiple Grade 1-winner Flightline for trainer John Sadler. The victory put an exclamation point on the impressive career for Flightline, who retires to Lane’s End Farm with earnings of over $4.5 million.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez gave a perfectly-timed ride to reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat to get her nose down in time in a three-way photo in the $2 million Distaff. It was the fifth Grade 1 Velazquez has earned aboard the daughter of Curlin, and his 19th career Breeders’ Cup victory.
Junior Alvarado landed an emotional victory aboard Cody’s Wish in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, where he bested Cyberknife by a head to give New York-based trainer Bill Mott his first victory in that division of the Breeders’ Cup. Alvarado celebrated his first win at the Breeders’ Cup after finishing on-the-board twice before. He also finished second in the Classic aboard Grade 1-winner Olympiad for Mott.
New York trainers also put forth memorable performances at the Breeders’ Cup, including a runner-up finish by Grade 1 Spinaway winner Leave No Trace in the $2 million NetJets Juvenile Fillies for trainer Phil Serpe.
Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey saw Grade 2 Miss Grillo-winner Pleasant Passage finish a game runner-up to Meditate in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, defeated just 2 1/2 lengths after a flying finish under Ortiz, Jr.
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox scored an upset victory by Caravel in the $1 million Turf Sprint at odds of 42-1. The daughter of Mizzen Mast bested male rivals to land her first Grade 1 triumph under Tyler Gaffalione, who also won Friday’s Juvenile Fillies aboard Grade 1 Spinaway runner-up Wonder Wheel.
In all, seven of this year’s Breeders’ Cup champions won at least one stakes race at NYRA tracks this year, led by Flightline [G1 Metropolitan Handicap], along with Malathaat [G1 Personal Ensign], Forte [G1 Hopeful], Goodnight Olive [G1 Ballerina], Cody’s Wish [G1 Forego, G3 Westchester], Caravel [listed Smart N Fancy] and Elite Power [G2 Vosburgh].