Jose Ortiz being led into the winner’s circle by part-owner Jim Shircliff with trainer Mike Maker’s crew after Somelikeithotbrown won the Grade 3 mile stakes now known as The Mint Millions (Grace Clark)
Likely After Saratoga
By Tim Wilkin – Kentucky Downs
FRANKLIN, Ky.— A late summer trip to Franklin, Ky., will be made by the Ortiz brothers.
But it will likely be later rather than sooner.
Irad Ortiz Jr. and his brother, Jose, intend to make an appearance during the seven-day meet at Kentucky Downs. Most likely they won’t make the trip until after the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course ends on Labor Day.
That would mean the brothers would finish at Saratoga, missing the first three days at Kentucky Downs: Aug. 31, Sept. 2 and 3.
“The last couple of years, I have gone there after the (Saratoga) meet ends,” Irad Ortiz said. “I’m pretty sure I will be going again.”
With 14 days left in the season, Irad leads the jockey standings with 34 winners. Jose is in fourth place with 23 wins. Tyler Gaffalione, who has won the Kentucky Downs riding title two of the last three years, is currently in third place at Saratoga with 24 winners.
Last year, Irad Ortiz finished in fourth place in the Kentucky Downs standings with six wins, six seconds and six thirds in 39 starts, good for earnings of $1,283,853. Jose Ortiz was fifth with five wins from 24 starts. He also had one second and two thirds and $979,169 in earnings.
Irad Ortiz, 31, has won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading jockey four times, including last year. He has never won a Kentucky Downs riding title but only began adding the track to his schedule in 2020.
Jose Ortiz, 29, is a two-time riding champ at Kentucky Downs. He won it in 2019 and 2018 with 10 victories each year.
“A lot of good horses go there, and you have to follow them,” Jose Ortiz said. “And the purses are huge. When I go there, I want to be leading rider, for sure. But it’s hard if you miss a day or two. It’s such a short meet that you can’t miss days.”
The brothers said they both enjoy the challenge of the Kentucky Downs course, which is the only flat track in North America conducting exclusively grass racing. Not that Kentucky Downs itself is flat.
“It’s very unique,” Jose Ortiz said. “You have to ride different. Everyone has a different technique with the hills going up and down, the long stretch and the kind of a bend at the eighth pole. You have to find out if the horses like it or not.”
“Very challenging,” Irad Ortiz said. “You really have to be aware of the track, but it’s also a lot of fun. “It’s the one place that is different than any other track in the country. I love it.”