Ortiz “Very Excited” to be Back in the Irons at Gulfstream

April 24, 2020

Two-Time Eclipse Award Winner, Meet Champion Idle Since March 19

Photo Credit: Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Two-time defending Championship Meet leading jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is “very excited” to be back riding, named in nine of 12 races Saturday at Gulfstream Park in his return to the irons for the first time in more than a month.

Three of Ortiz’s calls will come for 2019-2020 Championship Meet-leading trainer Todd Pletcher, including St. Elias Stable’s Dr Post in the $75,000 Unbridled Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles in Race 9. First race post time is 12:45 p.m.

Also for Pletcher, Ortiz will ride Repole Stable’s Legit, a 5-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin, in Race 8, a second-level optional claiming allowance going 1 1/16 miles; and Wertheimer and Frere’s 4-year-old colt Spinoff in Race 10, a third-level optional claiming allowance sprinting seven furlongs in Race 11.

Other mounts for Ortiz on Saturday come on The Mighty Judge in Race 4; Basquait, a 3-year-old son of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, in Race 5; Catharsis and main-track-only entrant Malibeauty in Race 6; Shamrock in Race 7; Stock Trade, owned and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, in Race 10; and Annualized in Race 12.

Ortiz is named in seven of 11 races on Sunday, including Debby Oxley’s American Pharoah filly Feeling Funny trained by Mark Casse in Race 8, a seven-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies. First race post time Sunday is 12:55 p.m.

“I’m very excited to be back riding,” Ortiz said. “Thank God, I have the help from all the owners and trainers. A lot of people support me here, so I appreciate that very much.”

Ortiz, 27, hasn’t ridden since winning two races March 19 at Gulfstream, with eight racing days remaining in the Championship Meet. Those victories ended up being the difference (115-113) in capturing his second consecutive title over Luis Saez, who won 18 races in Ortiz’s absence.

The Puerto Rico native, crowned the Eclipse Award champion of 2018 and 2019 in ceremonies at Gulfstream Park, opted to stop riding out of concerns for his family amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Ortiz’s wife, Meliza, is expecting the couple’s third child. The Ortizes have remained at their home in Hollywood, Fla. during his hiatus.

“It’s been hard, to be honest, just being home. I’ve been home with my babies and my wife. It’s hard for everyone with everything going on right now out there in the world with the virus,” Ortiz said.

“But, I see that Gulfstream has done a great job and they don’t have any cases,” he added. “They’ve been doing a great job keeping everyone safe.”

Ortiz remains the North American leader in 2020 purse earnings with $5,288,974, ranking third in wins (90) behind Saez (103), who has continued to ride at Gulfstream, and northern California-based Juan Hernandez (91), whose last mount came March 29 at Golden Gate Fields.

“I’ve just been exercising at home and trying to stay fit here so I can be ready to ride when I come back,” Ortiz said. “I’m going to stay here for as long as I can until everything is cleared probably.”

During the Championship Meet, Ortiz also led all riders with more than $5.8 million in purses earned and won 11 stakes led by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) aboard Mucho Gusto. Other graded wins came in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) with Instilled Regard, Swale (G3) with Mischevious Alex, Fred Hooper (G3) with Phat Man and Marshua’s River (G3) with Magic Star.

Ortiz also captured the Copa Confraternidad on 2018 Mexican Triple crown winner Kukulkan as part of the Clasico Internactional del Caribe program.

Tyler Gaffalione leads Gulfstream’s current spring-summer meet with 23 winners, one more than Saez, heading into Thursday’s action. They also rank 1-2, respectively, with more than $500,000 apiece in purse earnings.

Gulfstream Park Press Release

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