Ortiz brothers take the title down to the wire
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Klaravich Stables finished atop their respective standings with the trio finishing as the leading trainer, jockey and owner for the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga Race Course that concluded on Labor Day Monday.
“It doesn’t get old and it doesn’t get easier,” said Pletcher. “I’ve been fortunate to have won it that many times, but I still have a tremendous appreciation for how hard it is to do. I have a lot of great owners and I’m grateful for the opportunities with so many good horses.”
Pletcher returned to familiar territory, finishing as the leading trainer for the Saratoga summer meet for the 14th time in his illustrious career, tallying 32 wins.
Pletcher, who won his first Saratoga crown in 1998, won the H. Allen Jerkens Award as the meet’s top conditioner for the first time since 2017, registering a record of 32-23-15 with 142 starters. His success ended reigning four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown’s run of two consecutive meet titles and three in four years. Brown finished second with 28 wins.
Pletcher expressed his gratitude for the team effort in securing the title.
“It means a lot to the whole team,” said Pletcher. “A lot of people put in a lot of hard work. We were understaffed coming in and a lot of guys and girls put in a lot of work for this. I’m grateful for that and happy to be a part of the achievement.”
Among Pletcher’s highlights was saddling Halladay for his Grade 1 Fourstardave triumph on August 22 while racking up stakes wins with Spinoff [Alydar], Nonna Madeline [Summer Colony] and Moretti [Birdstone].
“Halladay winning the Fourstardave stands out for me,” said Pletcher. “Grade 1 wins are hard to come by and that was a big win.”
The 53-year-old Pletcher won six Saratoga training titles consecutively from 2010-15 and tallied his most wins in a summer meet with 40 in 2017.
“Someone said to me this morning if I won that it would be the fourth different decade I’ve won a training title and I thought that was kind of cool,” said Pletcher. “I’d say aside from the first one in 1998, this was the next most rewarding.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. earned the Angel Cordero, Jr. Award for the third time overall and first since 2018, finishing with 59 wins to top younger brother Jose Ortiz [58 wins] and Joel Rosario  in third. Ortiz, Jr. won his first crown in 2015.
“It’s very special. My agent [Steve Rushing] did a great job and I’m very thankful for all the trainers and owners, without them I would not be here,” said Ortiz, Jr., who missed three days of racing late in the meet with a wrist injury. “After my injury, I had to take off a few days and they still named me on their horses and gave me the confidence and the opportunity.”
The 28-year-old native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico compiled a 59-47-43 record in 282 mounts, totaling earnings of more than $4.4 million with a winning percentage of better than 20 percent.
A memorable meet was highlighted by his winning ride aboard Improbable in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 1, part of a day in which he registered four wins in total. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Improbable marked the second Whitney winner in three years for Ortiz, Jr., who also was victorious with Diversify in 2018.
Ortiz, Jr. won 10 stakes at the meet including graded scores in the Grade 3 Peter Pan aboard Country Grammer on Opening Day; the Grade 3 With Anticipation on Fire At Will; and the Grade 2 Honorable Miss with Come Dancing on Sunday.
The veteran rider won with 5-of-8 mounts on July 23rd during a 10-race card at the Spa, led by a victory aboard Fresco in the NYSSS Statue of Liberty.
Ortiz, Jr. said he enjoyed the daily competition with his brother.
“We have fun,” said Ortiz, Jr. “He wants the best for me and I want the best for him.”
Klaravich Stables was once again the top Saratoga owner, recording 13 wins, 11 runner-up finishes and 17 third-place efforts from 58 starts. The win total was three more than the next-closest competitors in Repole Stable. Headed by Seth Klarman, the stable again teamed with Brown for its meet highlights, which included the stakes scores of Selflessly in the Grade 3 Lake George and Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby Invitational.
Live racing will now shift to Belmont Park for the 27-day fall meet, featuring 38 stakes worth $5.58 million in purse money, that will kick off on Friday, September 18 and run through Sunday, November 1.
Photo: Irad Ortiz Jr. (left) wearing Klaravich Stables silks and Todd Pletcher. Credit: NYRA