The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that online voting to select the 2019 Mike Venezia Memorial Award will open on Monday, May 6. This year, racing fans will choose among a distinguished group of finalists including Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz, Florent Geroux and Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Created in 1989, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award is given to a jockey who displays the extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship that defined Venezia, who died as the result of injuries suffered in a spill in 1988. Venezia, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
Fans can make their selection at NYRA.com/Venezia with the online voting period to conclude on Monday, May 20. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, May 23 and the Mike Venezia Memorial Award will be presented in a special ceremony at Belmont Park on Monday, May 27.
Each of this year's finalists is an accomplished athlete whose aptitude and dedication on the track is rivaled only by the respect they garner off it.
Castellano, who was inducted to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2017, won four consecutive Eclipse Awards as Outstanding Jockey from 2013 - 16. Winner of 12 riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit, he is routinely among the top riders in the nation in earnings, registering more than $22 million in 2018. Among his major victories last year was Catholic Boy's victory in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, as well as Grade 1 wins aboard Imperial Hint in the Vosburgh and Alfred G. Vanderbilt.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., has quickly emerged as one of the top riders in the country. Since first arriving in New York from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico in 2011, the 26-year-old has won 18 individual riding meet honors on the NYRA circuit. In 2018, he ranked first among all North American jockeys in wins with 346 and earnings totaling over $27 million winning the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2018. His major victories included piloting Newspaperofrecord to victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; Diversify in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga Race Course, and Robert Bruce in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. He is also the older brother of fellow Venezia award finalist Jose Ortiz.
Jose Ortiz, younger brother of Irad Ortiz, Jr., amassed more than $26 million in purse earnings in 2018. In 2017, the 25-year-old earned Eclipse Award honors as the nation's outstanding jockey after winning with 270 of his 1,408 mounts, including his first classic, the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets aboard Tapwrit. His last year included Grade 1 wins in the Woodbine Mile aboard Oscar Performance; the Cigar Mile with Patternrecognition; and Haskell Invitational with Good Magic.
Geroux, a native of Argentan, France, began riding after being introduced to the sport by his father who was also a jockey and later a trainer in France. Since his arrival in America in 2007, Geroux has quickly shown his talent, becoming one of the most respected riders on the country. In 2018, he garnered over $21.4 million in earnings and achieved major wins aboard Eclipse-award champion Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont; the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs; and in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.
Santana, Jr., a native of Panama, came to the United States to ride in 2009 at the age of 16, at Delaware Park. He has gone on to become one of the best riders in the country as the perennial leading rider at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Last year, his mounts earned more than $14 million with major wins with Whitmore in the Grade 1 Forego; Bee Jersey in the Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile; Unbridled Mo in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom; and Tenfold in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy,
The first Venezia Award was awarded posthumously to Venezia in 1989. Previous winners of the award include Joe Bravo (2018), Kendrick Carmouche (2017), Mario Pino (2016), Jon Court (2015), Hall of Famer John Velazquez (2014) and Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez (2013).