Billed as “Champion vs. Champion,” the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park was widely considered a two-horse race between Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver. Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Letruska, however, had another idea which earned him Jockey of the Week for April 12 through April 18. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 active riders in the United States as well as retired and permanently disabled jockeys.
It doesn’t happen often when three-time Eclipse Champion jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. isn’t on either the favorite or second favorite but the end result was a familiar one. Riding Letruska for the first time, Ortiz, Jr. went to the lead after the start and led the field through fractions of 23.56 for the opening quarter, 47.96 for the half and 1:12.26 for six furlongs. Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl tracked the leader entering the stretch. Monomoy Girl grabbed a narrow lead but Ortiz, Jr. and Letruska dug in and fought back bravely along the rail to prevail by a nose at the wire in the final time of 1:43.14 for 1-1/16 miles over the fast track. Swiss Skydiver finished 6-1/2 lengths back in third.
“I got the right trip,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She likes to be on the lead, I let her go, let her make the lead. She relaxed and I was able to save something for the end. She responded really well.”
The Apple Blossom was Ortiz, Jr.’s fifth Grade I and twelfth graded stakes to date this year.
Ortiz, Jr.’s weekly stats were 20-7-6-3 for a 35% win percentage and 80% in-the-money percentage.
He led all jockeys in purses won with $1,137,435.
Ortiz, Jr. out-polled jockeys Javier Castellano who won two stakes at Aqueduct, Paco Lopez who was second in number of wins for the week, Flavien Prat who won two graded stakes at Santa Anita and Luis Saez who won a stakes race at Keeneland and led all jockeys by number of wins.
Stats provided by Equibase
About the Guild Jockeys’ Guild, Inc. is the organization representing professional jockeys in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the United States. It was founded in May 1940 and has approximately 1,250 members, including active, retired and disabled jockeys. The purpose is to protect jockeys, strive to achieve a safer racing environment, obtain improved insurance and other benefits for members and to monitor developments in local, state and federal laws affecting the racing industry, and in particular, the jockeys. For more information about the Guild, visit www.jockeysguild.com or www.facebook.com/jockeysguild