Jose Ortiz won two Grade I stakes races and a Grade II stakes during Belmont Park’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival earning Jockey of the Week for June 1 through June 6. 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.
While Ortiz was originally scheduled to ride numerous mounts during the three-day Racing Festival, he picked up several more after his brother, Irad, went down in an on-track accident Thursday requiring jockey changes for Friday and Saturday. To everyone’s relief, Irad was not seriously injured and is scheduled to return to riding soon. Jose went on to make the most of the mounts he picked up.
On Friday, Ortiz picked up the mount on Firenze Fire for trainer Kelly Breen in the Grade II True North at 6-1/2 furlongs. Firenze Fire broke from the rail and engaged Flagstaff for nearly the entire race before prevailing by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:15.52. “(Irad) said he’s a very nice horse and that he was going to break good,” said the replacement Ortiz. I rode him like he was the best horse and he was the best horse.”
On Saturday, Ortiz was named his brother’s replacement on Drain the Clock for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. in the Grade I Woody Stephens for three-year-olds going seven furlongs. Under Ortiz, Drain the Clock broke sharp from post 2 while the favorite, Jackie’s Warrior missed the break but was hustled up to take command with Drain the Clock in unrelenting pursuit. Drain the Clock hit the wire in front by a neck. The win was Ortiz’s first career Woody Stephens. “It was a great race, everybody gave their best. I’m just happy we came out with the win and I’m happy filling in for Irad and not messing it up,” said Ortiz.
Later on Saturday, Ortiz picked up Letruska for Fausto Gutierrez in the Grade I Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares going 1-1/16 miles on the main track. With Ortiz aboard, Letruska went right to the lead out of the gate, led the other four up the backstretch and opened up to draw off by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:41;25. Ortiz said Letruska would not be denied the lead. “She was breaking a little slow, but she broke good today. I was able to put her on the lead and make the other horses chase me,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz’s weekly statistics were 32-5-5-4 for an in-the-money percentage of 43.7% and total purse earnings of $1,370,764.
For Jockey of the Week honors, Ortiz out-polled Edwin Gonzalez with an in-the-money percentage of 62%, Flavien Prat with two graded stakes wins, Diego Saenz who was the leading jockey by wins with 10, and Luis Saez who won the Belmont Stakes.