Prat Adds Stature to Star-Studded Saratoga Jockey Colony

on 07/11/2022 2:18 PM

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David Grening/Daily Racing Form 7.11.2022

One of the reasons Flavien Prat left California for the East Coast was to try and win more of the races that could put him in contention for an Eclipse Award. Many of those races are offered at Saratoga, where Prat will ride full time for the first time when the 40-day meet opens Thursday.

Following a largely successful Belmont Park spring/summer meet, Prat adds to a loaded Saratoga colony that includes the regulars – topped by Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, reigning Eclipse Award winner Joel Rosario, defending Saratoga champion Luis Saez, Dylan Davis, and Manny Franco – and picks up Tyler Gaffalione, Julien Leparoux, and Ricardo Santana Jr. from Kentucky.

Prat, who has spent the last few summers dominating the proceedings at Del Mar, made a seamless transition to New York at Belmont. His 33 wins from 160 mounts were fourth most. He was second in purse money won with $3,963,748. He was second in graded stakes wins with six, one behind Irad Ortiz Jr., and had the unique distinction of winning graded races aboard both Flightline (Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap) and Life Is Good (Grade 2 John Nerud) in a three-week span.

“I think it was a good meet, it’s a good way to start and go to Saratoga,” Prat said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of new horses. At that point, it’s just a matter of finding a good 2-year-old and go from there.”

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Prat had a taste of Saratoga last summer, winning three races – all stakes – from 18 mounts. He formed a good working relationship with Chad Brown. At Belmont, Prat won 12 races for Brown, who won a Belmont spring/summer meet record 47 races.

Prat said he doesn’t go into the meet thinking about being leading rider, but just getting on the right horses.

“I think everybody has his own priorities,” Prat said. “The goal is to ride good horses and ride good races. If I’m in a position to fight for leading rider that would be great. As I say, we have our own priority; riding good horses is the main priority.”

Prat will be fighting for those good mounts in a loaded colony, one that boasts the winner of the Eclipse Award 10 of the last 13 years.

“Prat has been a great add to the colony,” said Jose Ortiz, a three-time Saratoga leading rider. “Makes it tougher for everybody.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. is riding the momentum of a Belmont Park title, one he got by winning 16 races over the final eight days he was eligible to ride, edging out Dylan Davis by one. Ortiz led all riders at Belmont in wins, purse money won, and graded stakes victories. His 174 mounts at Belmont were the fourth fewest among the top 12 riders in the colony.

“He won the title with 100 less mounts, that was very impressive,” said Jose Ortiz, Irad’s brother and himself a three-time Saratoga leading rider. “If he keeps this momentum going into Saratoga, he’s going to be very tough.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the title in 2015, 2018, and 2020.

“Saratoga is a special place where you want to win,” Irad Ortiz Jr. said. “Even if you don’t win the meet, but you win some races, you are happy. The last two weeks we started going up and started working horses.”

Saez won 64 races at last summer’s Saratoga – fourth most in the history of the track – including the Travers on Essential Quality.

“It’s a place we did pretty great every year,” he said. “Last year was magnificent, we’ll try and see if we can do it again.”

Tyler Gaffalione, coming off a 62-win Churchill Downs meet, looks to add to his Saratoga success over the last few summers. He won a personal-best 33 races in 2021 after winning 21 in 2020 and 12 in 2019.

“Very excited for the upcoming meet, we got up here a little early, started to get some work in,” Gaffalione said. “Coming off the last couple of years, gaining a little more momentum, getting more business. We’re hoping we can continue that upward rise.”

Gaffalione said riding in such a deep colony “brings the best out of you. I’m very competitive. Riding against top guys lights a fire under you.”

It may not count in the standings, but Gaffalione got his first win of the Saratoga summer on Tuesday as he was to marry Cassidy Edwards, the daughter of Bob Edwards. The family owns and races horses under the eFive Racing Thoroughbreds moniker.

The honeymoon will wait, however. After all, this is Saratoga.

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