Irad Ortiz Jr. Profile
|Name||Irad Ortiz Jr.|
|Born||Aug 11, 1992|
|Birthplace||Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico|
The three-time Eclipse Award winner is the first Puerto Rican to make it into horse racing's Hall of Fame.
Irad Ortiz Jr. is one of the top jockeys in the world, but he is especially regarded as one of the best on the New York Thoroughbred horse racing circuit. Since 2012, he has consistently demonstrated his skill with wins in big races such as the Belmont Stakes.
The rise to stardom
Born in Puerto Rico in 1992, Ortiz Jr. was raised in a family that had close ties with horse racing. Both his grandfather and uncle were jockeys and his younger brother, Jose Ortiz, also went on to become one of today's leading riders in New York.
As a young man, Ortiz Jr. was inspired by Angel Cordero Jr., the legendary jockey who was the first from Puerto Rico to make it into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
At that point, Ortiz Jr. began his journey by becoming a student at Puerto Rico's Escuela Vocacional Hipica at the age of 16. The school was dedicated to training jockeys.
Ortiz Jr.'s professional jockey career began in Puerto Rico in 2011, with the first few months of the year seeing him win 76 of 357 races. That same year, Ortiz Jr. was convinced to look towards New York by a friend of his grandfather. Ortiz Jr.'s first US race took place at Belmont Park on June 17, 2011, and he won his first exactly one week later aboard Millennium Jet.
The Belmont Stakes and other career highlights
Ortiz Jr. has had many notable highlights throughout his career, starting with him getting a mount in the 2013 Belmont Stakes. He was aboard the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Incognito and finished fourth.
One of his best years was 2014, when Ortiz Jr. won a career-best 16 graded stakes races. Some of those wins included Grade 1 victories aboard Sweet Reason (the Acorn Stakes and the Test Stakes). To close out the year, he paired with Lady Eli to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, which was his first victory at the prestigious Breeders' Cup meet.
In 2015, he was aboard Lady Eli once again, with the horse winning her first three outings of the season. The most notable of these was the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes. Ortiz Jr. also took the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf aboard Stephanie's Kitten that year.
It was in 2016 when Ortiz Jr. scored his second mount in the Belmont Stakes - and this time he won. He was aboard the Steve Asmussen-trained Creator, and it became Ortiz Jr.'s first and only American Classic race victory.
In 2017, he rode the 66/1 shot Bar of Gold to victory, upsetting the field in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. This was his third Breeders' Cup victory and he claimed his fourth and fifth in 2018 by winning the Filly and Mare Sprint with Shamrock Rose and the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Newspaperofrecord.
In 2018, he was awarded one of the most prestigious awards in horse racing, the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey, which he went on to claim in 2019 and 2020 too.
2019 was another one of his top years, with Ortiz Jr. scoring four Breeders' Cup wins. He took the Classic with Vino Rosso (pictured), the Dirt Mile with Spun to Run, the Juvenile Turf Sprint with Four Wheel Drive, and he also had the call for Bricks and Mortar, who was Horse of the Year and finished the season undefeated. Bricks and Mortar won the Breeders' Cup Turf with Ortiz Jr., who picked up $34.1million in earnings that year, his best to date.
With the 2020 season being disrupted due to COVID-19, especially since Ortiz Jr. contracted the virus himself, it looked like it would be a slower year for the jockey. However, he won his 10th Breeders' Cup race with Golden Pal in the Juvenile Turf Sprint as well as securing his 11th with Whitmore in the Sprint. He had the most wins and purse earnings of any North America rider, while he closed out the 2020 campaign with 27 graded stakes wins.
Ortiz rode Steve Asmussen's Midnight Bourbon to a second-place finish in the 2021 Preakness Stakes.
Major racing victories
Irad Ortiz Jr. has an extensive list of significant race victories, no surprise given he is one of the greatest jockeys in the sport.
Some of Ortiz Jr.'s prominent wins include the Coaching Club American Oaks (2012), the Pennsylvania Derby (2012 and 2019), the Alabama Stakes (2012), the Carter Handicap (2013), the Champagne Stakes (2013 and 2017), the King's Bishop Stakes (2013), the Acorn Stakes (2014), the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (2015), the Flower Bowl Stakes (2015, 2016 and 2018), the Manhattan Stakes (2015, 2019 and 2020), the Spinster Stakes (2015), the Gotham Stakes (2016), the Spinaway Stakes (2016, 2017 and 2019), the Gamely Stakes (2017), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (2017 and 2020), the Whitney Stakes (2018 and 2020), the Arlington Million (2018 and 2019), the Pegasus World Cup Turf (2019 and 2021), the Turf Classic Stakes (2019) and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (2020).
When it comes to Ortiz Jr.'s most prestigious victories in American Classics and Breeders' Cup events, he has won the Belmont Stakes (2016), the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (2014 and 2018), the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (2015), the Breeders' Cup Sprint (2020), the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (2017 and 2018), the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (2019 and 2020), the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (2019), Breeders' Cup Turf (2019) and the Breeders' Cup Classic (2019).
Irad Ortiz Jr.'s horses
As one of the leading jockeys, Irad Ortiz Jr. often has the call for the top sprinters. Some of his most notable rides have included Lady Eli, Bricks and Mortar, Vino Rosso, Creator and Questing.
Out of those names, Bricks and Mortar stands out as he was named the American Horse of the Year in 2019. The American Thoroughbred won four of six starts during his three-year-old season. After missing most of his four-year-old season due to illness, he returned strongly to become a top-ranked turf horse following big victories in races like the Pegasus World Cup Turf. In 2019, he won six-of-six, earning $6.7million.
One of Ortiz Jr.'s early racehorses was Creator, who he rode to victory in the 2016 Belmont Stakes. The son of Tapit and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, he retired in October 2016 with a 3-4-1 record from 12 career starts and earnings of $1.6million.
A more recent runner, Vino Rosso, is another one of Ortiz Jr.'s top racehorses. The son of Curlin is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and he was the winner of the 2019 Breeders' Cup Classic. Some of Vino Rosso's earlier victories included the Wood Memorial Stakes in 2018 and Stymie Stakes in 2019. He was retired in November 2019 with a career record of 6-1-3 from 15 starts and earnings of $4.8million.