Irad Ortiz Jr. won three stakes, including a pair of Grade III races, to be named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week’s outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts, plus a public vote. They looked at races run from January 26-February 1.
On Friday, Ortiz won the Rego Park Stakes at Aqueduct riding Saratoga Dreamer.
At Tampa Bay on Saturday, he posted back-to-back wins in the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavor Stakes on Testa Rossi (FR) and the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Ocean Knight.
He capped off the week with three wins back at Aqueduct on Sunday. All told, he won 8 races with 3 seconds and a third from 18 starts, earning $442,410. A $2 mutuel ticket on each of his 8 winning mounts returned an average payout of $6.19.
Ortiz, 22, is a graduate of Puerto Rico’s Escuela Vocacional Hipica, a school for prospective jockeys. His grandfather and an uncle are also jockeys. His younger brother, Jose Ortiz, is also a top-ranked jockey.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. began his riding career at Hipódromo Camarero on New Year’s Day, 2011, and rode there until mid-June that year winning 76 races.
He was following in the footsteps of his idol, Angel Cordero Jr. when he set out for New York, saying, “I wanted to ride against the best jockeys. I learn a lot by being able to ride with jockeys like Ramon [Dominguez] and Cornelio [Velasquez].”
He got his big break a year later when trainer Kiaran McLaughlin put him on a 3-year-old filly in a first-level allowance race. Questing rolled to victory that day and McLaughlin kept Ortiz on the filly for the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Ortiz won both the Coaching Club and Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga that summer.
In 2012, he ranked 17th in earnings in North America with $9.1 million. In 2013, he moved up to fifth with $14.3 million. And last year, he ranked third with $20.2 million.
Oritz currently ranks atop the jocks’ standings at Aqueduct in both wins and earnings, and he is leading the North American standings in earnings.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.