An impressive second-place finish in the world’s richest stakes race on Saturday and a sweep of a graded stakes double on Sunday led Jose Ortiz to be named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for January 23-29, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
Though billed as a two-horse race, the inaugural Pegasus World Cup became a contentious event for a full field of older horses at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 28. Mike Smith and Arrogate stalked the pace to win as the post-time favorite, never encountering the matchup many expected with two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. Instead, it was Jose Ortiz and Shaman Ghost who finished second after closing quickly in the stretch. Ortiz and Shaman Ghost finished over four lengths behind Arrogate but over three lengths ahead of Neolithic, and earned $1,750,000 of the total $12 million purse.
Running second in the world’s richest race was not enough for Ortiz. He and several of the nation’s top riders also traveled to Sam Houston Race Park to compete in five stakes races on Sunday.
Ortiz made his first trip to the Houston track a memorable one. He began the stakes sequence with a win in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint Stakes, upsetting the field with Partly Mocha ($14.40), one of two entries for trainer Mike Maker. Partly Mocha and Ortiz defeated heavy favorite Hogy, ridden by Florent Geroux, by a head.
Ortiz finished seventh in the $50,000 Space City Stakes with En Hanse, but returned to the winner’s circle for the two main events on the card, the Grade 3 $200,000 Connally Turf Cup and the Grade 3 $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.
In the Connally, Maker’s three entries completed the trifecta, with Ortiz and Bigger Picture ($4.20) edging out Oscar Nominated and Greengrassofyoming for the win. In the Houston Ladies Classic, Ortiz rode Unbridled Mo ($11.20) for Todd Pletcher and Red Oak Stable. Multiple graded stakes winner I’m a Chatterbox was the morning line and post-time favorite in the Houston Ladies Classic, but had to overcome a slow break and make up ground to finish second.
Ortiz also won the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Handicap on the Pegasus undercard at Gulfstream aboard Suffused ($5.00). With his combined Gulfstream and Sam Houston wins, Ortiz led all jockeys by number of stakes wins with four, and started in more stakes than anyone for the week, with 14 total stakes mounts.
Ortiz was the second leading North American jockey by both total and stakes earnings last week behind Pegasus World Cup winner Mike Smith. In 30 starts last week, Ortiz won six races including four stakes, and finished second and third in eight more starts. He earned a total of $2,438,225, $2,315,290 of which was earned in stakes races. Smith earned $7,005,580 in his two starts and Pegasus victory.
After the Pegasus, Smith now leads all North American jockeys by earnings, and Ortiz is ranked second. Ortiz ended 2017 as the third leading jockey by earnings, having earned over $22 million in 1,563 starts. To date, Ortiz has 101 starts in 2017 with 21 wins and earnings of over $3.2 million.
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 Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, The Daily Racing Form, Equibase, Horse Racing Nation, 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.