Florida Derby Day Press Release (Gulfstream Park)
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., the second-leading rider at the Championship Meet, will be a busy man on Saturday with mounts in all 14 races on Gulfstream’s spectacular stakes-filled Florida Derby Day program.
Spending his first full winter in South Florida, the 25-year-old Ortiz will be aboard only one program favorite, Jane Cibelli-trained Ballyin in the second race, a 7 ½-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old maiden fillies.
Ortiz’s stakes mounts include Therapist in the $150,000 Cutler Bay (Race 4), Ferdinanda in the $150,000 Sanibel Island (Race 5), Page McKenney in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile (G2) (Race 8), On Leave in the $250,000 Honey Fox (G3) (Race 11), Princess Warrior in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) (Race 12), and Bullards Alley in the $250,000 Pan American (G2) (Race 13).
“It’s going to be a long day,” Ortiz said. “You have to do it, no matter what. They put me on them and I will ride them. That’s what I’m out there for. I try to drink a lot of water and Gatorade, and just keep going.”
Ortiz will complete his day on Catholic Boy, the 7-2 third choice on the morning line in the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1). It will be his first time aboard the multiple graded-stakes winner, trained by Jonathan Thomas.
“My horse is doing really good,” he said. “You have to stay positive and hopefully he can run his race.”
New York’s leading rider in 2014 and 2015 who had dominated its winter circuit with younger brother, Jose, Ortiz didn’t start riding regularly at Gulfstream until Jan. 5, a month into the Championship Meet. He made day trips on Dec. 9, winning three stakes including the featured Clasico del Caribe, and Dec. 16, taking the My Charmer (G3) and Rampart (G3).
He enters the meet’s final weekend second in wins with 97 and third in purses earned with $4,470,911. Only three riders in track history have reached the 100-win mark: five-time champion and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, two-time defending champion Luis Saez, and Paco Lopez.
“It feels great. I enjoyed the weather and my agent, Steve Rushing, really helped me. His nephew, Jay Rushing, really helped me, too,” Ortiz said. “All the trainers and owners, they gave me the support. They supported me and without them nothing would be possible. They gave me the horses and let me do my job. We came in a little late and we won a bunch of races, and we’re so happy. I’m happy to be able to enjoy the moment.”