Irad Ortiz Jr., top jockey in North America last season, bounced into Woodbine this past weekend. And he blitzed the place.
On Sunday, he won both of the Breeders’ Cup Win-and-You’re-In races for 2-year-olds on the grass. He also won a third stakes race, the $200,000 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs in Kentucky with the highly regarded Dennis’ Moment, winner of his first race by 10 lengths at Ellis Park on Saturday. That gave Ortiz the nod as top jockey of the week on a Jockey’s Guild ballot.
But back to drizzly Woodbine, where a fine mist coated everything. All day. Ortiz didn’t seem to mind.
Ortiz, a third-generation jockey from Puerto Rico, won the $250,000 Summer Stakes on 2 to 1 shot Decorated Invader, a $200,000 yearling purchase trained by Christophe Clement. He’d broken his maiden in his previous start at Saratoga.
His fellow jockeys in the race read like the Who’s Who of jockeydom: British star Jamie Spencer was on British colt Vitalogy, trained by Joseph O’Brien, son of famed Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien; Tyler Gaffalione, who won the Preakness aboard War of Will this year; veteran, leading money-winner John Velazquez, on race favourite Mystic Lancelot, trained by Todd Pletcher; Javier Castellano. And then there was Pablo Morales, all the way here to ride a 109 to 1 shot, Cadet Connelly, an $1,800 yearling purchase who had spent his time at minor tracks, with far more races under his belt.
Cadet Connelly finished second. He had broken his maiden at Woodbine the previous week.
But the star of the show was Decorated Invader, who bumped with Vitalogy leaving the gate, settled in mid-pack and closed three-wide around the final turn. He won by 1 ¾ lengths over the longshot, in a tight battle with Vitalogy, the colt that had come all the way from England and Ireland, seeking a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Ortiz was back two races later, the $250,000 Natalma for 2-year-old fillies, aiming to get to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf event. Aboard Abscond, a 9 to 1 shot, Ortiz was her third rider in three races. She broke like a shot from the outside post to the lead, but ended up in a long duel with Irish filly Walk In Marrakesh, ridden by Jamie Spencer. The finish was so tight, Spencer thought he might have won. (So did I.) But Ortiz had squeaked out the win by a nose.
The 3 to 5 favourite Fair Maiden, a ship-in winner of the Catch A Glimpse Stakes at Woodbine in August, closed resolutely down the middle of the track, but finished a neck back in third while drifting out.
There were only two local riders in the race; Luis Contreras rode 25 to 1 shot Runway Dreamer, while Jeffrey Alderson, on $4,500 yearling purchase Saratoga Vision, was 65 to 1.