Irad Ortiz Jr.
Record-setting jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. got his 2021-2022 Championship Meet off to a strong start by riding a pair of winners on Thursday’s 10-race program.
Ortiz, 29, was named in six races and finished off the board with his first mount, 2-1 favorite Macedonian, in Race 2. The Puerto Rico native registered back-to-back wins with Time to Two Step ($8) in Race 3 and 4-5 favorite Miss You Ella ($3.60) in Race 3.
“It feels great. It’s been a long time,” Ortiz said. “Thank God we’re back. I’m just happy to be back riding, honestly.”
Ortiz had not ridden since notching three victories on the Dec. 5 Clasic Internacional del Caribe program at Camarero Racetrack in his home country. He also finished second in the Copa Invitacional de Importados (G1) with Luna Fortis.
The Championship Meet’s three-time defending champion had been serving a 30-day suspension handed down in New York for incidents of careless riding including Grand Casique Dec. 3 at Aqueduct.
“It was a mistake. I’m human. Everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect,” Ortiz said. “I made a mistake and I did my suspension. The stewards did their job, they gave me my suspension and I paid for it, so that’s it.”
Only Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who did it a record five times between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016, has won as many as four consecutive Championship Meet titles. Ortiz rode a record 140 winners at Gulfstream in 2020-2021, breaking Luis Saez’s mark of 137 with his victory aboard Known Agenda in the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa.
Ortiz has won the past three Eclipse Awards as North America’s champion jockey. He led all riders with 336 wins in 2021 and ranked second with 1,443 starts and $29,274,435 in purse earnings. He also won a personal best 36 graded-stakes, 10 of them Grade 1, including the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) aboard Colonel Liam.
Following the Clasico del Caribe, Ortiz remained in Puerto Rico before returning to South Florida to work horses, primarily for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs. He is named in nine of 10 races Friday and 10 of 11 Saturday, including Value Proposition in the $100,000 Tropical Turf (G3).
“I spent time with my family and working,” Ortiz said. “I stayed one week in Puerto Rico and then I came back here and started working to get ready to come back.”
Saez leads the Championship Meet with 42 wins. Paco Lopez is second with 25 wins and Tyler Gaffalione third at 23.
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Friday’s Rainbow 6 Jackpot Pool Guaranteed at $1.3 Million
The 20-cent Rainbow 6 gross jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $1.3 million for Friday’s 10-race program at Gulfstream Park.
Multiple tickets with all six winners were sold Thursday, each worth $47,862.80. The popular multi-race wager was last solved for a $407,067.66 jackpot payout Dec. 11, a span of 17 racing days.
The Rainbow 6 jackpot is paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.
Friday’s Rainbow 6 sequence begins in Race 5, a second-level allowance for Florida-breds going one mile and 70 yards on the Tapeta surface. Birdman Richie, never worse than third in five career starts racing first time with Lasix for trainer Larry Rivelli, is the 3-1 program favorite.
A maiden special weight for 3-year-olds sprinting five furlongs on the grass is scheduled in Race 6. Michael Tabor’s Comedic is an $800,000 daughter of Practical Joke that returns to the turf after finishing third in a six-furlong maiden event on the main track Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos. Trained by California-based Simon Callaghan, she is cross-entered in a similar spot for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Gulfstream.
Race 8 is an optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares 4 and up going one mile that drew a field of nine led by 9-5 program favorite Join the Dots, a 3 ½-length debut winner Oct. 29 at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The Medaglia d’Oro filly fetched $700,000 as a yearling in September 2019.
Friday’s feature comes in Race 9, a stakes-quality optional claiming allowance for 4-year-olds and up sprinting 6 ½ furlongs on the main track that marks the return of Mutasaabeq, a Grade 2 winner on the turf in his first race since winning the one-mile Mucho Macho Man last January. Stakes-placed Collaborate, a 12 ½-length maiden winner last winter at Gulfstream who ran fifth in the Florida Derby (G1), also returns for the first time since finishing sixth in the Curlin July 30 at Saratoga.
Also coming off a layoff in Race 9 is speedy Bank On Shea, unraced since capturing the Affirmed Success against fellow New York-breds last April at Aqueduct. The multiple stakes winner will be making his first start since joining the barn of Gulfstream-based trainer Carlos David.
There will be a mandatory payout in the Rainbow 6, as well as the 50-cent Late Pick 5 and $1 Super Hi-5, on Saturday. The 11-race program is highlighted by the 44th running of the $100,000 Tropical Turf (G3).
Who’s Hot: Championship Meet-leading rider Luis Saez visited the winner’s circle twice Thursday aboard Exponential ($7.40) in Race 1 and Discreet Tune ($7.60) in Race 9. Emisael Jaramillo also doubled with Merzaz ($7.80) in Race 2 and Hot Peppers ($5) in Race 7.
Rainbow 6 Gross Jackpot Pool Guarantee: $1.3 million
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