Jose Ortiz blows in from Kentucky with a full head of steam (2024)

Jose Ortiz blows in from Kentucky with a full head of steam (1)

Barbara D. Livingston

Longtime New York rider Jose Ortiz shifted his base to Kentucky in the spring and tied for the title at the recently concluded Churchill Downs meet.

Jose Ortiz hopes to carry the momentum of a highly successful Churchill Downs meet into Saratoga where he hopes to contend for a fourth riding title when the meet opens Thursday.

“I’m competitive, the goal would be leading rider or at least win as many races as I can,” Ortiz said during a rare 2024 visit to Aqueduct.

Ortiz was a leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit for three years [2016, 2020-21] and won the Saratoga meet titles in 2016-17 and 2019. Last year, he finished a distant second at Saratoga to his brother Irad, who this summer is seeking a sixth Saratoga riding title.

Jose Ortiz, 30, made the move to Kentucky this spring where, at the Churchill meet, he tied Tyler Gaffalione for leading honors with 45 wins.

“They embraced me with open arms,” Ortiz said. “I got good support from good owners and mostly every trainer out there. I rode for mostly everybody and win for everybody. It was a great move and I’m really looking forward for my future in Kentucky.”

Ortiz, who is represented by Steve Rushing, made the move from New York – where he’s ridden mostly since 2012 – to Kentucky in large part because he and his wife, Taylor, were looking for a quieter setting in which to raise their three children. Professionally, it doesn’t hurt that Kentucky’s purses have skyrocketed, either.

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Ortiz’s Churchill success followed terrific meets at Gulfstream Park where his 94 wins were second only to his brother Irad, and Keeneland where he and Gaffalione tied for second with 15 wins, five behind Irad. Jose Ortiz ranks as the third-leading jockey in wins (156) this year and is fourth in purse-money won ($11.9 million).

Riding in Kentucky has enabled Ortiz to pick up some promising 2-year-olds earlier in the year than he likely would have in New York, where juvenile races are slow to fill before Saratoga. Ortiz won with first-time starter Owen Almighty, trained by Brian Lynch, and he is 2 for 2 on Politicallycorrect, including a five-length victory in the Bashford Manor Stakes on June 30.

Christopher Davis is one of the trainers Ortiz had success with during the Churchill meet, winning four races for him – two on Politicallycorrect and two on Windy Walk, who runs in Friday's $135,000 Wilton Stakes.

“When he rides for me, I have lot of confidence what we’re going to get,” Davis said.

Davis has not yet decided if Politicallycorrect will run in Saratoga as he is targeting the Iroquois Stakes for him at Churchill in early September.

Over the first three days of the Saratoga meet, Ortiz is named on horses for 15 different trainers. Saturday, Ortiz will ride likely favorite Didia in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana. Ortiz rode Didia to victory in the Grade 1 New York Stakes last month at Saratoga, his second victory from three rides aboard the consistent Argentine-bred mare trained by Ignacio “Nacho” Correas.

“That she eventually won her Grade 1 in America is great,” Ortiz said. “I think it was a great race, a great field, but if you look at her past performances she never gives you a bad race. Nacho has done an amazing job with her, keeping her in top form. Every time he enters her, its because she’s doing great.”

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Ortiz, who won Sunday’s Grade 2 Delaware Handicap for Saffie Joseph Jr., said his success at Saratoga might hinge on how much business he can get back from New York trainers who have used him in the past. One who definitely will continue to use him is Linda Rice, who has had great success with Ortiz.

Riding in Kentucky, “obviously I gave up a little bit of the New York business, which I might get back, I might not,” Ortiz said. “I’m here, I’m going to work hard like I always do. I spent of lot years here in New York, I’m known. In the beginning it could be a touch slow, but it’ll pick up. One door closes, another one opens. Hopefully, it works out.”

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Jose Ortiz blows in from Kentucky with a full head of steam (2024)
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