Each leads his category for third time in four years
Saratoga Springs, NY
It was just like old times on closing day of the 151st thoroughbred race meet at Saratoga Race Course Monday.
On an overcast, rainy Labor Day, one that drew an announced crowd of 16,283, the surest bets of the 39-day meet (one day was lost when oppressive heat forced the New York Racing Association to cancel) came in.
Both were foregone conclusions. One of the Ortiz brothers was going to emerge at the end of summer as the top rider of the meet for the fifth straight year, and Chad Brown was going to be crowned the top trainer.
Jose Ortiz won more races than any other jockey for the third time in four years. With 60 wins, he beat his brother, Irad, who won the title in 2015 and 2018, who had 53.
There was no drama in the race for top trainer. Mechanicville’s Brown, for the second straight year and third time in the last four, got the award. He finished first 41 times, 20 more than Todd Pletcher, a 13-time winner of the title.
Monday’s final day of racing was marred when Borough Boy, a 3-year-old colt, was euthanized after breaking down at the eighth pole on a track that was labeled “sloppy.” According to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the NYRA veterinarian, Borough Boy incurred a catastrophic injury to his right foreleg and was put down on the track.
Since the meet started on July 11, five horses have been euthanized as a result of injuries suffered during the running of a race. Three others have died during training incidents and two others were involved in nonracing deaths. Since the Oklahoma Training Track opened in April, three other horses have died in training incidents. The information was supplied by the New York State Gaming Commission.
Ortiz capped off his big summer with his 60th win of the meet in the Grade I Hopeful aboard Basin. The all-time record for wins at a Saratoga meet is 68, set by Ramon Dominguez in 2012.
“Sixty sounds better than 59,” Ortiz said.
Earlier Monday, before the races started, Ortiz reflected on his meet outside the jockey’s room. The 25-year-old native of Puerto Rico has made no secret of his desire to one day land in the Racing Hall of Fame. Winning titles at the toughest meet in the country, maybe the world, can go a long way.
“This is what I came here for,” Ortiz said. “I worked hard for it.”
He had 280 mounts. He finished second 46 times and third 37 on his way to having his mounts earn $5.46 million. He won three Grade I races during the meet: the Alabama (Dunbar Road), Coaching Club American Oaks (Guarana) and the Hopeful.
“The quality is what is important,” Ortiz said. “Even if we don’t win the meet, we want to win Grade Is and I’m glad I was able to do both. This meet is tough.”
The Ortiz brothers both said before the meet that they would root for one another. Irad said he was happy that if he could not win, his brother did.
“He is always tough,” Irad said about his brother. “We’ve been fighting it out the last five years since coming here. I’m happy for him and I’m happy with my meet.”
Brown, 40, fell short of his record-breaking meet of last year, when he won 46 races, was second 40 times and third 31 from 178 starts. He won nine graded stakes races, including four Grade Is. His horses earned more than $5.5 million.
“It’s an honor,” Brown said. “So many people who put in so much hard work and so many horses showed up and gave fine efforts the whole meet. From top to bottom, my horses gave really strong efforts. It’s a tough meet. You have to bring your best.”
The leading owner of the meet was Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, one of Brown’s main clients. Klaravich won 19 races and had earnings of more than $1.9 million.