US star jock at Royal Ascot
He is presently famous for being ‘America’s hottest jockey’ and Irad Ortiz, jr., will be making his first appearance at Royal Ascot next week, booked to ride five runners for US trainer Wesley Ward.
Before you say, ‘US social media can make anybody super and famous’, consider this: The 29-year-old Puerto Rican has already ridden more than 3000 career winners, including two $12-million Pegasus World Cups and no fewer than 14 Breeders’ Cup races. At this tender age he’s also already won three US Eclipse Awards.
The record shows that Ortiz, jr. has already amassed the same fortune (plus/minus $200-million) at 29 than Frankie Detorri has at age 51 – he’ll be respected for that alone when he walks into the Jockey Room at Royal Ascot next week.
Some will argue that Oritz, jr. doesn’t have near enough experience on tracks outside of the US, he hasn’t travelled much. But history shows that riders of such X-factor talent hold their own wherever they go, and with immediate effect, so they eyes of fellow-jocks and racegoers will be on him, no doubt.
They probably won’t be looking for trouble either, because Ortiz jr. is known for his fiery temperament. He was fined $1,000 last year for punching rival Paco Lopez three times in the face after a heated race at Gulfstream Park. Last December he was given a rare 30-day ban after causing a rival jockey to fall off his horse.
Ward, the first American trainer to saddle a Royal Ascot winner, Strike The Tiger in 2009, has switched to Ortiz, jr. after using Dettori and John Velasquez in the past.
He said: “Frankie is my man and I love him, but Irad is swinging right now in the States – he’s the hottest rider in America.
“He’s a great kid and rode Acapulco for me a few years back when she finished second in the Nunthorpe at York (in 2015). He’s won all over in America and he’s just a phenomenal rider who rides with extreme patience.
“He’s the man of the moment here in the States, that’s for sure. He’s put a lot of work in for me early in the mornings and he’s so excited to get over to Ascot.”
Ward’s main contender this year is Golden Pal in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, the top sprinter Ortiz jr. has steered to successive Breeders’ Cup wins.
Golden Pal’s stablemate Campanelle is already a dual Royal Ascot winner, having won the Queen Mary two years ago and claimed the Commonwealth Cup last year. She will bid to make it a hat-trick in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, with Ward particularly enthused about her chances following her final workout at Keeneland on Sunday morning.
Another filly returning to Ascot is Ruthin, who disappointed in the Windsor Castle 12 months ago but better is expected in the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes.
“She’s a very nice filly who won on her two-year-old debut last year and went over to Ascot for the Windsor Castle. She shot right to the lead and then faded in the last part of the race,” said Ward.
“She came back and won a Listed Stakes race here at Keeneland, so she’s two from three, and I’m hoping she’ll go there and run a big race.”
Ward’s quintet is completed by a pair of two-year-olds in Love Reigns and Seismic Spirit, who are bound for the Queen Mary and Windsor Castle Stakes respectively.
Love Reigns made a huge impression on her Keeneland debut and is well fancied to provide her trainer with a fifth Queen Mary success.
Ward said: “The guy that gives the figures at Keeneland really didn’t want to give her a figure because he was sort of unsure thinking ‘how could she run that fast?’.
“She’s coming over the Queen Mary and we’re really excited about her.”
More about the 2022 Royal Ascot to follow. – IRC.
Source consulted: Planet Sport.