Irad Ortiz Jr. finished off the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park in style Saturday, piloting Forte to a victory in Saturday's GI Curlin Florida Derby to tally his sixth winner on the day alone.
With three more winning rides on Sunday's closing day program, Ortiz finished the Championship Meet with 128 victories to reclaim the jockey title for the winter Thoroughbred session.
Ortiz ran away with this year's title while finishing 57 wins ahead of the Luis Saez, who finished three wins ahead of third-place Jose Ortiz.
“I've had big support from the owners and trainers. They support me. Thanks to them. If I don't have their help, I can't do anything,” Irad Ortiz Jr. said Sunday. “At the same time, my agent Steve (Rushing) has done a great job. He does everything he can, every single day to get horses for me. I thank God for keeping me healthy and being available to do this every single day.”
Ortiz, who had a 28% strike rate during the Championship Meet, also led the purses-won standings with $7.39 million.
“I try to prepare as much as I can for every horse, every day. I just like to prepare myself to get to know every single horse to get an advantage, that's important,” Ortiz said.
Saffie Joseph Jr. made a successful title defense of the Championship Meet by a 47-41 margin over Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
“Last year was huge because it was the first time we had done it. I think this one even means more to comeback and prove it again. It gives the whole team a lot of confidence,” Joseph said. “I have a lot of appreciation for all the owners' support. It's a blessing from God.”
Keeping his training title didn't come easy.
“Todd really gave us a fight for this. Last year, we always had the momentum. This year, we weren't separated by more than two wins most of the time. He went ahead by two in mid-February. After that we got some momentum and were able to hold him off. It mean's a lot.”