Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., America’s leading jockey, has tested positive for COVID-19, the jockey confirmed in a phone call Wednesday afternoon. The news was first reported by Dave Grening of the Daily Racing Form.
Ortiz, who had been serving two consecutive five-day suspensions for careless riding July 3 and 31 at Belmont and Saratoga, respectively, said that he was asymptomatic. He rode his last race Sept. 16 at Kentucky Downs, and had not ridden in New York since Sept. 7, the last day of the Saratoga meeting.
“I’m feeling good,” said Ortiz. “I had the test on the 28th because I was coming back to ride in New York, and I had to do the protocols, and it came back positive. I’m here in Saratoga, and I’ve been at home, and I haven’t left home, so how that happened, I don’t know, but I guess it happens.”
Ortiz is currently the leading jockey in the country with $14,743,742 in earnings. He has won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top jockey the past two years.
NYRA’s Director of Communications, Patrick McKenna, said that because Ortiz had tested positive in Saratoga, the protocols that he would be required to follow would be determined by the Saratoga County Department of Health. Those protocols, said McKenna, require Ortiz to “self-isolate for a period of time no shorter than 10 days. Following the completion of the period of isolation, and provided that Ortiz Jr. remains asymptomatic, then he will be evaluated for a potential return to the NYRA jockey colony. The Saratoga County Department of Health retains jurisdiction to address public health matters in the county and, in this case, the discontinuation of quarantine/isolation for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are pursuing a return to the workplace.”