By BY CLARK SPENCER / Miami Herald
Angel Cordero Jr. was playing dominoes inside the jockey’s room at Gulfstream Park one afternoon recently, killing time during the races, when he was asked for his opinion on racing’s two new riding hotshots, brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz.
Cordero once ruled the sport, a fierce rider who counts three Kentucky Derby titles among his more than 7,000 career wins. Now 76, Cordero serves as the agent for another jockey standout, John Velazquez, so he spends as much time at the track these days lining up mounts for his client as he did during his glory years in the 1970s and ’80s.
Cordero and Velazquez are the 1 and 1A of Puerto Rican jockey greats.
Now they have company in the form of the Ortiz brothers, who hail from Trujillo Alto outside San Juan and are becoming to horse racing what the Williams sisters are to tennis, sibling stars who have taken over the sport.
Jose, 25, won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey in 2017. Many believe Irad, 26, will win it for 2018, nudging out his younger brother for the sport’s top riding honor when the award is announced next week.
And it’s why Cordero is often asked to compare the two.
“People always ask me the same question: Who is better?” Cordero said, turning a domino over and over in his fingers. “The only answer I can give is this: Flip a coin. I can’t separate them.”
Cordero isn’t alone.
While neither Ortiz has yet to win a Kentucky Derby, most figure it’s only a matter of time. They’ve won just about everything else at an age when most riders haven’t yet reached their prime.
Breeders’ Cup victories? Check and check for Irad and Jose.
The Belmont Stakes, final leg of the Triple Crown? Check and check again.
Totals wins and earnings nationally? You’ll find Irad and Jose at or near the top of the rankings.
Read the full article on https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/horse-racing/article224007675.html
Photo Joe Labozzetta