By Blood Horse
Reigning Eclipse Award champion Irad Ortiz Jr. claimed the 2018-2019 Championship Meet riding title at Gulfstream Park March 31, prevailing over defending two-time titlist Luis Saez, 135-134.
“It feels great. I got a lot of support from the owners and trainers, and my agent, Jay Rushing, does a great job. I have no words for how I feel now,” Ortiz said.
Saez rode the winners of Races 3, 4, and 9 Sunday to pull into a tie for the lead, but Ortiz came back to capture Race 10 with Scam to take a one-win lead into the final race of the day. The 26-year-old Puerto Rico-born jockey claimed the title when Saez finished second in Race 11.
“Luis is a great rider. He never gives up. I enjoyed everything. Everybody was asking all the numbers and everybody was watching,” Ortiz said.
Riding full-time during the Championship Meet for the first time, Ortiz captured nine graded stakes race, including the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) aboard Bricks and Mortar Jan. 26.
“The way we started the year is so good. We win the Pegasus and a lot of stakes. I’m so happy now,” Ortiz said.