Tag Archive for: Irad Ortiz Jr

Ortiz Jr: It would be a dream come true to win at Royal Ascot

Irad Ortiz Jr will realise a long-held ambition if he can ride a winner on his first appearance at Royal Ascot this week.

The crack American-based Puerto Rican is no stranger to big-race success and is widely regarded as one of the best jockeys in the world, having collected a host of Grade One victories across North America over the past decade, together with three Eclipse awards.

The 29-year-old is already in double figures when it comes to Breeders’ Cup wins and on Saturday won the Belmont Stakes – the final leg of the American Triple Crown – for a second time aboard Mo Donegal.

And for all his accomplishments on the other side of the Atlantic, Ortiz Jr would take immense satisfaction from victory at the Royal meeting.

Irad Ortiz Jr holds the trophy aloft after winning Saturday's Belmont Stakes
Irad Ortiz Jr holds the trophy aloft after winning Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (Frank Franklin II/AP)

“I feel great, it’s a lovely place and it’s a dream come true to be here, honestly. Just to be here is amazing for me,” he told the PA news agency.

“I rode Acapulco at York (second in the Nunthorpe in 2015), but to ride at Royal Ascot is something amazing and something different and something I always wanted to do.

“It was very special and a great feeling to win the Belmont, but now I’m here, so let’s see if we can do something, hopefully we can.”

Ortiz Jr has a strong book of five rides for trainer Wesley Ward, kicking off with Golden Pal in the King’s Stand on Tuesday.

He has steered the four-year-old to all but one of his six career wins, including two Breeders’ Cup triumphs, and is relishing the opportunity to ride him at Ascot.

He added: “He’s a great horse and a fast horse and I know he has a good chance.

“They told me the track is good. I will have to walk the course and have a feel, but hopefully he will handle the straight track – I expect he will.”

The following afternoon Ortiz Jr will partner runaway Keeneland winner Love Reigns in the Queen Mary, as well as Seismic Spirit in the Windsor Castle Stakes.

Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2020
Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2020 (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

After a day off on Thursday, he is set to ride Ruthin in Friday’s Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes before jumping on dual Royal Ascot heroine Campanelle in the Platinum Jubilee on Saturday.

“Love Reigns is a nice filly. I rode her first time out and she was very impressive, so let’s see if she can do it second time out,” he said.

“I’m excited about Campanelle. She showed a good turn of foot last time out, so we stay positive and keep fingers crossed.

“It means a lot to be here and it would be a dream come true to win just one race. I would like to win on every horse, but just to win on one would be amazing. Nothing compares to this.”

Mo Donegal and Ortiz Jr shine in Belmont Stakes

Irad Ortiz Jr warmed up for his trip to Royal Ascot in spectacular fashion as he guided Mo Donegal to victory in the Belmont Stakes.

Much of the pre-race attention surrounded Rich Strike, the 80-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby.

But the Eric Reed-trained colt was at the back of the pack from the beginning and despite a brief move that looked momentarily promising, he was ultimately never able to land a serious blow, eventually finishing sixth.

Up front We The People made the running, with Mo Donegal not far behind his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Nest as the Mike Repole-owned pair stalked the pace.

Fifth in the Derby, Mo Donegal responded immediately when Ortiz Jr asked him to go and while the filly Nest gave chase, she was never going to get there.

It was ideal preparation for Ortiz Jr, who will ride all of Wesley Ward’s horses at the Royal meeting, including Golden Pal in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday.

Ward puts maximum faith in Ortiz Jr for Ascot mounts

Crack American jockey Irad Ortiz Jr is set to make his Royal Ascot debut next week after trainer Wesley Ward confirmed he will ride all five of his intended runners at the showpiece meeting.

The Puerto Rican rider is no stranger to big-race success in the US, enjoying multiple Grade One victories across the country and starring at the Breeders’ Cup in recent years.

Ward, who became the first American trainer to saddle a Royal Ascot winner in 2009, has previously called on the services of Frankie Dettori and John Velazquez in Berkshire, but is putting his faith in Ortiz next week.

“Irad is riding every one,” the trainer 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.

Irad Ortiz (navy blue) finishing second on Acapulco in the Nunthorpe at York
Irad Ortiz (navy blue) finishing second on Acapulco in the Nunthorpe at York (John Giles/PA)

“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.”

The big hope for Ward is Golden Pal, who Ortiz who has steered to successive Breeders’ Cup wins and is a hot favourite for the King’ Stand Stakes on Tuesday week.

His stablemate Campanelle is already a dual Royal Ascot winner, having struck gold in the Queen Mary two years ago and claimed the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room last season.

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.

Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot
Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “My work rider, Julio Garcia, has been with me for the last 16 years. He won thousands of race as a jockey before he retired and he rode all the Ascot horses in their last pieces of work.

“He rode Campanelle, she broke behind Kimari and he tracked her all the way over five furlongs.

“He eased out with a furlong to go and it almost looked like Kimari was going to keep rolling on and visually watching I was thinking ‘uh oh, maybe Campanelle doesn’t have it’.

“I was thinking ‘Oh well, Kimari is a very good horse who has finished second twice at Ascot and she’s a Group One winner’. All these thoughts were going through my mind.

“Then all of a sudden Julio moved his knuckles just a shade and within three strides Campanelle made up three lengths – she responded like a lion getting to an antelope.

“It was exactly what we wanted to see. The whole team had smiles on their faces after watching that, which was great to see.”

Wesley Ward is heading back to Royal Ascot
Wesley Ward is heading back to Royal Ascot (Julian Herbert/PA)

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.

The former made a huge impression on her Keeneland debut and is well fancied to provide her trainer with a fifth Queen Mary success.

Ward added: “She had about the best debut race I’ve ever had here at Keeneland – she won by almost 10 lengths and just scampered away from them.

“The guy that gives the figures here really didn’t want to give her a figure because he was sort of unsure thinking ‘how could she run that fast?’.

“She has had three or four pieces of work since then and all of them have been nice and steady and beautiful breezes. Every horse that kind of engaged her, she just exploded away from them.

“She’s coming over the Queen Mary and we’re really excited about her.”