Jose Ortiz, on a fast track to superstardom at age 25 after winning his first Eclipse Award as North America’s leading jockey, is taking followers of America’s Best Racing along for the ride this year by writing a diary with Tom Pedulla.
Here is the 10th installment as he prepares to ride in every race except the Dirt Mile in the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming Friday and Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Future Stars Friday will be telecast on NBCSN from 3-7 p.m. EDT. Championship Saturday airs on NBCSN from 1-3:30 p.m. before shifting to NBC from 3:30-6 p.m.
Ortiz produced a Breeders’ Cup victory in each of the last two years, winning with Oscar Performance in the Juvenile Turf in 2016. Last year, he was aboard Good Magic when that colt became the first maiden to win the Juvenile.
Here are Ortiz’s thoughts on the upcoming Breeders’ Cup and how he evaluates his mounts:
Call it the Super Bowl. Call it the World Series. For those of us in racing, nothing is bigger than the Breeders’ Cup. With 14 races worth a record $30 million, big money is on the line. So are many of the Eclipse Awards that owners and trainers and jockeys have been after for months in the different divisions.
You have to be in these races with good horses to have a shot at winning them. I am really happy with the mounts my agent, Jim Riccio Jr., lined up for me. How could I not be satisfied? With the right trip and racing luck, a good number of them are capable of getting the job done.
Here are some of my thoughts on the horses I will be riding:
Future Stars Friday
Varenka, Juvenile Fillies Turf: Newspaperofrecord deserves to be the favorite here. My brother, Irad, rides her and I know she will be hard to beat. The horses that are coming in from Europe are very strong. Varenka ran second to Newspaperofrecord in the Miss Grillo, so we will see what she can do.
Reflect, Tito's Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies: I had the opportunity to work her and she worked like a really nice horse. She is doing really well and I appreciate the opportunity that they are letting me ride her.
Complexity, Sentient Jet Juvenile: He always had a lot of talent. We always knew he was really good. When you win the Champagne the way he did, it gives you a lot of confidence. He is going two turns for the first time. I feel he can do it with the right fractions.
Santa Monica, Maker's Mark Filly and Mare Turf: This is one of the best races in the Breeders’ Cup. Very challenging. You can make a case for a lot of horses. We drew outside (post 12). I will have to do everything I can to work out a good trip.
Oscar Performance, Mile: Oscar is doing tremendous. I worked him just recently and he worked like he has never worked before. We are very, very happy with the way he is going into the race. He is working better than ever. He is one of the best horses I have ridden. When he is at his best, he is very hard to beat.
Wow Cat, Longines Distaff: Wow Cat just won the Beldame. She came from Chile and it took her a while to get settled for Chad Brown. She is responding to Chad’s program and getting better and better. She will have to improve in the Distaff and I think she will.
Yoshida, Classic: The Classic is a great race. He’s doing terrific. He worked really well. I didn’t work him, but I hear everybody talking about him and that’s very good when they are talking about your horse. I used to work him as a baby and he would work very, very well on the dirt. So it was no surprise to me when he won the Woodward. He is quite a horse. He’s won a Grade 1 on dirt and he won a Grade 1 on turf. That is hard to do.
I have a lot of work ahead of me. Physically, I’m ready. I ride a lot of races every day, so that part is no problem for me. Mentally, I am more prepared than ever before. The first couple of years I was nervous because I know the owners and trainers are all there and they have high expectations.
Now, I feel relaxed. I learned to take it one race at a time. If things don’t work out in one race, there is nothing I can do about that any more so I look forward to the next one.
Every victory is huge. If you want to be a Hall of Famer, which I definitely do, you need to win a few of these. I would love to win four or five, but with big fields and so many good horses and good riders, it is tough.
Every year, these are the days I wait for. I will be ready.