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Jose Ortiz, on a fast track to superstardom at age 24 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 ninth installment as he prepares to ride favored Good Magic in the 149thRunhappy Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. The 1 ¼-mile “Mid-Summer Derby,” which carries a purse of $1.25 million, provides the centerpiece of what is annually one of the most competitive meets in the country.
NBC will cover the Runhappy Travers from 4-6 p.m. ET. The New York Racing Association is offering a special 13-race card that begins at 11:35 a.m.
Here are Ortiz’s thoughts on the Travers:
I could not be in a better position going into the Travers. I really appreciate the opportunity I have to ride Good Magic. The case can certainly be made that, with Justify’s retirement, he is the best 3-year-old in training. I sure hope we can prove it on Saturday.
Good Magic got overshadowed by Triple Crown winner Justify earlier this year, but I hope fans see that he also is a great horse and has been for a long time. He showed it last year when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was 2-year-old champion. He kept his form this year.
The best thing about him is that he always runs his race. He has made eight career starts and never had a bad day. He finished worse than third in only one start, when he ran fourth in the Preakness in a race that just did not develop the way we wanted.
The Haskell was a perfect prep race for him for the Travers. He was as professional as can be, sitting just off the pace and taking over when I asked him to win by three lengths. He is working very well since then and looks good. Chad Brown has done a great job getting him ready for the Travers.
The draw went the way we hoped it would. We have post nine in a field of 11. He always breaks sharp. It takes him about an eighth of a mile to relax, but then he relaxes well. I should be able to watch the speed develop inside of me before we settle into a forward position.
This is a good Travers field. I have to respect a lot of the horses. Chad is also starting Gronkowski. He gave me a big race when we ran second in the Belmont Stakes to surprise a lot of people. Bravazo is in there. He ran second in the Preakness Stakes and second in the Haskell Invitational.
My brother, Irad, has the filly, Wonder Gadot. She won against easier competition in her last two races. Now, she’s stepping up a bit, going a mile and a quarter against the boys. It is going to be harder for her. I’m not saying she can’t win. She’s a great filly with great connections. Mark Casse is a really good trainer. They are running for a reason, because they think she has a good shot.
I feel sorry for the connections of Hofburg. He is a really nice horse that got sick early in the week and could not make the Travers. Luck and timing mean so much in our business.
I got off to a slow start at Saratoga and that cost me. I’ve had some nice stakes wins since then, but it looks as though Irad is going to be hard to catch for the riding title. He has built a good business and is riding well and has a lot of momentum. If I cannot win, I always hope that he does.
A victory in the Travers would mean a lot to me. It is one of those races that is on every jockey’s list. This is my fifth shot at it. I was second when Moreno lost by a nose to Will Take Charge in 2013. It was one of those races you look back on and wonder if there is anything else you could have done. I try to do that with every race. That is how you get better.
I know I am a better rider now than I was that day with Moreno. I could not ask for a better horse for this year’s Travers than Good Magic. One of the biggest challenges these horses face is getting the mile and a quarter. I have no doubt he can do that after he ran second in the Kentucky Derby and fought the whole way.
I look forward to doing everything I can to get the job done.