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First, they dominated Puerto Rico. Then, New York. At Churchill Downs on November 2nd to 3rd, brothers Irad Ortiz Jr and Jose Ortiz hope to dominate the world at the 35th Breeders' Cup.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 2011, the Ortiz brothers have been on a meteoric rise to the top of their profession. Jose Ortiz, 25, was North America’s champion jockey in 2017. Jose led all riders in prize money won with $27.3 million in earnings, while Irad, 26, led in wins with 318. In 2016, Jose led in wins with 351 while Irad was 2nd in money won (behind Javier Castellano) with $23.4 million.
As of October 18th, Jose led all riders with $23.75 million in prize money won while Irad was second in that category while first in wins with 288 while his brother was second.
Irad admits his brother has what he wants, an Eclipse Award.
“He won the Eclipse Award last year,” Irad said. “I wish I can win it. I’m working on it.”
Jose Ortiz says he wants another trophy.
“That’s the main goal, the Eclipse Award,” Jose said. “I know Irad wants it bad and I really want to go back to back. It’s the highest award in racing, it’s like the MVP (Most Valuable Player). I’m working hard for that.”
The Breeders’ Cup often has a significant impact on crowning North America’s champions, both equine and human. Both Ortiz brothers have two Breeders’ Cup victories to their credit, and both will have several chances to add more this year.
Among Jose Ortiz’s top Breeders’ Cup mounts are Complexity in the Juvenile, Oscar Performance in the Mile, Limousine Liberal in the Sprint and Yoshida, a live longshot, in the Classic.
COMPLEXITY has won both of his starts including an eyecatching three-length win in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park. Complexity is by Maclean’s Music, which has many experts believing he may not want to go far in trip.
“Everybody said he’s bred to be a sprinter, he proved everybody wrong, he can go a mile,” Jose said after the Champagne. “He did it in good fashion. I think he can do the mile and a sixteenth, but that will probably be as far as he wants to go.”
Race replay: Jose Ortiz partners Complexity to victory in the Champagne Stakes.
Jose won his first Breeders’ Cup race aboard Oscar Performance in the 2016 Juvenile Turf at a mile. Last year, OSCAR PERFORMANCE finished ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 1-2 miles. This year, Oscar Performance will cut back to the distance at which he has won twice this year, including a sharp victory in the Woodbine Mile. In between, he was eased in the Arlington Million at 1 3-16 miles.
“In Canada, he just run unbelievable,” Jose said. “He’s doing really well. We have a very good shot.”
LIMOUSINE LIBERAL has six wins and a second from eight starts at Churchill Downs. He will need every bit of that home-court advantage to beat the likes of Imperial Hint and Promises Fulfilled in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“When you get a horse that already likes the track that’s big,” Jose said. “A lot of horses don’t handle Churchill.”
YOSHIDA has shown the ability to handle Churchill’s turf course, winning the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day. He didn’t make his first start on dirt until he won the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on September 1st.
Joel Rosario rode Yoshida in the Woodward, but is committed to ride probable Classic favorite Accelerate. Jose said “I’m happy to be back on him. He made it look so easy last time.”
Irad Ortiz won the 2014 Juvenile Fillies Turf with Lady Eli. This year, he rides NEWSPAPEROFRECORD in that same race for Chad Brown, who also trained Lady Eli.
Irad said he doesn’t like to compare horses, but did acknowledge that Newspaperofrecord has shown the same talent level of Lady Eli after she won the Miss Grillo Stakes by six lengths.
“She did it pretty easy to the quarter pole, she was playing, waiting, nobody got close to me,” Irad said. “I hit her a couple of times just to teach her to run then I just showed her the whip to keep her attention.
“She’s really nice, I really like her,” Irad added. “Hopefully, she can show what she’s got in the Breeders’ Cup.”
“She’s a filly that no matter what she’s going to come running,” he said. “She wins a lot of races.”
Race replay: Irad Ortiz Jr wins the Flower Bowl Stakes aboard Fourstar Crook.
Irad is going to ride ROBERT BRUCE, the Arlington Million winner, in the Turf at 1 1-2-miles, a distance at which he has yet to win at in the U.S. He finished second in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at that distance in his most recent start.
“I think he can do it,” Irad said. “Last time the track was holding speed and the course wasn’t in the best condition for him and he still ran second. I expect a much better race in the Breeders’ Cup from him.”
He will ride UNCLE BENNY in the Juvenile Turf and FIRENZE FIRE in the Dirt Mile. Irad will have a decision to make in the Turf Sprint between the established DISCO PARTNER and the up-and-coming WORLD OF TROUBLE, a horse that is getting a lot of buzz in America.