Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Irad and Jose kick it off today . . .
HALLANDALE BEACH - Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will make his 2019-2020 Championship Meet debut at Gulfstream Park today, when he will launch his title defense with five mounts on a 10-race program.
Ortiz, the 2018 Eclipse Award winner, is making a strong run at repeating as North America’s top jockey with 289 winning rides and a record $32 million in purse earnings during a stellar campaign that was kicked off with a riding title at Gulfstream. The 27-year-old edged two-time titlist Luis Saez, 135-134, to win the Gulfstream title last year, when he rode Bricks and Mortar to victory in the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf .
Ortiz, who later rode Bricks and Mortar to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Vino Rosso to a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last month, will ride Florida Cotton in Race 2, Sturgeon in Race 6, Inter Miami in Race 7, Dancie in Race 8 and Year of the Kitten in Race 10.
Jose Ortiz will also make his first appearance in the Championship Meet while riding in Races 2, 4 and 9. Irad’s younger brother, who was the 2017 Eclipse Award winner, has won 263 races this year and ranks second with $26.3 million in purse earnings.
Tyler Gaffalione is also scheduled to return to his roots in South Florida today. The 25-year-old native of Davie has the mount aboard Keep It Up in Race 10. Gaffalione entered the last day of the Churchill Downs fall meeting Sunday ranked first in purses-won with $1.9 million and second in wins with 25 trips to the winner’s circle.
Paco Lopez will also return to local action after riding the winners of three graded stakes Saturday at Del Mar, where he capped his big day with a victory aboard Mo Forza in the Hollywood Derby.
Claiming Crown, Clasico Internacional del Caribe Highlight Week Ahead
The Championship Meet kicks into high gear with the running of the $1.1 million Claiming Crown Saturday afternoon and the $670,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe Sunday. Saturday’s Claiming Crown, featuring nine stakes for horses who have started in claiming races during the year, drew 261 nominations. Sunday’s Clasico Internacional del Caribe, featuring five races for horses from Latin America and the Caribbean, will be highlighted by the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe. The top horsemen and horses from Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica will be represented.