Irad Ortiz Winds Up Superior Gulfstream Meeting
Monday, April 1, 2024

    HALLANDALE BEACH - Gulfstream Park lowered the curtain on its 2023-2024 Championship Meet with an 11-race Easter Sunday program that saw jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. defend their respective titles at the prestigious winter stand.

    Ortiz won twice Sunday on Invigorated ($19) in Race 7 and Miss Speedy ($19.20) in Race 9 to finish with 119 winners and top the rider standings for the fifth time in the past six seasons and second straight after leading the way with 128 in 2022-2023. Ortiz, who accepted his fifth Eclipse Award and second straight in January for 2023, also led Gulfstream in 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, when he won a record 140 races.

    Also tops with more than $5.9 million in purses earned, Ortiz won 13 stakes during the Championship Meet including graded triumphs in the Gr. II Inside Information, Gr. III Suwannee River, Gr. III William L. McKnight, Gr. III Sweetest Chant, Gr. III Canadian Turf, Gr. III Honey Fox and Gr. III Orchid. The Orchid and Sand Springs were among five wins on Saturday’s Florida Derby program.

    “It went very good for us. It means a lot to win another title here. They make me feel at home here,” Ortiz said. “The owners, everybody training here, the whole organization – security and the people who work here – they make me feel good. I have great support from the trainers and owners of Florida, and I appreciate it. I’m so happy to win another title here.”

    Ortiz’s brother, Jose, held off Paco Lopez for second in the rider standings. Jose He visited the winner’s circle Sunday on Broderie ($3) in Race 3, Far Bridge ($3.40) in Race 6 and Creed’s Gold ($21.80) in Race 11 to finish with 94 wins, two more than Lopez, who also registered three aboard Poliglota ($9.80) in Race 2, Turf Rocket ($8.60) in Race 4 and Classify ($4.20) in Race 9.

    Joseph collected his third straight Championship Meet training title following an 18-year reign by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who finished second with 37 winners including Invigorated. Joseph won with Classify ($4.20) in Race 9 to finish with 66 wins and more than $3.4 million in purse earnings.

    Seven of Joseph’s wins came in stakes, including O’Connor in the Gr. III Harlan’s Holiday, R Harper Rose in the Gr. III Forward Gal and Honor D Lady in the Gr. III Royal Delta. He also ran second in the $1 million Florida Derby with Kentucky Derby-bound Catalytic.

    Joseph led Gulfstream with 58 wins in 2021-2022 and 47 victories in 2022-2023. Pletcher still holds the Championship Meet record with 72 wins in 2017-2018.

    “The three titles – each one feels better than the other,” Joseph said. “We’re thankful for the opportunities from the owners, the team we have – how hard they work and all the effort they put in – and most importantly to have the horses we have. The horses are the biggest piece of the puzzle. The horses make everyone look good.” 

    Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse won three races Sunday, Boomin’ Belle ($11.20) in Race 8, Miss Speedy ($19.20) in Race 10 and Creed’s Gold ($21.80) in Race 11, to finish third with 30 wins.

    Ken Ramsey claimed the owner title with 27 winners. Among them were Joseph-trained Be My Sunshine in the Tropical Park Oaks and Abrumar in the Colonel Liam. Ramsey previously led the owner standings in 2021-2022, 2019-2020 and from 2012-2013 to 2017-2018.

    Gulfstream will open the Royal Palm Meet with an eight-race program Thursday starting at 1:10 p.m.

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