Authors: The Ortiz Brothers, Emily Shields
It was a special weekend at Churchill Downs for the Ortiz Brothers as Jose won the Kentucky Oaks and Irad took three graded events on the Kentucky Derby undercard. They then finished third and fourth, officially, in the Run for the Roses itself.
Aboard 13-1 shot Serengeti Empress, Jose Ortiz led the field throughout the $1,250,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), scoring by 1 ¾ lengths. The Tom Amoss-trainee repelled a bid from 38-1 Liora who finished second, with 10-1 Lady Apple running third.
The next day, Irad put on a stellar display of riding skills as he took the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1T) with Bricks and Mortar, the American Turf (G2T) with Digital Age, and the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2T) on Beau Recall (IRE). In the Kentucky Derby, Jose’s mount Tacitus was third while Improbable, under Irad, was fourth.
The riders now look ahead to the coming weekend, with stakes mounts at Belmont Park.
Irad is back in grade 1 company on the grass in the $700,000 Man o’ War Stakes (G1T), where he will ride #6 Focus Group for trainer Chad Brown. “Focus Group won the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes after six months without racing,” Irad said. “Chad (Brown) did a great job as always bringing him in the best condition. I think this time the competition is tougher. We have horses shipping from Europe, also Zulu Alpha, a horse that I know well and is very talented. I hope we have good weather for this weekend. I’m looking forward to this race.”
He will also ride Final Jeopardy for Jason Servis in the $300,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3), which is the local prep for the Belmont Stakes on June 8. “The last time I rode this horse at Gulfstream Park he won impressively,” Irad said. “I remember that day when he beat Borracho. Everybody knows that Borracho won in great fashion last weekend at Churchill Downs. Final Jeopardy is the type of horse that will give you his best when you ask him. He closes really fast. Now he’s going for the second time at the mile and an eighth. I think he’ll be running at the end.”
Jose’s big mount of the weekend is Separationofpowers, also for Brown. The four-year-old filly by Candy Ride (Arg) is already a two-time grade 1 winner, but has not raced since September. “She’s coming back from a long layoff,” Jose said, “but she’s a grade one winner and has enough class to compete at this level. I had the opportunity to work her in the last two breezes and she’s doing amazing. We have a good post position this Saturday (#4). We’ll see what happens. I like our chances.”
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