The 2017 season marked a year of firsts for New York-based rider Jose Ortiz.
In the spring, Ortiz secured his first classic victory when he guided Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta, and Bridlewood Farm's Tapwrit to a clear victory in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1). In the fall he earned his second Breeders' Cup victory—his first Breeders' Cup win on dirt—when he split horses aboard e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables' Good Magic to launch a winning bid in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar.
Those two wins, along with 28 other graded stakes scores, helped Ortiz finish atop the year's North American earnings standings for the first time, ending Javier Castellano's run of four straight seasons as leading rider by earnings. Ortiz won 270 races from 1,408 mounts and ended the year with $27,318,875 in North American earnings according to statistics released this week by Equibase.
The top four riders by 2017 North American earnings all compete on the lucrative New York Racing Association circuit as Castellano held second at $25,099,317, followed by Irad Ortiz Jr. at $22,926,956, and John Velazquez at $20,780,733. Southern California-based Mike Smith finished fifth at $20,540,871, although if Dubai earnings are included, he vaults to second at $26,540,871 as he guided Arrogate to victory in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
Smith and Castellano tied for the top spot in North American graded stakes wins with 37 each. In terms of total starts, Smith's 275 races ranks well behind anyone else in the top five jockeys by earnings—Velazquez's 948 mounts is the only other total below 1,000. But his success in graded stakes, in particular aboard Arrogate in winning the Dubai World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1), helped him earn $96,163 a mount in 2017.
While Jose Ortiz finished atop the earnings list, his brother Irad Ortiz Jr. ranked first in wins with 317 from 1,493 starts. Irad Ortiz secured his third Breeders' Cup victory when he guided Bar of Gold to an upset victory in the Filly and Mare Sprint (G1).
Castellano finished as leading rider by earnings in North American turf races in 2017 at $11,456,225. Tyler Gaffalione posted the most victories in North American turf races in 2017 with 170 from 781 starts.
Rounding out the list of top 10 jockeys by total North American earnings in 2017 were Joel Rosario, $17,975,708; Florent Geroux, $14,418,901; Luis Saez, $13,403,109; Julien Leparoux, $13,390,756; and Manuel Franco, $12,681,817.
The leading apprentice rider by both wins and earnings in 2017 was Southern California-based Evin Roman, who finished with 166 victories and $5,118,077 in earnings from 912 mounts. He secured his first graded stakes win this season by guiding Gold Rush Dancer to victory in the Longacres Mile Handicap (G3) at Emerald Downs.