When Jose Ortiz wasn’t riding in New York last year, he’d slip down to Parx Racing in pursuit of additional winners. A four-hour round-trip commute was nothing if it led up the ladder.
The extra effort paid off when the 24-year-old ended the season as North America’s top jockey by earnings with more than $27.3 million.
From 1,408 mounts and 270 wins in 2017, Ortiz’ highlights included his first classic, the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) aboard Tapwrit. He also rode the winners of 12 other grade 1 events, including Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Good Magic.
Ortiz had an Eclipse Award in his sights long before last year, but he got a taste of glory and pursued excellence with added incentive after 2016. The nation’s leading jockey by wins and third by earnings that season, he joined Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and Mike Smith as finalists in the outstanding jockey category. For 2016 Castellano took home his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award, and returned with Ortiz and Smith—who has two Eclipse Awards of his own—as finalists for 2017. This time Ortiz’ single-minded dedication and drive brought his first trophy home.
In 2017 Ortiz was the leading rider at Belmont Park’s spring-summer meet and at Saratoga Race Course, his second consecutive year to earn those titles. A native Puerto Rican, he learned his craft at the Escuela Vocacional Hipica jockey school along with his brother Irad Ortiz Jr., who concluded 2017 as the nation’s leading rider by wins.