by Mary Eddy
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. enjoyed a strong showing at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, scoring five wins from nine mounts on the 10-race card.
The 31-year-old native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico’s wins were led by stakes scores in two of the day’s four featured stakes, including the $100,000 Notebook [Race 4] with Works for Me [No. 6, $4.60*] and the $100,000 Key Cents [Race 7] with Tricky Temper [No. 5, $5.90*].
"When you really like this sport, no matter what type of race it is, you just want to do your best out there and try to win," said Ortiz, Jr.
As of Saturday, Ortiz, Jr. ranks as the leading North American rider this year by wins  and purse earnings [$37,221,889], a feat he said comes thanks in part to a strong group of horses and people supporting him.
"To be consistent you have to have health. I thank God, he gave me good health all year to be able to do it,” said Ortiz, Jr. “After that, I have huge support from trainers and owners. My agent, Steve Rushing, does a great job and I need them to support me to let me ride their horses and be able to win consistently because it's not easy. The horses do most of the hard work for us - we just try to tell them what to do and make some decisions. It's horse racing, not jockey racing. We have to make decisions for them but they've been running for me and I have to thank the horses, too.”
Ortiz, Jr. posted his first win on the day in Race 2, a one-mile state-bred allowance for 3-year-olds and up, aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Bourbon Chase [No. 3, $13], pouncing from off the pace to land the 1 1/2-length victory. He followed in Race 4 with the Joe Lee-trained Works for Me in the six-furlong Notebook, guiding the son of Daddy Long Legs from one length back to get up just in time and come out on top by a head.
Ortiz, Jr. was back in the winner’s circle in Race 6, a nine-furlong outer turf, allowance, atop Danzigwiththestars [No. 4, $7.80], going five-wide in upper stretch and finding enough late to cross the wire three-quarter lengths ahead for trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. He captured Race 7 with Tricky Temper in the six-furlong Key Cents when collaring pacesetter Cara’s Time in the shadow of the wire for a neck triumph.
Ortiz, Jr. and Dutrow, Jr. teamed up once more in the Race 10 nitecap as Proud Foot [No. 9, $11.80] sprinted clear down the lane to land a two-length starter allowance score traveling six furlongs.
The two wins on the card with Dutrow, Jr. came on the heels of a memorable Breeders’ Cup Saturday on November 4 at Santa Anita Park where the Dutrow, Jr.-trained White Abarrio won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Ortiz, Jr. at the helm.
"He's a nice guy and he always treats me with class and a lot of respect,” Ortiz, Jr. said of Dutrow, Jr., who has won his last four races with Ortiz, Jr. aboard for three of them. “When people respect you - you pay with respect back, and that's the way we've been working together since he came back. He called me and told me he needed me to work some horses for him and I was there and we get along together very good. He likes the way I work his horses and his assistant trainer, Blake [Dutrow, nephew], helps me too. They liked how we started working from Day One and since then we've won some races, thank God. Everything is working out so good right now."
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with nine-race card, featuring the $120,000 Central Park in Race 5 and the $135,000 Forever Together in Race 7. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.