Brown, Ortiz register year-end NYRA titles
by Brian Bohl
Chad Brown won his sixth consecutive New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) year-end training title with 91 wins while Jose Ortiz compiled his second riding crown with 142 victories as racing in 2020 was capped with the conclusion of the card on December 31.
Klaravich Stables was the runaway winner as top owner, racking up 48 wins, 14 more than the next-closest competitor, Repole Stable, to finish as the leading owner for the second straight year at NYRA tracks, which encompasses Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.
Ortiz posted a record of 142-139-95 in 707 mounts to win his first year-end title since 2016. His 2020 saw him win his 2,000th career race while posting $9.62 million in earnings with a 20.08 winning percentage on the NYRA circuit.
“I’m pretty happy about it and I’m very proud of the work we put into it,” said Ortiz, who earned Eclipse Award honors as the nation’s Outstanding Jockey in 2017. “This is why you work this hard. It was a tough year. We couldn’t work horses in the morning like we normally could, but we made it through and I’m just happy we’re all healthy coming out of this.”
The 27-year-old enjoyed a year of both quality and quantity, including a stellar Belmont fall campaign that saw him pace all riders with 40 wins. During that meet, Ortiz won three graded stakes in a single weekend, starting with the Grade 2, $150,000 Kelso Handicap with Complexity [trained by Brown] and piloting Plum Ali to victory in the Grade 2, $150,000 Miss Grillo and Wet Your Whistle in the Grade 3, $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational on October 4.
Cross Border highlighted Ortiz’s successful Saratoga meet, winning the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green, while Mystic Guide took the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy. Ortiz continued his success at the Big A fall meet posting graded wins with Share the Ride in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap and Sharp Starr in the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap.
“It’s extra special to have a great year in New York because it’s so competitive,” Ortiz said. “I think it’s the best riding colony in the country and to have success here, it’s great. I just have to keep competing with these guys. We had a pretty consistent year and we’ll just try to carry the momentum into 2021 and work towards my goal of contending for the Eclipse Award every year.”
Jose Lezcano was second with 137 wins while Manny Franco won 129 races.
Luis Cardenas was the leading apprentice on the NYRA circuit with 41 wins in 2020. Romero Ramsay Maragh, who became a journeyman in July, finished second with 18 wins as an apprentice, while Charlie Marquez landed third with eight wins.
Brown compiled a 91-81-83 record with 411 starters to become the first NYRA trainer to record six straight training titles since Gasper Moschera from 1993-98. He won two individual meets, leading the Belmont spring/summer with 23 wins and the Belmont fall with 22 victories. He ended 2020 ahead of Todd Pletcher, whose 81 wins were the second-most among conditioners.
The four-time reigning Eclipse Award Champion trainer racked up earnings of more than $7.4 million while winning more than 22 percent of the time. Brown’s starters finished on the board at a 62.04 percent clip.
The 42-year-old Brown has paced NYRA trainers on every NYRA year-end standings list since 2015. Among his highlights was winning a pair of $500,000 races during the Saratoga summer meet, including with Rushing Fall in the Grade 1 Diana and Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby Invitational. That success built on another fruitful Belmont spring/summer edition, with Instilled Regard taking the Grade 1 Manhattan and Newspaperofrecord winning the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game.
“He’s a great trainer and has very good support as well,” Ortiz said. “He’s very smart and places the horses where they are supposed to go. He always gives them the time they need and he’s just one of the best. This year was challenging for everybody but I think next year, he’ll have a big year again.”
Headed by Seth Klarman, Klaravich Stables won at least a share of four of the five individual NYRA individual meets in 2020. Klaravich won the Belmont fall and spring/summer outright, as well as Saratoga, while tying Repole Stable for the recently concluded Aqueduct fall meet.
Klaravich teamed with the year’s leading trainer and jockey with Complexity to win the Kelso. The stable also partnered with Brown to capture the Saratoga Derby Invitational with Domestic Spending, the Longines Just a Game and Grade 3 Intercontinental with the recently retired Newspaperofrecord and the Grade 3 Lake George with Selflessly.
In total, Klaravich sent out 171 starters, going 48-30-39, winning at a 28.07 percent clip, while racking up earnings of $3.23 million in the process. Repole Stable’s stellar 34 wins was second-most on the circuit.
Live racing resumes New Year’s Day Friday at the Big A with a nine-race card highlighted by the $150,000 Jerome, a one-mile contest for newly minted 3-year-olds offering 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the top-four finishers towards the Kentucky Derby. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.