Trainer, jockey races end in unique dual ties for Belmont fall meet titles
by Brian Bohl
While Michael Dubb was securely perched atop the owner's standings to lock in the 2016 Belmont Park fall meet owner's title, the races for leading jockey and trainer both came down to a unique dash to the wire on closing day, resulting in a pair of respective ties between Javier Castellano and Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Chad Brown and Rudy Rodriguez.
With 30 winners apiece during the 38-day meet that ran from September 9 - October 30, Brown picked up his fifth consecutive Belmont Park fall meet training title while Rodriguez captured his second career fall meet title.
Rodriguez entered closing day with a one-win advantage over Brown, who eliminated the difference in the penultimate race of the day when Create a Dream powered to victory in the $100,000 Chelsey Flower.
Brown continued his run of dominance, capturing his third straight meet title overall after winning the Belmont spring/summer meet and taking home top honors at Saratoga. The Mechanicville, New York native has now won the Belmont fall meet title every year since 2012. After winning the 2015 NYRA overall training title with 131 wins, Brown has eight meet titles in his career, starting with the 2010 Aqueduct fall meet.
Brown, who reached 1,000 career wins over the summer in Saratoga, won two Grade 1 races during the meet, including Lady Eli's victory in the Flower Bowl and Practical Joke's win by a nose in the Champagne.
Rodriguez won his first Belmont fall meet title since 2010. He also picked up his fourth career New York training title after also winning the 2011-12 Aqueduct inner track and the 2015 Aqueduct fall meet. Among the highlights was Arella Rockstar winning the Grade 3 Matron on October 16.
The hotly contested jockey's race, meanwhile, has been neck and neck through the closing weeks of the meet, ending in a dead-heat between Castellano and Ortiz with 48 wins each.
Castellano won his first Belmont fall title since 2013, marking his third for the specific meet after also winning it in 2011. The 39-year-old from Maracaibo, Venezuela won his 11th meet title overall. A winner of three consecutive Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey, Castellano won the Grade 2 Kelso in piloting Anchor Down to victory and capturing the Grade 3 Futurity with Theory.
Ortiz won his third consecutive Belmont fall title, adding to the championships he collected in 2014 and 2015. The winner of the 2014 and 2015 New York riding crowns, Ortiz was a meet's leading rider for the eighth time in his career and won his first since the 2015 Saratoga meet. Among the highlights of the fall was piloting Lady Eli to victory in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and Lewis Bay to a win in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on the meet's penultimate day.
With 16 total victories, Dubb and his various partnerships won the owner's title, adding to his recent collection as the leader at the Belmont spring-summer and at Saratoga. Continuing the trend du jour, Klaravich Stables and David Jacobson tied for second with 11 wins each.
In total, the Belmont fall meet saw 42 stakes worth $10.625 million.
Thoroughbred action will move to Ozone Park, N.Y. when Aqueduct Racetrack opens for the fall meet that runs from Friday, November 4 to Saturday, December 31. The meet has 29 scheduled stakes races with $4.85 million in combined purses set to be distributed, anchored by the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on Saturday, November 26.
The Aqueduct meet will get off to a fast start with a trio of stakes races on opening weekend: the Grade 2, $200,000 Nashua and the Grade 3, $250,000 Tempted for 2-year-olds at a mile on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Long Island for fillies and mares 3-and-up on the turf on Sunday.