Rice, Brown tie for training title at Saratoga meet; Ortiz, Jr. runs away with riding title
Sep 4, 2023
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Rice, Brown tie for training title at Saratoga meet; Ortiz, Jr. runs away with riding title

by Mary Eddy

The race for the training title at Saratoga Race Course came right down to the final race of the 40-day meet that ran from July 13 through September 4, ending with Linda Rice finishing in a tie with four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown at 35 wins apiece.

The title was the sixth for Brown at the Spa and the second for Rice, who has dominated the NYRA circuit since last fall, earning the titles at the past four NYRA meetings at Aqueduct fall, Aqueduct winter, Aqueduct spring and Belmont spring/summer, respectively. Rice entered the day with a two-win deficit behind Brown, but closed the gap with wins from Pioneering Spirit in the $150,000 Bernard Baruch and Lt. Mitchell in the Race 11 night cap.

“We won three yesterday which gave us a chance,” said Rice. “I thought it was pretty unlikely, but you never know. The day before we were second beaten a neck, fourth beaten a head. But then yesterday after winning three, I thought, ‘well, maybe we have a chance.’ It’s been a tremendous year. A lot of highs and lows in racing. We’ve all seen them and we’ve all experienced them. Today was a good day.”

Rice, 59, completed the meet with a record of 147-35-31-23, good for a win percentage of 23.81 and in-the-money rate of 60.54 percent with total purse earnings of $2,640,777. In addition to her score with Pioneering Spirit in the Bernard Baruch, Rice enjoyed an additional stakes win with Ichiban in the state-bred Fleet Indian on August 27.

Rice, who earned the 2009 Spa training title with 20 wins, said both achievements are important to her and her team.

“They were both really special in their own way. You never take the fun out of the first one and, of course, this is a win and a tie at the same time,” said Rice. “It’s been a great year, it’s been a lot of fun, there’s always a little heartache in the middle and would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. But it’s been a great meet.”

Brown, 44, notched his third consecutive Spa training title with a record of 183-35-41-33 and earnings of $5,487,603, good for a win rate of 19.13 percent and in-the-money percentage of 59.56. His top wins at the meet came with Grade 1 triumphs by Randomized in the Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales, Whitebeam in the Diana, and Program Trading in the Saratoga Derby Invitational.

“It was a great meet and I’m proud of my team,” said Brown. “The Alabama and Saratoga Derby at the top, those were huge wins. My team persevered through the weather – we had a record number of off-the-turf races and second-places, and they were still able to grind out a tie for the win, which is amazing. Hopefully, we can continue that into the fall.”

Additional stakes wins for Brown came in the Grade 2 Lake Placid [Aspray], Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame [Carl Spackler], Grade 2 Glens Falls [McKulick], Grade 3 Lake George [Surge Capacity] and Grade 3 Saranac [Carl Spackler], as well as the Wilton [Randomized], De La Rose [Technical Analysis] and Evan Shipman [Dr Ardito].

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher finished third with a record of 144-28-19-29.

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. successfully defended his status as the Spa’s leading rider after registering 62 wins to earn the title in a runaway victory over his brother Jose Ortiz [37 wins] and third-place Manny Franco [36 wins]. Ortiz, Jr. secured his second consecutive Spa riding title after guiding 55 winners last year, and his fifth overall after clinching additional titles in 2015, 2018 and 2020.

“It means a lot, it means everything,” said Ortiz, Jr., who is represented by agent Steve Rushing. “It’s a special place and it’s a lot of work. My agent does a great job and I have big support from trainers and owners.”

The native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico enjoyed 14 stakes wins at the meet, including Grade 1 scores in the Whitney [White Abarrio], Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap [Elite Power], H. Allen Jerkens Memorial [One in Vermillion] and Spinaway [Brightwork]. He notched additional graded scores in the Grade 2 Shuvee [Nest], Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by DK Horse [Forte], Grade 2 Glens Falls [McKulick], Grade 3 Caress [Roses for Debra] and Grade 3 Adirondack [Brightwork].

Ortiz, Jr. also enjoyed stakes wins in the Wilton [Randomized], Quick Call presented by Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation [Uncashed], Rick Violette [Ramblin’ Wreck], Bolton Landing [Amidst Waves] and Smart N Fancy [Roses for Debra].

Ortiz, Jr. cited his second career Whitney triumph by 6 1/4 lengths with the Rick Dutrow, Jr.-trained White Abarrio, as well as a gutsy nose victory by Forte in the Jim Dandy, as key races for him this summer.

“A few of them were very special,” said Ortiz, Jr. “The Whitney, the Jim Dandy – those are special and they’re some good races.”

Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables completed the meet with a 77-22-15-16 record, securing the owners’ title over Repole Stable in second [10 wins] with Michael Dubb, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and St. Elias Stable in a three-way tie for third [7 wins]. With their 22 victories, Klaravich Stables has tied the record for most wins by an owner at a Saratoga meet, which was set by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey in 2013.

Among Klaravich Stables’ victories at the meet were Grade 1 triumphs with Program Trading in the Saratoga Derby Invitational and with Randomized in the Alabama, along with additional scores in the Grade 2 Glens Fall [McKulick], Grade 3 Lake George [Surge Capacity], Wilton [Randomized] and De La Rose [Technical Analysis].

Klarman said it was meaningful to earn his first win in the Alabama with Randomized.

“Winning at Saratoga is always special,” said Klarman. “Winning a race that’s as historically important as the Alabama will always be a highlight of my ownership career.”

Brown spoke volumes of Klarman, whose six stakes winners at the meet are each trained by Brown.

“He’s great,” Brown said. “He’s a wonderful client of ours and a good partner – we run it together and I’m happy to see him have so much success with me.”

Klaravich Stables now boasts 23 owners’ titles at NYRA tracks, and six consecutive at Saratoga.  

Live racing resumes Thursday, September 14 at Aqueduct Racetrack for the 28-day Belmont at the Big A fall meet that runs through October 29.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of Belmont at the Big A on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont at the Big A, 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. 

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