Irad Ortiz, Jr. could have a weekend to remember as he wraps up his fifth riding title at Saratoga Race Course.
Ortiz, who has been atop the Spa’s jockey standings since the start of the nation’s most prestigious race meet, is set to be aboard a trio of top contenders on Saturday – Clapton in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), McCulick in the $500,000 Flower Bowl (G2), and Jersey Pearl in the $250,000 Prioress (G2).
The 31-year-old Ortiz has 50 mounts from Thursday-Sunday (Sept. 3), and likely 8-10 more on Monday, the closing day of Saratoga’s 40-day summer meet.
Through Aug. 31, Ortiz is 18 victories ahead of his younger brother Jose in victories, 52-33, and he also has 60 seconds and 45 thirds – a 20% win rate, and an impressive 61% top 3 finish rate.
The 4-year-old Clapton, seeking a first Grade 1 victory, won the Ghostzapper (G3) at Gulfstream in April and ran third in the Pimlico Special (G3) and second in the Suburban (G2) at Belmont in July.
He is trained by Chad Summers. He will be up against the likes of 5-year-old Proxy (2-1), who has earned more than $2 million; Rattle N Roll (9-5), winner in three of his last four starts; and Tyson (5-1), winner in four of five career starts. In this one, we’re looking for a strong stretch run for Clapton to get past the favorites and take that big Grade 1 step up.
The winner earns a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 as the race is part of the BC Challenge Series.
Ortiz has three Grade 1 wins at the Spa, in the Whitney (White Abarrio), the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (One in Vermillion), and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (Elite Power). He also won the Jim Dandy (G2) aboard Forte.
In the Flower Bowl, a BC “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), McCulick takes on just three challengers as the 4-year-old filly goes for a second win at the Spa after taking the Glens Falls (G2) on Aug. 3 over 1-5 favorite War Like Goddess.
Jersey Pearl goes against four rivals in the 6-furlong Prioress for 3-year-old fillies. The Darrin Miller-trained filly won a pair of allowance optional claiming races at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park and ran fifth in the Test (G1) at the Spa on Aug. 5.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is one of New York’s most prominent races. Winners include Hall of Famers Man o’ War (1920), Hill Prince (1950), Nashua (1955-56), Sword Dancer (1959), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1967), Forego (1974), John Henry (1981), Easy Goer (1989), Cigar (1995), and Skip Away (1996-97). The mighty Kelso won the JCGC a record five straight years from 1960-64. Four Triple Crown champions have won this race, too, Gallant Fox (1930), Whirlaway (1942), Citation (1948) and Affirmed (1979).
The race was run at Belmont Park from 1975-2020 and was moved to the Spa in 2021.
Post time for the Jockey Club Gold Cup is 6:18 p.m. ET.
1. Proxy (Joel Rosario, Michael Stidham), 2-1
2. Unbridled Bomber (Dylan Davis, Jim Ryerson), 15-1
3. Warrior Jonny (Junior Alvarado, P Bauer) 20-1
4. Rattle N Roll (Brian Hernandez, Ken McPeek), 9-5
5. Clapton (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Chad Summers), 8-1
6. Tyson (Manny Franco, Josie Carroll), 5-1
7. Duke of Love (L Contreras, Josie Carroll), 15-1
8. Bright Future (Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher), 6-1
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.