USA: Reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz is “very excited” to be back riding at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, when he is named in nine of 12 races on his return to the saddle after a month on the sidelines.
The Puerto Rican, who has not ridden since March 19 owing to concerns over coronavirus, also has seven mounts on Sunday’s card.
Ortiz, 27, led the nation with 90 wins and $5.28 million in prize-money before his self-imposed exile. He’s still on top for money – hardly surprising as he rode Mucho Gusto to win the $3m Pegasus World Cup, but Gulfstream rival Luis Saez leads on numbers with 103.
“I’m very excited to be back riding,” Ortiz said. “Thank God, I have the help from all the owners and trainers. A lot of people support me here, so I appreciate that very much.”
Despite missing the last eight cards, Ortiz was leading rider at the recently concluded Gulfstream Championship meet with 115 winners compared to Saez’s 113.
Ortiz, America’s champion jockey for the last two seasons, decided to stop riding out of concerns for his family amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Ortiz’s wife, Meliza, is expecting the couple’s third child; the family have remained at their home in Hollywood, Florida, during his hiatus.
“It’s been hard, to be honest, just being home,” said the jockey. “I’ve been home with my babies and my wife. It’s hard for everyone with everything going on right now out there in the world with the virus.
“But I see that Gulfstream has done a great job and they don’t have any cases,” he added. “They’ve been doing a great job keeping everyone safe.”
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