Irad Ortiz Jr. set the single-season Championship Meet win record in style Saturday at Gulfstream Park, guiding St. Elias Stable’s homebred Known Agenda to a 2¾-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Florida Derby.
It was the first career win in Gulfstream’s signature race for the 28-year-old Ortiz and his 138th during the country’s premier winter stand, surpassing Luis Saez’s mark of 137 set in 2017-18. Ortiz approached the record in 2018-19 but finished with 135.
“It means a lot. We work so hard. I feel so good to get the feedback from the owners and the trainers. They support me. I say thanks to all of them,” Ortiz said. “When I say all of them, I mean all of them – from the claiming races to the stakes races. We have a lot of respect for Luis. It wasn’t easy. He wins a lot of races here, too. We are so happy.”
Ortiz also was tops with 115 wins in 2019-20 and is now only the fourth jockey in history to win at least three consecutive Gulfstream riding titles joining Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who won five straight from 2011-12 to 2015-16, Jorge Chavez (1999-2001) and Jeff Fell (1977-79).
Earlier Saturday, Ortiz tied the record aboard Joseph Imbesi’s Sweet Bye and Bye in the $100,000 Sand Springs. He now has 14 stakes wins at the meet, including Grade 1 triumphs in the Florida Derby and Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, the latter with Colonel Liam. Both Known Agenda and Colonel Liam are trained by Todd Pletcher.
The three-time defending Eclipse Award winner as champion jockey, Ortiz has posted 43 multi-win days at Gulfstream this winter, including a six-win effort Feb. 6 that fell just one short of the track’s single-day record shared by Saez, Tyler Gaffalione and Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.
Represented by agent Jay Rushing, Ortiz has also registered five five-win days, seven four-win days and nine three-win days during the Championship Meet.
“It means a lot. We ride a lot of races here and I always like to win. We try all the time, but we can’t win every meet. We try so hard and it’s special,” Ortiz said. “My agent does hard work and I get a lot of support from the owners and trainers and I appreciate that. It means a lot honestly. I really like this meet. It’s like summer, good weather, and the people here are big fans. They support all the jockeys so I’m really happy.”