Irad Ortiz on Forte: 'He's figured out what he needs to do'

Irad Ortiz on Forte: 'He's figured out what he needs to do'
Photo: Ryan Thompson / Gulfstream Park

Forte’s resume is so imposing that the son of Violence has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

The confidence of some might have been shaken when the Todd Pletcher-trained colt drew Post 11 for the prestigious Triple Crown prep … until they reminded themselves that Forte will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

A jockey doesn’t win numerous Eclipse Awards and 3,500 races without being able to work out a trip – something that Ortiz has done on a regular basis during the current meet at Gulfstream, where he has won 113 races, nearly 50 victories more than his closest pursuer.

Ortiz’s confidence in Forte certainly hasn’t been shaken by an outside post position.

“He does everything I ask him. He’s always there for me,” said Ortiz, who has been aboard Forte for all of his six career starts, including victories in the March 4 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga.

Forte has all the attributes of a horse who can overcome adversity.

“He has a beautiful stride. He’s a beautiful mover,” Ortiz said. “The way he is built as a 3-year-old now is impressive. He looks so good, and he’s been doing everything good on the track when it’s time to run.”

Should circumstances require Ortiz to ask Forte to gain position earlier than he might want, he is convinced that the 2022 champion juvenile will be up to the challenge.

“He can stay all day on his stride. He has a turn of foot but he stays. He stays with that speed – that’s good on dirt,” Ortiz said.

Forte’s strongest attribute might be his competitive nature.

“He sees the competition and he goes for it,” Ortiz said.

Having teamed for five victories in six starts, Forte and Ortiz have formed a bond of sorts.

“I know him a little better. I know what he wants to do and how he likes to run. I have a lot of confidence in him. I trust him. I trust him,” Ortiz said. “His mind is for sure changing. He’s doing things a little better. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s not like a 2-year-old anymore. He’s figured out what he needs to do, which makes it good for me.”

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