Champion Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Comes to Laurel

Champion Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Comes to Laurel

Video: Vargas Talks “Talented, Tough” Saguaro Row

LAUREL, MD – Irad Ortiz Jr., the country’s leading rider, doesn’t make many trips to Laurel Park. In fact, it’s been three years since the two-time Eclipse Award winning rider has visited Laurel. But Ortiz, currently the leading rider at Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet, will ride Saturday’s stakes-laden card.

The nine-race program, with a 12:25 p.m. first race post, will include the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3), $250,000 General George (G3) and three other stakes including the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-old colts and geldings

Ortiz, named the country’s Eclipse champion in 2018 and 2019, will ride in five races, including the General George aboard Mt. Amore Stable’s Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire, Someday Farm’s promising 3-year-old Dreams Untold in the Miracle Wood, and in the $100,000 John B. Campbell with favorite and graded-stakes winner Monongahela, owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Gary Aisquith.

Ortiz’s last trip to Laurel was also on Fritchie-General George Day in 2017. That afternoon Ortiz finished second in the Miracle Wood, seventh in the Fritchie and second to Imperial Hint in the General George aboard Stallwalkin’ Dude.

Ortiz has ridden only 15 times at Laurel, with one win, four seconds and three thirds, according to Equibase.

When asked about riding at Laurel, Ortiz said, “If you have the horse you’ll be alright.”

Firenze Fire could be the horse in the seven-furlong General George. A winner of $1.6 million and nine of 23 starts, the Jason Servis-trained 5-year-old ended his 2019 campaign with wins in listed stakes at Aqueduct and Penn National after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Winner of the Champagne (G1) at 2 and the Dwyer (G3) at 3, Firenze Fire is 4-5 in the morning line. Ortiz has been aboard him in nine of his last 11 starts.

“He’s doing good,” Ortiz said. “He’s done a mile before and won and he’s won at six furlongs, so he can do either one. Seven furlongs is in between, so I think he’ll be fine.”

Ortiz is also looking forward to riding Dreams Untold, a John Servis-trained son of Smarty Jones who broke his maiden Jan.4 by 14 ¼ lengths

“I’ve never rode him before but he’s doing great, working good, so, hopefully, we’ll get it done,” he said.

Video: Vargas Talks “Talented, Tough” Saguaro Row

Newtown Anner Stud and Mark Breen’s Saguaro Row, second in the Go for Wand (G2) and a winner of two of her last three starts, is the 9-5 favorite in Saturday’s Runhappy Fritchie.

The Maryland Jockey Club caught up with assistant trainer and exercise rider Jose Vargas to talk about the “talented, tough, tall” 5-year-old mare trained by Michael Stidham.

“I love her,” Vargas said. “She’s one of the favorite horses I’ve had all time.”

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