The prestigious summer seasons at Saratoga and Del Mar wrapped up over the holiday weekend. Let’s recap each one, focusing on jockey achievements.
Irad Ortiz Jr. survived a strong early bid from Joel Rosario, a late charge from younger brother Jose Ortiz, and a wrist injury that sidelined him for three days to win the 2020 riding title at Saratoga. It was Ortiz Jr.’s third Angel Cordero Jr. Award win. Ortiz Jr. took 59 races at the meet, including 10 stakes. Chief among them was the Grade I Whitney atop Improbable.
Jose, just one win behind his elder sibling, notched victories in the Grade II Bowling Green (Cross Border) and Grade II Jim Dandy (Mystic Guide).
Rosario, third with 48 victories, took seven graded stakes at “The Spa.” That included his Grade I Hopeful score on closing day atop Jackie’s Warrior.
Luis Saez, fourth with 45 wins, won 15 races alone during closing week. Chief among them was the Grade I Spinaway atop Vequist. Third place would have certainly been within reach if he didn’t miss the first six days due to a positive COVID-19 test.
In addition to Saez, another name to keep in mind when racing resumes at Belmont on Sept. 18 is Jose Lezcano. He was fifth at the Saratoga meet with 27 scores, eight of which came during the final stanza. Lezcano upset Midnight Bisou in the Grade I Personal Ensign atop Vexatious.
Flavien Prat won his fourth Del Mar summer title in five years, but this one might have been his toughest test. Newcomer Umberto Rispoli was hot on his heels throughout. In fact, Prat needed his record-setting 15th stakes score in Monday’s Grade I Del Mar Futurity atop Dr. Schivel to secure a 50-49 victory over the Italian import. In addition to the Del Mar Futurity, Prat took the Grade I Bing Crosby atop Collusion Illusion.
Rispoli took five graded stakes at the meet, including the Grade II Del Mar Handicap (Red King) and Grade II Del Mar Derby (Pixelate). He rode at an impressive 30 percent clip in turf races.
Checking in third was Abel Cedillo with 30 scores. He rode Maximum Security to victory in both the Grade II San Diego Handicap and the Grade I Pacific Classic.
Fourth went to Golden Gate ex-pat Juan Hernandez with 29 victories. Chief among them was his Solana Beach Stakes victory atop Pulpit Rider.
Rounding out the top five was Tiago Pereira with 21 triumphs. Racing in Southern California resumes on Sept. 19 at Santa Anita.
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