The competition for the respective jockey and trainer championships at Saratoga was a foregone conclusion heading into Monday’s closing card, but jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. still needed to put the official finishing touches on his second title.
He clinched it by easily winning the second race aboard McErin to give him 51 victories for the meet and shut out Javier Castellano, who had 43 at that point with seven mounts left. Ortiz added his 52nd win when Qurbaan won the Grade II Bernard Baruch in the ninth.
Chad Brown had already clinched the trainer championship, named after the late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, and Monday’s card represented simply an opportunity to add to his record total.
He did so by winning the third race with Complexity and the fifth race with Dominant Strategy for a total of 46.
Ortiz won the championship named for Angel Cordero Jr. for the second time since 2015. He established a big lead early in the meet and remained consistent throughout the balance of the calendar.
“We worked really hard to win the title, and now we can enjoy it,” he said. “I won on a lot of nice horses this summer, I can’t name them all at the moment, but each of them was special. Diversify winning the Whitney was a top moment, but they were all special.”
Although there is a strong second tier of riders at Saratoga, the Ortiz brothers and Castellano have clearly established themselves as the go-to jockeys. Since 2013, all three each have two championships.
Their close association with Brown’s stable was mutually beneficial.
Of Brown’s 46 winners, Castellano rode 23, Jose Ortiz was on 12 and Irad Ortiz rode seven.
Besides the Bernard Baruch, Irad Ortiz’s stakes winners included Diversify in the Grade I Whitney, Call Paul in the Grade II Saratoga Special and Hofburg in the Curlin. He was supposed to ride Hofburg in the Travers, but when the colt came down with a fever, Ortiz landed on Wonder Gadot, the first filly to run in the Travers since 1979. She finished last of 10.
BROWN STAYS HOT
Brown topped off his historic success in a typical way for this meet, by winning a race Monday with a 2-year-old, and a first-time starter at that.
Complexity rolled in the third race to not only push Brown’s total number of victories to 45, but also was his 11th win with a juvenile. This, despite the fact that he did not start a horse in any of the six graded stakes on dirt for juveniles, although he did win one on the turf, with Dogtag in the P.G. Johnson.
Brown tied the record of 40 on Friday and won three on with Saturday to gain sole possession before adding one more each on Sunday and Monday.
Other than a disappointing Travers Day on which he “only” won the Grade II Ballston Spa, Brown’s barn was hot from the beginning of the meet and never wavered all the way through closing day despite one of the rainiest meets in recent memory, which at times wreaked havoc on turf racing.
“The most rewarding thing is the chemistry in the morning between all the moving parts, everyong executing their jobs, and the horses showing up and running so well and so consistently,” Brown said. “I know there’s been some challenging parts of the meet with the weather, and we’ve been able to dodge it within our own stable.”
On Friday, when Brown took over sole possession of the record, he shared the winner’s circle with his brother and parents, Jerry and Patti.
Several generations of Browns have been coming to Saratoga from Mechanicville over the decades, and Jerry Brown choked up momentarily when describing how proud he was of his son.
“A lot of pride. A lot of hard work on his part … and I kind of choke up a little bit,” he said. “He made history. Right? We’ve got to kind of cry at the same time you’re happy.”
“They’ve been big supporters of mine,” Chad Brown said. “They got me into this, taking me to the picnic area many years ago. We’re all just a big family, and they are very excited as well.”
Brown’s graded stakes winners included Sistercharlie in the Grade I Diana, Separationofpowers in the Grade I Test, Raging Bull in the Grade II Hall of Fame and Grade III Saranac, Rushing Fall in the Grade II Lake Placid and Quidura in the Ballston Spa.
The Ballston Spa fell on a Travers Day in which Brown had high hopes not only for the main event, but for the rest of the stakes undercard.
He was shut out of all of those, and failed to win his first Travers despite having the top two picks on the morning line, 2017 2-year-old champion Good Magic and Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski.
“Travers Day was disappointing, for how many horses we ran,” Brown said. “We did walk away with a nice win in the Ballston Spa. But the Travers eluded us. We’ll be back to try it again, and other than that, we had some very strong weekends and a lot of good stakes victories, 2-year-old wins and everything in between.”
Everything in between included a dynamite day out of town for Arlington Million Day in Chicago.
Brown’s horses Robert Bruce and Almanaar went 1-2 in the Arlington Million, and Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook and Thais took the top three spots in the Grade I Beverly D.
Brown’s horses have won the Beverly D. four straight years (Watsdachances, Sea Calisi, Dacita, Sistercharlie) and the Arlington Million two years in a row and three total since 2013.
“You throw in a historic day at Arlington … for our team, the people involved, the horses … that’ll be hard to do again, and right in the middle of Saratoga,” Brown said. “To be able to cover it all and have that deep of a stable and have things go that well, that really a remarkable, magical meet.”
AROUND THE TRACK
Southern Phantom, the fan favorite with the fully white face trained by Eric Guillot, failed to find the winner’s circle in his third start of the meet.
After showing improvement in his second start on Aug. 11, he trailed the field in Monday’s third race and never threatened, finishing fifth. ...
Bitumen, the 2016 Grade III Sanford winner who was also fourth in the Hopeful that year, ran in the fourth race and finished third.
He has been running almost exclusively in the claiming ranks for over a year. …
Trainer Mark Casse stopped a 0-for-48 streak at the meet when Fly Away Birdie won the first race.