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Enjoying Banner 2023, Ortiz Jr. Returns to Gulfstream

He has won four Championship Meet riding titles at Gulfstream Park.

White Abarrio wins the Breeders' Cup Classic under Irad Ortiz Jr. at Santa Anita Park

White Abarrio wins the Breeders' Cup Classic under Irad Ortiz Jr. at Santa Anita Park

Mathea Kelley

Enjoying one of the best seasons of his highly decorated career, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. has made his way back to South Florida with the mission of ending the year as strongly as it began.

Ortiz, 31, resumes riding at Gulfstream Park starting Dec. 7 to begin his title defense at the 2023-24 Championship Meet, which runs through March 31. He has won four Championship Meet riding titles at Gulfstream since his first full winter there in 2017-18.

Ortiz, who rides mostly in New York from spring through fall, will be busy his first week back. He is named in eight of 10 races Thursday, seven Dec. 8, and nine of 11 races Dec. 9, including Ozara for trainer Christophe Clement in the $100,000 Wait a While Stakes and Noted for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher in the $100,000 Pulpit Stakes.

In all, Ortiz is named on 24 horses over his first three days for 17 different trainers, among them Mike Maker, Eddie Plesa Jr., Carlos David, Riley Mott, Jose D'Angelo, Joe Orseno, Chad Brown, and Jane Cibelli.

"It's great to be back. They support me a lot. I love the people. They treat me really, really good and that makes it special," Ortiz said. "They make me feel like home. I have some trainers I ride for that are waiting for me there and that keeps me hungry. It's exciting."

Ortiz arrives at Gulfstream after earning his fifth Bill Shoemaker Award as top jockey at the Breeders' Cup World Championships, raising his career total to 20 Breeders' Cup wins, following victories in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) aboard White Abarrio, the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) on Elite Power , and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) with Goodnight Olive. All three horses will be in the mix for Eclipse Awards as divisional champions.

Represented by agent Steve Rushing, Ortiz is likely headed to a fifth Eclipse Award as champion jockey following wins in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022. According to Equibase statistics, he is approaching his career-high of 346 wins set in 2018 and has already broken his own single-season North American record for purse earnings with $37,791,462. Ortiz banked the previous mark of $37,020,792 in 2022.

Ortiz has won 337 races—that and his earnings easily tops in North America—with 65 stakes wins, 40 in graded company through Dec. 6. For his career, he has 3,716 wins, 596 in stakes, 304 of them graded, and more than $306.5 million in purse earnings.

"Believe me, we work so hard, and we try to not look back. We just try to do the best we can for the whole year. By this time of year you realize how you're doing, after all the big races and everything, and we are having a good year," Ortiz said. "We are very grateful. We thank God for every opportunity they give us to live these moments. We feel blessed to be in this position. We love this game. We love riding, and we have to thank the horses because they run for us. They make the sport special."

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.