Five is enough for Irad Ortiz on Virginia Derby day

Irad Ortiz, Jr. came. He saw. And he won everything in sight.

Ortiz, fresh off winning the riding title at Saratoga, came to Colonial Downs Tuesday and won five races, including a sweep of the day’s biggest contests, the $200,000 Virginia Oaks, aboard Spirit and Glory, and the $300,000, Grade 3 Virginia Derby, with Capensis.

“I’m blessed. I’m glad I won five races today,” he said afterwards. “I’m very happy.”

Ortiz obtained the mount aboard Capensis, trained by Todd Pletcher for a partnership including Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and several others, when brother Jose, aboard for the Tapit colt’s first two starts, chose to remain with the Shug McGaughey-trained Limited Liability, whom he has now ridden in all eight starts. Limited Liability, last after a half-mile, rallied to finish third, 2 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Capensis, a $2 million yearling purchase, is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare Tara’s Tango. She didn’t make the races until two months ago, July of her sophomore season, when she won at first asking. She finished a close-up sixth as the favorite in an allowance in her second start.

This time, with a new Ortiz aboard, Capensis began the challenging task of paying dividends on his lofty purchase price.

He broke well enough, and Ortiz was content to settle in mid-pack four to five lengths off the early speed. That early lick was provided by the keyed-up Royal Patronage, a Graham Motion trainee who demanded rider Joel Rosario let hiim grab the advantage.

Royal Patronage led by by diminishing margins through the first three calls while navigating the quarter in 23.24 seconds, the half in 47.62, and three quarters in 1:11.42. By the time of the third call, though, his lead was down to a head, while Capensis, by then fourth and just two lengths off the lead, was revving up a run on the outside.

Capensis won the Virginia Derby. Photo by The Racing Biz.

“I had a perfect trip,” Ortiz said. “[Trainer Todd Pletcher] told me to stay outside, don’t try to go inside horses when I make my run. I had nobody outside of me the whole time, and I was able to ask him whenever I wanted.”

Capensis moved into contention rounding the turn while on the far outside. After the field straightened for home, Ortiz went to work, and Capensis responded with a sharp burst to the front.

“I asked him a little bit, and he jumped on the bit,” Ortiz said. “I felt like I had some more, so I went after him. He responded really well, and he kicked all the way to the wire.”

California Frolic, 38-1 at post time, rallied from well back for second, two lengths behind the winner and a neck in front of the show horse. Capensis, the only favorite to win during the five stakes today, returned his backers $5.20. The exacta $51.20 for a one-dollar wager.

Capensis now has two wins from three starts, good for earnings of $230,075.

The Motion-trained Royal Patronage faded to seventh. That denied the trainer’s bid to win the Derby for the fourth consecutive running.

One race prior, the story was somewhat similar, as Ortiz piloted a wide-running Spirit and Glory to a win in the Virginia Oaks. Bred in Ireland, where she made the first four starts of her career, Spirit and Glory is trained by Robert Falcone, Jr. for Michael Nentwig, et. al.

She had won her first North American start, an allowance at Belmont Park, but then had finished an even seventh in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga.

“One of the reasons I really wanted to come here is because I thought the wider turns and longer stretch would help her,” Falcone said. “Saratoga has much tighter turns, and I don’t think she cornered too well [in the Lake George]… We had another stake at Saratoga, and we decided to scratch out of that and ended up here.”

A wise decision, it turned out, and getting Ortiz in the irons turned out to be well-timed. He let his mount dawdle in last through the opening half-mile but she powered home wide on the course to win by 1 ¼ lengths. The running time of 1:48.25 for nine furlongs was barely slower than the 1:48.15 of the Derby.

Sparkle Blue, trained by Graham Motion, validated her last-out win in the Christiana Stakes at Delaware Park with a runner-up finish at 31-1, and another Motion trainee, Candy Light, filled out the triple.

Moments after his Oaks win, Ortiz would climb aboard $2 million worth of horse, a lightly raced fortune with, perhaps, bigger things ahead.

“He’s expensive,” the rider said. “But he looks like he can improve. He can keep improving; he’s a young horse, only three races. It’s early, but he can have a good future as long as he stays sound and healthy.”