Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ortiz Excited About First Oaklawn Meet as Head Trainer

John Ortiz already has plenty to talk about in his training career, but he doesn’t mind discussing his private life, either.  Both blossomed in 2016.

Married last summer, Ortiz, a former assistant to Kellyn Gorder, struck out on his own Nov. 13, welcomed a son, Jayden Alexander, with wife Crystal two days later and had his first career winner Dec. 7 at Turfway Park.

“The best way I can explain it is I’ve always wanted to train,” Ortiz, 30, said during a renovation break Tuesday morning at Oaklawn. “It’s always been my main goal. Can’t wait to train because I can be this person, be successful, buy this and buy that. Now, literally, since my son was born, I look at my barn and say, ‘I just want to do it for him.’ My priorities changed instantly.”

Professionally, Alexander begins 2017 with a 13-horse string at Oaklawn and two victories from 12 career starters. Ortiz followed up his victory at Turfway Park with another, when Marine Pilot broke his maiden Dec. 10 at Remington Park. Marine Pilot, a 4-year-old Line of David gelding, is owned by Ortiz’s major client, Thomas Julian.

“He’s the guy that got me started,” said Ortiz, who claimed heavily on behalf of the Oklahoman last fall in Kentucky.

Ortiz said his stable is a “good balance” between a few “nice” allowance runners and claimers.

She’s a Bootsy Too, who won her first two career starts at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, finished second in the $75,000 Mahoning Valley Distaff Stakes Nov. 21 at Mahoning Valley in her last start.

Ortiz said All Right, who broke his maiden in the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes Sept. 3 at Kentucky Downs, is under consideration for the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 16. She’s a Bootsy Too and All Right had been trained by Gorder, who is about to complete a reported 60-day suspension for a medication violation involving one of his horses.

Ortiz saddled his first starter Sept. 5 at Ellis Park before officially going out on his own in November. He had spent the last five years, including some winters at Oaklawn, with Gorder.

Ortiz’s impressive resume includes rising from walking hots as a teen-ager to barn foreman, and, finally, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s traveling assistant, along with subsequent stints under Kentucky Derby-winning trainers Graham Motion and Barclay Tagg.

“When I was 21, I did say what I wanted to do was to train by the time I turned 30,” said Ortiz, who gets on many of horses in the morning. “That was just a little silly goal that I set for myself. When I started being an assistant trainer, and helping run barns, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Whitmore Works

Whitmore moved closer to his 4-year-old debut by working 5 furlongs from the gate in 1:02.20 Wednesday morning under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel. Co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs breezed the gelding following the second break to renovate the surface, which was rated muddy.

“I just wanted nice and easy,” Moquett said. “I didn’t want to do too much today. All I was wanting him to do was stretch his legs, so he isn’t crazy the next three days if it (weather) gets real bad.”

Moquett said following the work that no decision has been reached regarding Whitmore’s 4-year-old debut.

“I just want to run here,” Moquett said. “From that point on, we’ll see what happens, but all I want to do is run here. I plan on doing it early because I have plans down the road.”

Oaklawn’s first two-turn stake for older horses is the $125,000 Fifth Season Jan. 13.

Whitmore, however, is perfect in three career starts sprinting, including a Dec. 3 allowance/optional claimer at Aqueduct in his last start.

Whitmore was among Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-olds after running second in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). He won an allowance/optional claiming sprint at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut.

Streamline Set to Defend Title in Pippin Stakes

Streamline will defend her title in the $125,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 14 at Oaklawn, trainer Brian Williamson said Thursday morning. Under Chris Landeros, Streamline worked 5 furlongs in 1:03.60 over a fast surface Thursday morning in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile race.

“Breezed well, very good,” Williamson said. “Pulled up good and we’re planning on running her in the Pippin.”

Streamline, a 5-year-old Illinois-bred daughter of Straight Line, was the only horse to compete in all four of Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes races for older fillies and mares last year. After winning the Pippin, Streamline finished second in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3), third in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) and second in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) last April.

Streamline didn’t resurface until a Nov. 5 allowance/optional claiming sprint at Churchill Downs because of a minor physical issue, Williamson said. In her final start last year, she finished second in the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (G2) Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.

Williamson said it would be “awesome” if Streamline could grab her first career graded stakes victory in 2017, particularly since he trains her for mother-in-law Nancy Vanier, who co-owns and bred the horse.

“We were pretty much set on running her this year,” Williamson said. “She’s been a pretty sound horse. She just had a little issue after the Apple Blossom. We knew she would be back.”

Streamline has a 6-3-4 record from 14 career starts and earnings of $364,066.

Williamson said the hope is Streamline will again contest Oaklawn’s series of two-turn stakes races for older fillies and mares, which continues with the $150,000 Bayakoa (G3) Feb. 18, $350,000 Azeri (G2) March 18 and $600,000 Apple Blossom (G1) April 14.

Nominations for the Pippin close today.

Decision Day

Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said a decision will be made in the next couple of days concerning the 4-year-old debut of Suddenbreakingnews, who recorded a bullet half-mile work over a fast track Thursday morning.

Von Hemel said Suddenbreakingnews is under consideration for the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 13, but wants to monitor nominations before committing to the 1 1/16-mile race.

Under Luis Quinonez, Suddenbreakingnews covered a half-mile in :47.80 just after the first renovation break.

“I wanted him to get a sharp work, and probably did,” Von Hemel said. “Forty-seven and four, for him, is a pretty sharp work.”

Gelded since his last start, a fifth-place finish in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2) Aug. 6 at Mountaineer, Suddenbreakingnews is seeking his second Oaklawn stakes victory.

Suddenbreakingnews was a last-to-first winner of the $500,000 Southwest (G3) last February before running fifth in Oaklawn’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

Fifth Season nominations close today.

Second Time Around

Didiel Osorio won four races in his Oaklawn debut last year, but agent Joe Santos is confident the jockey can climb the standings during the 2017 meeting that begins Jan. 13.

Three of Osorio’s victories last year at Oaklawn were for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, a longtime supporter of the jockey.

“Just based off last year, a lot more people know who we are,” Santos said before training hours Thursday morning. “A lot more people have been using us in the morning.”

Santos said Osorio, 22, has been breezing horses for several trainers, including Al Cates, Aaron Shorter and Dan Peitz, and the jockey will ride first call for Ingrid Mason, who was among Oaklawn’s top 10 trainers last year with 13 wins.

Mason has won 25 races the last two years at Oaklawn, including two stakes in 2016 with Marquee Miss – $100,000 Dixie Belle and $100,000 Martha Washington. Santos said Osorio is scheduled to ride Marquee Miss in her 4-year-old debut, an opening-day allowance/optional claimer. He guided Marquee Miss, at odds of 21-1, to victory in the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural Stakes Dec. 3 at Turfway Park.

 “That’s the main reason we came here,” Santos said of Mason. “We picked up a horse for her in September at Churchill, and he was like 30-1 and he ran second. I think we’ve had only like three horses run off the board since. For her main owner, I don’t think we’ve been off the board. We’ve won a stake and four races for them. Just kind of catapulted into this.”

Osorio has 199 career North American victories since he began riding in 2013, according to Equibase. Santos and Osorio teamed to win the riding title in 2015 at Ellis Park.

Finish Lines

In addition to Didiel Osorio, agent Joe Santos said he will represent Julio Felix at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting. Felix has 20 career Oaklawn victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, the biggest coming aboard Sarah Sis in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) in 2015. … Ribbon of Darkness, a 2016 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, worked an easy half-mile (:51) after the second renovation break Thursday morning for trainer Federico Villafranco. … Cosmic Evolution, among the leading 3-year-old fillies at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, has been retired and will be bred to Candy Ride, trainer Lon Wiggins said Wednesday morning. Cosmic Evolution also ran third in Oaklawn’s $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and fourth in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Marquee Miss, scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in an opening-day allowance/optional claimer, worked 5 furlongs in 1:03.20 just after the track opened Wednesday morning for trainer Ingrid Mason. Marquee Miss won the $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes and $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes last year at Oaklawn. … Also on the work tab Wednesday: Multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy (5 furlongs in 1:02.40) and Arkansas-bred stakes winner Mallard’s Bro (5 furlongs in 1:02.20). … Didiel Osorio, who won four races in his 2016 Oaklawn debut, is working horses, according to his agent, Joe Santos. … Jerry Hissam of Hot Springs, the longtime agent for Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, said he will again work in customer service (Red Coat) during the 2017 live season.

 

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