by Brian Bohl
Chad Brown notched 23 wins to finish as the leading trainer at the Belmont spring/summer meet for the fifth consecutive time and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. posted 34 victories to lead all riders as the 25-day meet concluded on Sunday at Belmont Park. The meet ran from June 3 to July 12.
Klaravich Stables led all owners with 13 wins, outpacing second-place finisher Michael Dubb, who had seven victories.
Brown has been the top trainer at the Belmont spring/summer meet every year since 2016. He recorded a 23-19-8 ledger in 95 starts for his latest triumph, besting Christophe Clement [14 wins].
The spring/summer meet kicked off on June 3 marking the return of professional sports in New York, and also saw the return of live racing for the New York Racing Association, Inc, which temporarily suspended racing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm really proud of our team. We had a late start to the year and it was frustrating for everybody - the staff, the owners, everybody involved,” Brown said. “Our team held it together. We had to change plans with several horses. We had to change plans with living arrangements for people on our team. Everyone had to make sacrifices and alter their life - and that's not just our stable, that's other stables, racetrack management and all around in other industries.”
NYRA’s year-ending leading trainer five years running, Brown conditioned five graded stakes-winners at the spring/summer meet, starting with Rushing Fall in the Grade 3 Beaugay on June 3 and continuing with the two wins on the same day with Instilled Regard [Grade 2 Fort Marcy] and Newspaperofrecord [Grade 3 Intercontinental] on June 6. Newspaperofrecord, coming off an 11-month layoff, wheeled back three weeks later to capture the Grade 1 Just a Game on June 27.
Brown trainees ran 1-2 in the Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan, with Instilled Regard edging stablemate Rockemperor on July 4 on Runhappy Met Mile Day.
“The Grade 1 wins stand out,” Brown said. “It was an exciting finish for two of our horses in the Manhattan and then Newspaperofrecord coming back and being able to regain her Grade 1 form are highlights of the meet. It's good momentum heading into Saratoga that we're starting to creep towards normalcy and running lots of horses on the big days and being competitive. We're going into Saratoga with good morale after a very difficult first half of 2020 for everybody.”
Ortiz, Jr. was the leading rider for the second time in the last three spring/summer meets, compiling a 34-23-13 record in 128 mounts, winning at more than a 26 percent clip. He teamed with Brown for four of his five graded stakes victories of the meet, piloting Newspaperofrecord to both of his graded stakes wins and Instilled Regard to triumphs in both the Grade 3 Intercontinental and Grade 1 Manhattan.
Besides his success with Brown, Ortiz, Jr. also earned a winner’s circle trip for trainer Kelly Breen when he guided Firenze Fire to victory in the Grade 2 True North on June 27.
“It’s good. I’ve been working so hard, and we’ve had support from everyone,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “Instilled Regard and “Newspaper” and Firenze Fire were all good wins. We’re just looking to keep going and keep moving forward in Saratoga.”
Ortiz, Jr. has finished as NYRA’s year-end leading jockey in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He has won the last two Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. His brother, Jose Ortiz, won three races on Sunday to finish in second with 32 wins on the meet.
“I’ve done well in the spring here. I’m thankful to all the trainers and the owners,” Ortiz, Jr. said.
Klaravich Stables, which was the year-ending leading owner on the NYRA circuit in 2019, repeated as the top owner at the Belmont spring/summer meet. Headed by Seth Klarman, Klaravich Stables posted a 13-6-5 record with 32 starters for a 40.62 winning percentage, racking up $826,8855 in earnings. Newspaperofrecord’s connections encompassed all three respective meet leaders, with Klaravich Stables campaigning him in her two graded stakes wins of the meet.
Thoroughbred action moves to historic Saratoga Race Course for the 40-day summer meet from July 16 to September 7. Featuring 71 stakes worth $14.45 million, the meet will offer 39 graded stakes and 18 Grade 1s, highlighted by the 151st renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 and the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney on August 1.