Irad Ortiz Jr. is the jockey riding the horse Improbable, a favorite to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby. His brother is also a jockey who is riding a favored horse in the Derby.
“Irad, Jose, they’re first-call riders,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to US Racing. “I have a lot of confidence in Irad. We’re lucky to have him.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Irad Ortiz’s Career Earnings Total More Than $153 Million
Irad Ortiz Jr. is on the world’s most famous horse jockeys. According to Equibase, Irad Ortiz Jr.’s career earnings total $153,885,966.
That doesn’t mean that’s his net worth or that he’s taken all of that home; the jockey doesn’t get the full purse, of course. Most earn between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. You can learn more about 2019 Kentucky Derby jockeys here.
Ortiz Jr. has earned more than $9.8 million in 2019 alone. His top earnings year came in 2018, with more than $27 million in earnings.
2. Irad Ortiz Jr. Is From Puerto Rico, Where He Went to Jockey School
Irad Ortiz Jr. was born and raised in Puerto Rico. According to America’s Best Racing, he was born in Trujillo Alto in Puerto Rico.
He graduated from a jockey school in Puerto Rico named Escuela Vocacional Hípica, the site reports. He’s from a family of horse racing jockeys.
For example, his grandfather of the same name, his uncle, Ivan Ortiz, and his brother, Jose Ortiz, have all worked as jockeys. The brothers’ website quotes the New Yorker as saying, “The brothers spent their early years in Trujillo Alto, a suburb of San Juan, where their parents, Irad and Wilma, lived. Irad did not become a jockey (their uncle Ivan did), but he managed an off-track betting parlor.”
The site quotes Jose Ortiz as telling the New Yorker, “We would go with him on Saturdays and we could watch races all day.” Growing up, they pretended they were jockeys as children, the website says.
3. Irad’s Father Tried to Make It as a Jockey & Worked as a Stable Hand at Belmont
Irad’s father was heavily involved in horse racing also, but he didn’t succeed as a jockey.
“The brothers’ grandfather, Irad Ortiz Adorno, was a jockey at Puerto Rico’s premier racetrack, El Nuevo Comandante, now called Hipódromo Camarero, which is situated in Canóvanas, about twenty miles east of San Juan,” says the website.
“Irad the elder, who is seventy-one and now lives in Brooklyn, tried to make it as a jockey in the United States in the nineteen-eighties, riding in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio. But he could never break into the N.Y.R.A. colony. Later, he worked at Belmont as a hot walker—one of the stable hands who cool the horses down after their workouts and races by leading them around in circles. He was instrumental in bringing the boys to New York.”
4. Both Irad Ortiz Jr. & His Brother Are Riding Horses in the 2019 Kentucky Derby
Both Irad Ortiz and his brother Jose Ortiz are riding horses that are favorites in the Kentucky Derby. Jose Ortiz is riding the horse Tacitus.
Irad is riding the horse Improbable. Famed jockey Mike Smith initially was going to ride Improbable, but he switched to Omaha Beach, which is no longer in the race. Irad Ortiz Jr.’s horse is run by the same crew that was involved with Triple Crown winner Justify.
“It’s a dream to win the Derby,” said Jose Ortiz, according to US Racing. “I think we both have very good chances.”
5. Jose Ortiz Says He & His Brother Always ‘Try to Beat Each Other’
The Ortiz brothers have a friendly rivalry.
“We’ve always competed, trying to beat each other,” Jose said on the brothers’ website. “It’s still fun. We’re still very close. We share the same corner in the jockey’s room in New York and when we get done racing, he usually stops by my house, just about every day.”
Irad is the elder brother at 26-years-old. Jose Ortiz is 25-years-old.
According to NBC, the Ortiz brothers have ridden in a collective seven Kentucky Derbies.