This is trainer Todd Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse Award and the fourth for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., as the pair return to the stage to once again accept these respective honors.
It’s not easy being Todd Pletcher. Not because it’s difficult to employ a battalion of employees and run a vast operation across multiple jurisdictions. And not because he is graced with a power-packed group of runners that many of his contemporaries might offer their first borns to get even a single nugget from the expansive collection of equine jewels lining his shedrow. These days, it seems that the Hall of Famer’s biggest obstacle is simply outdoing himself. Because what may be a career-defining season for most other trainers in the game, might only be considered par-for-the-course for Pletcher.
No stranger to the training title with seven prior wins (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014), Pletcher found himself having to watch from the sidelines as Chad Brown and Brad Cox collectively took down six training titles since 2016. While finishing second in earnings behind Brown ($31,057,362) at the conclusion of 2022, Pletcher’s season was nothing less than awe-inspiring regardless.
Buoyed by 36 graded stakes wins, 17 of those at the Grade I level, he showed his dominance at the Eclipse Awards, with his runners appearing in no less than five divisions. Headlining this year’s championship class are Forte (Juvenile Colt), Nest (Curlin) (3-year-old Filly) and Malathaat (Older Dirt Female) (Curlin), in addition to Horse of the Year and Older Horse finalist Life Is Good (Into Mischief), who had the misfortune of running in the same season as superstar Flightline. Pletcher was also represented by a second Horse of the Year finalist, Malathaat.
Also notable in 2022, the Dallas, Texas native became the first trainer to sweep both legs of the Pegasus World Cup program with Life Is Good and Colonel Liam (Liam’s Map), who took the turf division, in addition to landing his sixth American Classic while earning his fourth GI Belmont S. win with Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo), who led home a 1-2 finish for the trainer. While the ‘big four’ led much of the Grade I activity for the 55-year-old last year, he also earned top-level victories with Chocolate Gelato (Practical Joke) (GI Frizette S.), Annapolis (War Front) (GI Coolmore Turf Mile S.) and Mind Control (Stay Thirsty) (GI Cigar Mile H.).
IRAD ORTIZ JR.
A three-win showing over Breeders’ Cup weekend sealed the deal on a fourth career Eclipse Award for jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Ortiz, a winner of this same award for three straight years between 2018-20, led the nation with 325 wins and also set a single-season earnings record of $37,075,772 in 2022. It was the eighth straight year that the 30-year-old topped the 300-win mark.
“Thank God first for keeping me healthy and sound and in one piece to be able to keep doing it every day, keep trying,” Ortiz said. “My agent, Steve Rushing, does a great job and the trainers and owners give me great opportunities, a lot of good horses. We’ve had an amazing year.”
Ortiz’s Breeders’ Cup hat trick of Forte (Violence) (Juvenile), Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper) (F/M Sprint) and Elite Power (Curlin) (Sprint) concluded a banner season for the reinsman, which also included a Classic victory aboard Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo) in the GI Belmont S.
In addition to aforementioned champions Forte and Goodnight Olive, Ortiz was also the regular rider of champion 3-year-old filly Nest (Curlin), a three-time winner at the highest level in 2022.
Ortiz finished 2022 with 80 stakes wins, 20 at the highest level, breaking the all-time record for stakes wins by a jockey in a calendar year. The late Garrett Gomez established the previous record of 76 stakes victories in 2007.
Ortiz’s 2022 season also included memorable wins aboard Life Is Good (Into Mischief) in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. and Colonel Liam (Liam’s Map) in the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. He also guided home Life Is Good to victories in the prestigious GI Whitney S. and GI Woodward S.
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