The jockey dominoes on Kentucky Derby riders began to fall this weekend when Jose and Irad Ortiz Jr. elected to stay at Saratoga and skip the Derby. Along with the brothers Ortiz, Joel Rosario and Luis Saez will remain in New York and finish out Saratoga’s meet, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Ortiz Brother Passing Derby
Irad Ortiz Jr. (left) and brother Jose entered the weekend tied for the Saratoga riding title with 33 wins apiece. The brothers will remain at Saratoga and pass up riding the Kentucky Derby. (Image: Skip Dickstein/Times Union)

Irad Ortiz Jr. rode Derby contender and Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr Post in two of his last three races. His brother didn’t have a Derby mount. Rosario, meanwhile, has ridden both Max Player and Enforceable.

While the Ortizs, Saez, and Rosario elect to stay at Saratoga, five other New York-based jockeys will go to Kentucky for the Sept. 5 Derby. John Velazquez, Manny Franco, Ricardo Santana Jr., Javier Castellano, and Tyler Gaffalione confirmed to the DRF they will leave Saratoga for Churchill Downs.

Franco, of course, is Derby favorite Tiz the Law’s rider. Along with presumed Kentucky Oaks favorite Gamine, Velazquez will ride Bob Baffert’s Authentic in place of California-based Mike Smith. Castellano will pilot Caracaro in the Derby, and will also ride Oaks hopeful, Speech. As a regular jockey for trainer Steve Asmussen, Santana may get Asmussen’s new Derby contender, Max Player.

Jockeys Get More Time at Home, Give Up Extra Test

Those jockeys heading to Louisville get an extra week before they are required to report. On Friday, Churchill Downs extended the reporting date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31. Jockeys hoping to ride on the Oaks/Derby cards must be in Kentucky by 11 a.m. on Aug. 31. The tradeoff comes when those jockeys must take three coronavirus tests instead of the original two.

Those original COVID-19 guidelines came 10 days ago when Churchill Downs officials issued a moratorium that all jockeys desiring to ride Derby/Oaks week must be in Kentucky two weeks before the Derby. This forced jockey colonies on both coasts and their agents into a tough decision: give up two weeks of business at their home tracks for a Derby or Oaks mount, or pass on the biggest race in America.

Under the new guidelines, jockeys are required to announce their intentions to ride or not ride via email by Aug. 18. Out-of-state jockeys must be tested by Aug. 24, with results emailed to Churchill Downs. Derby week riders must report to the track for mandatory testing on Aug. 31 and Sept. 3. They aren’t allowed to leave Kentucky between Aug. 31 and their last Derby week race.

Churchill Downs restricted its jockeys’ room to riders currently at Ellis Park, the small Kentucky track two hours west of Louisville. Track officials will provide auxiliary rooms for out-of-state jockeys.

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