Fresh off a victory in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen last month, Mind Your Biscuits was rewarded for his successful campaign last year during Monday evening’s New York Thoroughbred Breeders Annual Awards Banquet at Saratoga National Golf Club.

Mind Your Biscuits earned three champion New York-bred honors – Horse of the Year, 3-year-old male and male sprinter for 2016.

Bred by Samantha Will Baccari’s Jumping Jack Racing and foaled at Sue and Gary Lundy’s Cedar Ridge Farm in Pine Plains, Mind Your Biscuits won four of nine starts and earned $740,400 in 2016. The son of Posse won the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita and Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga and finished third (moved up to second via disqualification) in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

Winners in the non-voting categories were Chester and Mary Broman as breeder of the year for the fourth time, Rudy Rodriguez (trainer) and Irad Ortiz Jr. (jockey). Jazzmane, dam of Mind Your Biscuits, was named broodmare of the year.

Each of the winners was profiled in a special commemorative program produced by the team at ST Publishing and The Saratoga Special. Here’s a look at the individual champions.

 

HORSE OF THE YEAR, 3-YEAR-OLD MALE, MALE SPRINTER: MIND YOUR BISCUITS
Ch. c. Posse—Jazzmane, Toccet.
Breeder: Jumping Jack Racing. Owner: M. Scott Summers, Hope Summers, Daniel Summers, J Stables, Head of Plains Partners.
Trainer: Robert Falcone Jr.
2016 record: 9-4-3-1, $740,400.
2016 stakes: Malibu (G1), Amsterdam (G2).

When Mind Your Biscuits won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes last July at Saratoga Race Course, co-owner Scott Summers’ career as a racehorse owner reached new heights.

“I’ve been coming here for so many years, and to have this experience, I never, never would have thought about it,” Summers said. “I’ve been coming to Saratoga for at least 40 years and I’ve been owning horses for the last 10 or so. ‘Biscuits’ is the only horse I’ve had that’s performed at this level.”

Little did Summers know, winning the Amsterdam was just the beginning for Mind Your Biscuits. In the rest of his 3-year-old season, the son of Posse finished second in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx before finishing third (moved up to second) behind  Drefong in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November. Mind Your Biscuits closed 2016 by winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26.

The adventure took another turn to start 2017 as Mind Your Biscuits won the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan March 25, putting him in the discussion as the world’s top sprinter. It was his fifth win from 15 lifetime starts and put him over the $2 million mark in career earnings.

Mind Your Biscuits is a family affair. Scott’s sons Chad and Dan and daughter-in-law Hope, are in the ownership group and Chad now trains Mind Your Biscuits, recently taking over from Robert Falcone Jr. The family partnered with J Stables early in the venture and added Head of Plains Partners before the Breeders’ Cup.

“We were going to pinhook him and nobody wanted him,” Scott Summers said. “We said, ‘All right, nobody wants him, we’ll race him,’ and that’s when we went to J Stables for the partnership and it worked out great. This is the first horse I’ve ever had that’s won a graded stakes race. It’s just an extraordinary experience.”

Bred by Jumping Jack Racing and foaled at Sue and Gary Lundy’s Cedar Ridge Farm in Pine Plains, Mind Your Biscuits is one of three winners from three foals to race out of the unraced Toccet mare Jazzmane.

 

FEMALE SPRINTER, OLDER DIRT FEMALE: HAVEYOUGONEAWAY
Ch. m. Congrats—One Wise Cowgirl, Wiseman’s Ferry.
Breeder: Andy and Susan Beadnell.
Owner: Gary Barber and Sequel Racing. Trainer: Tom Morley.
2016 record: 8-5-2-0, $655,000.
2016 stakes: Ballerina (G1), Honorable Miss (G2), Dancin Renee, American Beauty, Spring Fever.

The tale of Haveyougoneaway was already fairly lengthy before Andy and Susan Beadnell made the decision to trek down from the Ridin-Hy Ranch Resort they operate in Warrensburg to Saratoga in late July for the Grade 2 Honorable Miss.

The Beadnells, who bred the daughter of Congrats out of the Wiseman’s Ferry mare One Wise Cowgirl, couldn’t wait to tell the tale after Haveyougoneaway got up in deep stretch to win that afternoon – her second consecutive stakes and first graded stakes win.

“Get ready,” said Andy, a longtime friend and client of Joe and Anne McMahon of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds. “We sold her as a weanling for $50,000 in Kentucky, she came back here and (sold for $105,000) at the New York-bred yearling sale and then showed up in a 2-year-old sale and not-sold for ($100,000).

“There was a death in the ownership, she ended up in a dispersal sale and two boys from Texas bought her for twelve-hundred bucks. She ran down there in Arkansas and some other places. I called them, Champion Racing, and tried to buy her back after she won her first race to bring her back here. They said, ‘Partner up with us.’ Stupid me, I didn’t do it.”

A partnership led by Becky Thomas eventually did purchase Haveyougoneaway to race under the Sequel Racing banner – Gary Barber came along later in 2016 – and she made a splash in the return to her native state. Haveyougoneaway not only won the Honorable Miss but the Dancin Renee against state-breds prior to that effort and the Grade 1 Ballerina in front of a packed house on the Travers Day card.

Beadnell, who also bred 2016 champion New York-bred steeplechaser Willow U, was on hand for both Saratoga victories that earned Haveyougoneaway a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and consideration for the Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter last year.

Haveyougoneaway was foaled at Bead Land and Cattle Company in Pottersville, and continued her improbable story by selling for $1.1 million to Japanese breeder Lake Villa Farm at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s November sale. She will be bred to Deep Impact.

 

2-YEAR-OLD MALE: SYNDERGAARD
Ch. c. Majesticperfection—Magic Belle, Gold Case.
Breeder: Burleson Farms. Owner: Eric Fein, Harris Fein,
Christopher McKenna, Guri Singh, and Jerry Walia.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher.
2016 record: 4-2-1-0, $323,800. 2016 stakes: Funny Cide.

Todd Pletcher and successful 2-year-old Thoroughbreds go together like baseball players and home runs. Those two worlds collided in 2016 as he conditioned champion 2-year-old male finalist Syndergaard through a successful campaign.

Owner Eric Fein partnered with Harris Fein, Christopher McKenna, Guri Singh and Jerry Walia to purchase the Majesticperfection colt for $450,000 out of the last year’s OBS April 2-year-olds in training sale.

Being a hardcore New York Mets fan, Eric Fein named the colt after the team’s all-star pitcher, Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard the horse made his debut for Pletcher in early August at Saratoga, where he dominated the field to win by 3 lengths. He returned to the track 18 days later for the Funny Cide Stakes on the Saratoga Showcase card and effortlessly blew past the competition to win by 10 1/4 lengths.

“We were optimistic coming in,” Pletcher said after the Funny Cide. “He’s just got so much early speed that I think he forced everyone to chase him a little bit and he came with a heater today.”

Pletcher, clearly, can have a little fun with the name.

“Johnny (Velazquez) said as fast as he’s going, he’s actually doing it in a pretty relaxed fashion,” the trainer continued, “so he felt like even though he knew he was rolling along, he was doing it within himself and had his ears pricked and felt comfortable, so we weren’t going to take away what comes easy.”

With the other Syndergaard on hand at Belmont Park, Pletcher placed the colt in the Grade 1 Champagne in October. The speedy colt led throughout, but lost a nose decision to Hopeful winner Practical Joke.

Syndergaard made his final start of the year in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing fifth of 11, again after leading early from his inside post.

Syndergaard, who racked up $323,800 in earnings last year, started his 2017 comeback at Stonestreet’s training center in Ocala, Fla. before moving south to rejoin Pletcher’s string at Palm Beach Downs with a series of strong breezes in February and March.

 

2-YEAR-OLD FILLY: BONITA BIANCA
Ch. f., Curlin—Friendly Michelle, Artax. Breeder: Dormellito Stud.
Owner: Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable, Michael Imperio.
Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez. 2016 record: 4-3-0-1. $276,000.
2016 stakes: Maid of the Mist, East View.

Owner Michael Dubb spent $97,000 to buy Bonita Bianca at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company’s March sale of 2-year-olds and was paid back by the chestnut filly with back-to-back wins to start her career.

The daughter of Curlin won a Belmont maiden race for New York-breds Sept. 22 and answered that effort with an even better one in the $250,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes also in New York-bred company a month later. 

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez credited Dubb and his partners for being patient with the filly, who needed six months to get to the races after the sale.

“When they bought her she had some shins and stuff so we completely backed off of her and let her get over that,” said Rodriguez. “She was very, very slow at the beginning, a heavy filly and then she just started turning around. Day by day we would see something different with her.”

The improvement continued through the fall as Bonita Bianca added to her value once more with a third, after getting shuffled back at the gate and spending the early part of the race in last position, in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct in November. She capped the year with a runaway score in the East View for New York-breds Dec. 30.

The success earned her a vacation at Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center in Maryland and some early prep work in Florida. The chestnut recently returned to Rodriguez’s barn and is being pointed toward a 2017 campaign.

“She’s done everything we asked of her,” said Rodriguez in mid-March. “She won first time, she won a New York-bred stakes, she ran a pretty good race in open company. She just came back to us and we’ll have to pick out something for her. We’re lucky to have her in the barn.”

Bred by Dormellito Stud, Bonita Bianca is out of Friendly Michelle, who won the Grade 1 Prioress among other races for trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Artax sold for $1.15 million, while in foal to A.P. Indy, in 2006 and changed hands again for $42,000 (while carrying Bonita Bianca) in 2013.

 

3-YEAR-OLD FILLY: HIGHWAY STAR
Ch. f., Girolamo—Stolen Star, Cat Thief.
Owner/Breeder: Chester and Mary Broman. Trainer: Rodrigo Ubillo.
2016 record: 7-5-0-1. $369,000.
2016 stakes: Staten Island, Go For Wand (G3).

If you were creating an advertising campaign about Thoroughbred owning and breeding, you could do worse than use Highway Star as an example of the way things are supposed to work.

The chestnut filly went from unraced maiden to graded stakes winner in about six months, rewarding the patience of her connections Chester and Mary Broman and Rodrigo Ubillo.

“It wasn’t even a year,” said Ubillo, who trained the daughter of Girolamo to five wins in seven starts. But it was still a good year. Highway Star made her first six starts in New York-bred company. She won her debut at Belmont Park May 30 and followed up with an allowance score July 13, also at Belmont. Her only two defeats came at Saratoga, when she was fourth in the New York Stallion Series Statue of Liberty Stakes and third in the Fleet Indian.

Next came three consecutive wins – each more impressive than the one before it.

At Belmont in September, she trounced seven foes in a state-bred allowance, then won back-to-back stakes at Aqueduct. The first figured, as Highway Star won the new York Stallion Series Staten Island Stakes in November, but the second? Now that was something.

Part of a field of seven in the Grade 3 Go For Wand, including the Bromans’ odds-on favorite Bar Of Gold, Highway Star prevailed in a three-way photo finish over High Ridge Road and Wonder Gal. It was the first graded stakes win for Ubillo, and confirmed the trainer’s initial thoughts about Highway Star.

“As a 2-year-old, she didn’t have the best conformation so we took our time with her,” he said. “She grew up to be a better looking filly. I go by the horse and I didn’t think she was ready. She’s very big and lengthy. I gave her the time and it paid off.”

Highway Star’s dam Stolen Star won three times and placed in stakes for the Bromans. She’s produced three winners, and passed down some talent to her foals.

“Very competitive,” Ubillo said when asked about Highway Star’s mentality. “She’s very friendly in the stall, but on the track she’s all business. She likes her job and she likes to run.”

 

OLDER DIRT MALE: EFFINEX
Dk. b./br. h., Mineshaft—What A Pear, E Dubai.
Breeder: Dr. Russell Cohen. Owner: Tri-Bone Stable.
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens. 2016 record: 8-2-1-1. $1,200,000.
2016 stakes: Oaklawn Handicap (G2), Suburban Handicap (G2).

Full circle. Bred in New York, Effinex made 28 starts over three seasons, winning nine races for more than $3.3 million and returned for a stallion career in New York.

Now, that’s a circle.

Bred and owned by Dr. Russell Cohen and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Mineshaft added the Grade 2 Oaklawn and  Suburban handicaps in 2016. In addition to those scores, Effinex finished second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

“It’s a ride every owner, every person in this business should experience,” Cohen said. “My philosophy has always been and will continue to be – reach for the stars, don’t settle for mediocrity. Sometimes it hasn’t worked out, sometimes is has, this time was the wildest of all the rides.”

Effinex began his career at Aqueduct on a February afternoon in 2014, finishing fifth at 36-1 against New York-bred maidens. He returned to break his maiden (through disqualification) in his next start for trainer Richard Demola. Effinex, next running for trainer David Smith, came back and won against New York-bred allowance horses in his third start.

“You figure out if a horse really has a little bit of talent, not when they win, even if it’s the first time out of the box, it’s when they run against winners, any kind of winners,” Cohen said. “When he won that New York-bred allowance race, I knew he had some talent.”

Switched to Jerkens, Effinex put talent and durability to good use from there, running 12 times in 2014, eight times in 2015 and eight times in 2016 while traversing the country in search of big paydays, including finishing second in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

 “All you can base it on is DNA,” Cohen said. “I’ve had that family for three generations and they’ve all been sound. You breed to sound stamina lines and hope for the best, but who would have ever expected him to turn out to be the monster that he was?”

By March 22, standing at Questroyal Stud North, the $3.3 million earner had five mares in foal.

Cohen laughed.

“The story goes on.”

 

TURF MALE: KING KREESA
Dk. b./br. g, King Cugat—Storm’s Advance, Storm Creek.
Breeder: Horse Partners. Owner: Gerald and Susan Kresa.
Trainer: David Donk. 2016 record: 9-2-1-0, $257,850.
2016 stakes: Forbidden Apple, West Point.

King Kreesa would make a good starting pitcher. He’d be a crafty veteran who shows up every spring, takes a worn glove and some dusty cleats out of an old duffle bag and fires sliders, curveballs – and the occasional fastball – past the kids who wonder how the old guy does it.

He does it with skill.

And in 2016, he took the analogy a step further by winning on five days’ rest for owners/breeders Gerald and Susan Kresa and trainer David Donk. The 7-year-old finished a solid fourth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga Aug. 20 and returned to win the West Point Aug. 26. Donk paid credit to jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who was on board for the Fourstardave, and the horse.

“When Irad jumped off him the other day he was adamant that I run him back, and he really got me thinking about it,” Donk said last summer. From there it was up to the horse. King Kreesa recovered quickly, and gave his trainer every indication that another good effort loomed.

Donk even had a momentary flashback to his mentor Woody Stephens, who won the Met Mile and Belmont Stakes with Conquistador Cielo on an even tighter (by one day) schedule.

“I was like, this is karma, and it really had me thinking,” Donk said. “You know, he was good on Sunday, he was good on Monday when we entered and I told (the Kresas) we have 45 minutes to post time, we can scratch him if we want to.”

They didn’t want to, or have to. Ortiz had to ride Offering Plan in the West Point, handing the reins to younger brother Jose but that didn’t faze King Kreesa. He led at every call and won a four-way scramble at the finish by a nose over Kharafa with Offering Plan a neck back in third.

King Kreesa’s second win in the West Point (to go with his 2014 score) provided the main highlight to his 7-year-old campaign, but the year also came with a repeat win in the Forbidden Apple (by a nose) at Belmont Park in July.

The 11-time winner of more than $1.3 million in purses was prepping for a 2017 campaign at Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Florida.

As usual, expect his fastball to have some life on it.

 

TURF FEMALE: ANCIENT SECRET
Ch. f. Kantharos—Privacy, Notebook.
Breeder: Lambholm. Owner: Alpha Delta Stables.
Trainer: Chad Brown. 2016 record: 5-3-0-1, $238,339.
2016 stakes: Lake George (G2), Wild Applause.

Her talent was no secret at the 2015 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. On top of Ancient Secret’s pedigree was Kantharos, a talented racehorse but young and unproven sire who stood for only $5,000. On the bottom side of her pedigree was the Notebook mare Privacy, who managed just three wins from 20 starts.

The word was out that she could run and the hammer dropped after a bid of $225,000 from bloodstock agent Steve Young, who purchased the filly on behalf of Alpha Delta Stables.

The chestnut filly was sent to Chad Brown. Some seven months later, she made a successful career debut at 6 furlongs on the Belmont Park turf course, winning impressively by 3 lengths. Unsurprisingly, Brown made the correct decision on which surface to run her on.

“It’s a typical example of getting them in the barn, observe them, they’ll tell you, she trained pretty good on the dirt, but there was something about her, she had a turf look about her, physically, I had to put the pedigree aside and just go with what I saw,” Brown said.

Given the winter off, Ancient Secret made a successful return to the races in a 7-furlong allowance on the turf in mid-May at Belmont Park. Stretching out another furlong a month later, the petite filly made a successful foray into open stakes company, winning the Wild Applause by a head.

The highlight of her year came when she made it four wins from four starts after a triumphant two-turn debut in the Grade 2 Lake George on Opening Day of Saratoga. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, she proved best in the stretch winning by 1 1/4 lengths.

Never afraid to keep his homebreds to race, Roy Lerman made the decision to sell the daughter of Privacy as a 2-year-old.

“She trained very well all winter, and we wanted to see what we could get for her,” Lerman said. “Her mother wasn’t a large horse, but a very well-made horse. Privacy was out of (Private Fun), who I had bought. She was striking, that mare.”

Ancient Secret took a winter break, did some early work at Bridlewood Farm in Florida and rejoined Brown’s string at Palm Meadows in March to gear up for her 2017 campaign.

 

STEEPLECHASER: WILLOW U
B. m., Utopia—Overextended, Entrepreneur.
Breeder: Andy Beadnell. Owner: Check Mark Stables.
Trainer: Richard Valentine. 2016 record: 5-2-0-1, $41,000.
2016 stakes: Springdale Stakes.

Biz Carey read past performances, studied pedigrees and analyzed videos, just like every owner thinking about claiming a horse at Saratoga in the summer of 2015. But, perhaps, her criteria was different.

See, Carey was looking for a steeplechase horse. She found one in Willow U.

“I saw this classy filly win a good race,” Carey said. “She was pretty and calm in the winner’s circle and I fell for her.”

Carey rattled off other attributes – kind eye, sensible, athletic, correct, strong quarters, wide chest…

Two starts later, Carey’s Check Mark Stables and trainer Richard Valentine claimed the daughter of Utopia for $35,000. Two months later, a quick transition, she finished second in her hurdle debut at the Aiken Fall Steeplechase, not far from Carey’s farm.

“The jumping part needed work but the running part was a joy to watch,” Carey said. “She then came home to my farm for a good rest.”

By April, she was a winner over hurdles, taking a filly and mare maiden at the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C. By summer she was stakes-placed over hurdles, finishing third in the Mrs. Ogden Phipps at Saratoga. By fall, she was a two-time winner over hurdles, finishing the season with a come-from-behind thriller in Camden.

Carey, injured in a fall from her show horse, missed that race while recuperating at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta but got some  play by play from Valentine. The trainer is no Tom Durkin.

 “Richard’s ‘Oh no’s and silences were pretty frightening, but when he cried, ‘Willow, it’s Willow U! She won the race!’ I was ecstatic,” Carey said. “She won that race in excellent company and also managed to cement champion jockey for Kieran Norris.”

Now, Willow U aims for the $75,000 Carolina Cup against the boys April 1.

“It will be a challenge, but I know that she will try her best,” Carey said. “She is all heart and she loves to win. Hopefully she will go back to Saratoga.”

Carey has a mare and a foal with James and Tina Bond and looks forward to adding to her breeding program.

 “I definitely will breed Willow U,” she said. “And most probably the foal will be a New York-bred.”

 

BREEDERS: CHESTER AND MARY BROMAN
The bar continues to get higher and higher for Chester and Mary Broman’s successful breeding program.

Based at their Chestertown Farm on Friends Lake Road in the small Warren County town of Chestertown near Warrensburg, the Bromans have built one of the most decorated breeding programs in the Empire State.

Or anywhere else for that matter.

The Long Island residents purchased the 300-acre farm in 1995 and it’s there that the likes of Grade 1 winners Friends Lake and Artemis Agrotera and graded stakes winners Seeking The Ante and Highway Star were born and raised before racetrack success.

The Bromans, the owners and breeders of 2016 champion New York-bred finalists Highway Star and Bar Of Gold, are no strangers to honors as breeders and owners.

Winners of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s Breeder of the Year in 2004 and 2005, they collect their fourth Breeder of the Year crown from the New York Thoroughbred Breeders for the 2016 success. The Bromans previously won the state’s top breeder award in 2004, 2011 and 2014.

The Bromans earned their most recent honor after an extremely strong season campaigning New York-breds in 2016. They won 40 races from 195 starts and racked up $2,230,979 in purses, nearly double the runner-up and significantly improved on their 2015 statistics.

The couple’s continued emphasis on quality, seen through improving their broodmare band, buying at public auction and breeding to some of the world’s best stallions, is evident in the $11,441 earnings per start in 2016 compared to $5,534 in 2015.

Bar Of Gold led the way for the Bromans in 2016, dominating in the Empire Distaff Handicap and also winning the Critical Eye to earn nomination as New York-bred champion older dirt female. Both wins came on Showcase programs put on by the New York Racing Association and the NYTB, significant because Chester Broman is a past board member of the former and is a longtime board member of the latter.

Highway Star became the couple’s fourth graded stakes winner in 2016 when she took the Grade 3 Go For Wand in early December at Aqueduct. She’s a finalist for New York-bred champion 3-year-old filly, an award the Bromans won in 2014 with Artemis Agrotera.

 

TRAINER: RUDY RODRIGUEZ
While it wasn’t quite the Travers of 2014 or 2013 – and definitely not a dead heat as in 2012 – the race for leading New York-bred trainer was pretty tight by the end of the year.

Rudy Rodriguez trained the earners of $3,218,847 to edge Todd Pletcher by less than $400,000. Three-time defending champion Linda Rice settled for third this time around, though she outpaced the top two in victories with 66 to 48 for Rodriguez and 46 for Pletcher. Then again, nobody collected New York-bred wins like the Englehart family. Jeremiah won 122 races with state-breds while his father Chris went to 101.

Rodriguez wears the crown, however, thanks to a balanced attack and standout years from championship finalists Bonita Bianca and Royal Posse. A 2-year-old filly, the former won three of four, placed in a Grade 2 stakes and earned $276,000. Her polar opposite, 5-year-old veteran Royal Posse collected five wins and four seconds in nine starts while piling up earnings of $569,000 – all in stakes company. He won his last four, capped by the $300,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park in October and the $190,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream in December. Remove him from the barn, and this article is about Pletcher.

Based in New York year-round, Rodriguez set career-highs in total wins (147) and purses earned ($7.9 million) in 2016. In addition to the top two, graded stakes winners Sassicaia, Arella Rockstar and Heaven’s Runway helped fuel the success.

“That’s good to know and a good thing to do, but it’s not something you think about,” Rodriguez said of winning the New York award. “We’re very grateful. We just try to keep up with everything and continue working hard and if things like that happen then it’s a plus for all of us. We’ve got a lot of people working very hard for us and you’ve got to give all the credit to them.”

Rodriguez was born in Mexico, and came to the United States in the 1980s to work on fruit and vegetable farms in Florida. He made his way to the racetrack and worked as an exercise rider for Howie Tesher, Richard Dutrow, his son Rick Jr., Bobby Frankel and others. Rodriguez won 221 races as a jockey, 34 in his rookie season of 1992, but was used more often for morning works than afernoon races. In 2008, he won 25 races including a win aboard Frost Giant in the Grade 1 Suburban. He switched to training in 2010 and recently passed 700 wins.

 

JOCKEY: IRAD ORTIZ JR.
The great Ramon Dominguez won four consecutive jockeys’ awards for New York-bred success, dominating the 2009-12 seasons before being forced into retirement by an injury. Judging from the last four years, the Hall of Famer may have had a difficult time defending as brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz have shared the championship and seem unlikely to relinquish it anytime soon.

Irad claimed the crown in 2013, younger brother Jose grabbed it in 2014 and 2015. As for 2016, Irad snatched it back with $6.71 million in purse earnings to Jose’s $6.48 million. Jose collected 22 more New York-bred wins, but lost the money race thanks in large part to Irad’s partnership with stakes-winning machine Royal Posse and two Grade 1 placings aboard Upstart.

The brothers even shared male-turf finalist King Kreesa, with each guiding the veteran to a stakes win by a nose – Irad in the Forbidden Apple in July and Jose in the West Point in August.

The banner season continued Ortiz’s climb to the top of the national jockey colony. He rode his first North American winner in 2011 and has been on an upward trajectory ever since. The native of Puerto Rico won 151 races that first season, and has topped that figure in each subsequent season – 152, 224, 290, 300 and 313 wins in 2016. His mounts have earned more than $20 million in each of the past three seasons.

Coming off a 2015 season with six Grade 1 wins and a Saratoga riding championship, Ortiz solidified his place among the nation’s top jockeys with a strong 2016.

He finished third in the 2016 national standings by wins, behind his brother’s 351, and was second by purse earnings, to Javier Castellano. The 24-year-old won the Belmont Stakes, his first win in a Triple Crown race, with Creator and picked up further Grade 1 wins with Lady Eli, Dacita and Pretty City Dancer. He won four graded stakes with Camelot Kitten and even went home to Puerto Rico where he won two Grade 1 stakes at Camarero in December.

Ortiz rode 13 of the 40 finalists for New York-bred championships, not counting steeplechaser Willow U. The steeplechase career will have to wait awhile. 

Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, older male finalist Royal Posse and Ortiz teamed up six times, for four wins and two seconds. They won the Mr. Sinatra in April, the Alydar in August, the Evan Shipman in September and Empire Classic in October.