Jose Ortiz pulled off the rain-soaked green-on-green silks, slipped off his green hat cover and held his helmet in his hands, the one with “I love my Family” in white ink on the back.
“The colors are light,” Ortiz said, tossing the silks on the table outside the jocks’ room. “But they’re heavy.”
Riding the favorite in the Grade 1 Alabama for high-profile team of Peter Brant and Chad Brown can be heavy with pressure. Saturday afternoon, Dunbar Road took the pressure off, answering Ortiz’s audibles like a Saturday Night Live sidekick to score by 2 3/4 lengths over Point Of Honor and Street Band. The daughter of Quality Road, bred by Jeffery Drown, finished 1 1/4 miles over a sloppy, sealed track in 2:04.07.
Sopping wet and mud splattered, Ortiz explained what it takes to be leading jockey at Saratoga, what it takes to win iconic races like the Alabama. It starts with the trainer, most importantly his instructions. It includes the horse, her adaptability and ability. And it hinges on the jockey, his instincts.
“Don’t give me one instruction. When they give you one instruction it makes it harder if it doesn’t go that way,” Ortiz said. “Most of the time, the race changes, somebody breaks bad, somebody stumbles, somebody thinks like you. When they give you confidence, it makes a big difference.”
In the paddock before the Alabama, Brown gave Ortiz freedom, which delivered confidence.
“You know the filly, ride her however you want,” Brown said. “If they give you the lead, take it. If you’re there and you’re comfortable, take it.”
To read the rest of the Alabama recap, download Sunday's digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.