Eclipse Award Nominees for Outstanding Jockey and My Pick

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D.S. Williamson

January 13th, 2017

mediaEclipse Award Nominees are out for 2016. Among the most contentious category is the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. Those in the running are Javier Castellano, Jose Ortiz, and Mike Smith. Keep reading to find out why each is on the short list for the Eclipse Award. I also choose whom I'd have voted for if I had a vote.


Javier Castellano

Javier has won the Eclipse for Outstanding Jockey three years running. The award has coincided with Javier's mounts leading the nation in earnings each time he's won the award. Javier won 36 stakes races in 2016. He won stakes races aboard Cathryn Sophia, including the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, aboard Flintshire, including the Grade 2 Bowling Green, the Grade 1  Manhattan, and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, and aboard Cavorting. But to me, Javier's most brilliant ride of the year was aboard Shaman Ghost in the Woodward Stakes. The move that Javier made in the stretch is what led to Shaman Ghost's upset win over Frosted in the Woodward.

Jose Ortiz

Jose Ortiz's brother, Irad Ortiz, also had a great 2016. Jose's year was just a bit better than Irad's, which is why Jose made it into the Top 3. Jose's mounts won 23 graded stakes races last year. Jose's best ride in my opinion was aboard Ectot in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He rode Ectot to an upset win over Flintshire in that race. It was a brilliant ride.

Mike Smith

Without a doubt, Mike Smith's ride aboard Arrogate in the 2016 Travers Stakes is what's put him on the short list for the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. Smith took Arrogate right to the front. Arrogate and Smith showed that the Travers' win wasn't a fluke as the three-year-old beat California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic. But Smith also won 22 graded stakes races in 2016. 6 of the graded stakes races were aboard Songbird, who is nominated for Horse of the Year. Smith last won the Eclipse Award in 1994. He entered the hall of fame in 2003.

My Pick - Jose Ortiz

Smith often times gets his choice of mounts on the West Coast. Javier Castellano gets his choice of mounts on the East Coast. What does that leave for Jose Ortiz?  In most cases, it leaves Jose riding the third, fourth, fifth, sometimes even sixth choice in a race. Jose's mounts earned over $22.9 million dollars in 2016. Ortiz will ride on a Tuesday at Parx as well as ride Saturdays and Sundays at Belmont Park. He's the consummate professional. If I could vote for the best jockey in 2016, my vote would go to Jose Ortiz.