01/05/2017 2:40PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Jose Ortiz

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Jockey Jose Ortiz had a whirlwind year in 2016. He led all North American-based jockeys in wins with 351. He won his first Breeders’ Cup race, aboard Oscar Performance. And, she said, “Yes!”

Ortiz became engaged to fellow rider Taylor Rice in June and the couple was married in December.

Ortiz, a 23-year-old native of Puerto Rico, is based in New York. For his breakout year on the track, he is an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding jockey of 2016.

Ortiz racked up most of his wins at home. He was the leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit with 319 victories, taking down titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. Ortiz won races in bunches, celebrating a five-win day during the spring-summer meet at Belmont, then pulling the feat again at Saratoga, including a win in the Grade 3, $200,000 Glens Falls with Suffused.

“To do it here at Saratoga, where the competition is so tough, I’m very lucky,” Ortiz told Daily Racing Form.

But the best was yet to come. Ortiz made his way to Santa Anita in November for the Breeders’ Cup and guided Oscar Performance to a 1 1/4-length win in the Juvenile Turf for trainer Brian Lynch.

“Just absolutely thrilled as I am for my first Breeders’ Cup, I’m thrilled to have done it with Jose,” Lynch said in a post-race interview.

Ortiz had three other Grade 1 victories in 2016. He teamed with Off the Tracks to win the Mother Goose in July and with Ectot to take the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in October, both at Belmont. In between those scores came the Hopeful at Saratoga, with a late-surging Practical Joke.

Ortiz won 23 graded stakes in 2016, tied for third in North America. His 1,563 mounts earned $22,925,822, third best on the year behind Javier Castellano and Ortiz’s older brother, Irad Ortiz Jr.