12/02/2016 6:04PM

Jose Ortiz picks up five more wins in quest to finish as nation's leading rider

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Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Even Thunder, one of five winners Friday for Jose Ortiz, who plans to stop riding on Dec. 18 to get married and take a honeymoon.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jose Ortiz wants to finish the year as the leading rider in North America in wins and he knows the clock is ticking. While for most jockeys the year doesn’t end until Dec. 31, Ortiz will stop riding at the conclusion of the Dec. 18 card at Aqueduct.

Not only does the New York Racing Association take a 10-day break after that, but Ortiz is getting married on Dec. 20. He has a honeymoon planned and then another family gathering that will keep him out of the saddle until early January as will a five-day careless riding suspension.

Ortiz took a big step toward achieving his goal by riding five winners from eight mounts Friday at Aqueduct. His bid for a sixth victory went awry when Zippity Zoom, returning from a six-month layoff, finished fifth of six in the featured eighth-race allowance. This was the fourth time in his career - all this year and all at NYRA tracks - that Ortiz won five races on one card.

The five wins give Ortiz 332 victories this year, 11 more than Antonio Gallardo, who finished his fall in New York on Nov. 27 with 13 wins at this meet though he went winless with his last 31 mounts. Gallardo took this week off before he starts riding at Gulfstream beginning Saturday.

Ortiz has won virtually every meet on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2016,  including the Belmont spring/summer season and Saratoga. He didn’t win the Belmont fall meet because he rode primarily at Keeneland. He is virtually certain to win the Aqueduct fall meet that wraps up on Sunday.

Ortiz said he hopes finishing the year as the leading rider in wins will get him consideration for an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top rider. He currently ranks third in purse earnings behind Javier Castellano - winner of the last three Eclipse Awards - and Jose’s brother, Irad Ortiz Jr.

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“If I win the nation maybe it puts me in a good position for an Eclipse Award,” Ortiz said. “I understand Javier and Irad have had a tremendous year. I don’t know who the nominees would be but I think us three should be.”

Jose Ortiz is second in stakes wins with 54, five fewer than Castellano. His 23 graded stakes victories have him tied for third with Julien Leparoux behind Castellano and Florent Geroux.

On Friday, Ortiz won the first three races on the Aqueduct card aboard Battle Midway ($26.80), Perina’s Pride ($5.30), and the $100,000 King’s Swan Stakes on Even Thunder ($7.40). After losing the fourth, he won the fifth on James Lane ($4.50), lost the sixth, and captured the seventh on Don Dulce ($5), the 8-year-old gelding who split horses in deep stretch.

Ortiz is scheduled to ride at Gulfstream on Saturday and is named to ride eight of Sunday’s nine races at Aqueduct on Sunday. He also plans to ride at Parx on the dark days - he has two mounts there on Monday -  for the next two weeks. Last Tuesday, he went 3 for 3 at Parx.

“If I have to I’ll ride seven days a week so I can recover some of the dates I’m going to lose at the end,” Ortiz said.