JOCKEY PROFILE – CESAR ORTEGA
Three months into his riding career and 26-year-old apprentice jockey Cesar Ortega sits at the top of the Thoroughbred jockey standings at Los Alamitos for current campaign. He moved to the number one spot on the leaderboard thanks to some excellent nights on the saddle, which included riding triples on February 21 and February 27 and riding doubles on January 22, March 12 and March 14. Ortega is currently has 12 wins to lead the Thoroughbred standings at the Orange County track with his average win odds coming in at $6.20.
Ortega has only been riding since November 6, 2020 when he guided Naomi Fraley in the first race of the night. His first top three finish came in the second race thanks to Naughty Child and his first victory came in only his third career mount on the next racing night when he guided the Thoroughbred Nova to victory the first race on November 7. For his career, Ortega has won 28 races from 136 starts for a solid win ratio of 20.5%. Those are some outstanding stats for a young man who began his journey to local stardom working as a groom.
“First, I have to thank God,” Ortega said. “I have to thank everyone who opened their doors for me. I had so many trainers, owners, other grooms who were there for me. Without them, I’m nothing. I’ve been riding now for five months at Los Alamitos. I arrived here as a groom. I’ve been it my all and working hard to give a battle to my fellow riders here.”
Trainers have taken notice of Ortega’s work ethic and enjoyable demeanor.
“I like him because of his personality,” trainer Sally Rivera said. “He is a such a nice person and always willing to help. He’s there early if you need him to work a horse and he’s always coming by, plus he’s such a good rider. I met him when he was holding horses for the horseshoer. He’s been very patient, and he got experience galloping Bob Baffert’s horses. He seems to ride well for everybody and works very hard.”
“I was just telling Rafael DeLeon that he could be leading rider,” added Angie Aquino, who has been a leading Thoroughbred trainer at Los Alamitos. “He’s just a good guy. Ever since the first time I put him on a horse he said ‘I want to learn. If I’m doing something wrong tell me.’ He will listen to advice and wants to get better each day. He is a hard worker and wants to win every time. He rides hard past the wire. That is what you look for. He is just a good person.”
Ortega considers another Cesar one of his main role models at Los Alamitos.
“Cesar De Alba has been there for me from the start. He’s given me a lot of support as I’ve embarked on this profession. He was a great rider around the turn and a tremendous Quarter Horse jockey. He’s given me a lot of good advice.”
Ortega is appreciative of how fast his success has come and is quick to credit the support group he’s found at the track.
“I’ve had so many people help me,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from other exercise riders and my jockey valet. I have been fortunate. People have opened doors for me, not only at the workplace, but at their homes as well. They have given me confidence and have trusted me. Those things have helped me reach where I am today. There were times when I was impatient because you don’t feel like you’re moving forward, but when I look back at my trajectory, I can see that I have advanced quickly, and things have gone well for me.”