Several members of the Ruidoso Downs jockey colony, as well as various trainers, owners and breeders, joined Ortiz in the winner’s circle for the ceremony.
“He’s a key rider in my operation,” said trainer Janet VanBebber. “His work ethic is unparalleled. And he’s had some serious injuries in the last few years, yet he gets back to riding and working hard and doesn’t let it get him down.”
Sam Thompson’s parents, Sam Sr. and Kathy Thompson, were on hand to present the trophy. The award is named in honor of jockey Sam Thompson, who suffered a fatal riding accident in 2008. One of the leaders in the jockeys’ room during his riding career, Thompson was a Jockeys’ Guild senator and the room representative at Los Alamitos and a council member of the Los Alamitos division of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America.
Speedhorse Magazine, in conjunction with The Jockey’s Guild, developed the Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey Award, modeling it after the popular George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in the Thoroughbred industry.
In addition to the trophy, Ortiz also received a belt buckle, presented by Speedhorse President and Editor-In-Chief John Bachelor Jr., and a signed print of a Sam Thompson painting presented by the artist, Linda Manion. Manion painted the portrait exclusively for the Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey Award. Ortiz’s name has also been added to a permanent trophy to be displayed every year at the award ceremony and at various industry events.
“I was nominated last year and it feels good just to be nominated in a situation like this,” said Ortiz. “Winning this award means a lot to me because Sam Thompson was a good guy and did a lot for the Quarter Horse industry and in the jock’s room. It makes me feel good that people think I’ve accomplished things off the track and in the jock’s room, as far as being a leader. It’s an honor to win.”
The Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey award is a peer-elected award. Jockeys are asked to vote for the person whose personal character on and off the racetrack reflects positively on Quarter Horse racing.
“He’s a person with a lot of integrity,” VanBebber added. “His word is good and matched by his ability on a horse.”
Following the award ceremony, Ortiz signed exclusive Sam Thompson Memorial Jocley Award posters at the Speedhorse booth during the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale.
For more information on the Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey Award, contact Speedhorse at (405) 288-2145.