The Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey Award is a peer-elected award. Each summer, ballots are mailed to Quarter Horse racetracks and active jockeys are invited to vote.
This year, the four nominees were: G.R. Carter Jr., John Hamilton, Freddie Martinez and Gilbert Ortiz. Jockeys are asked to vote for the rider whose personal character on and off the race track reflects positively on Quarter Horse racing.
“I was nominated last year and it feels good just to be nominated in a situation like this,” Ortiz said. “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.” Thompson died in a riding accident at Los Alamitos Race Course in 2008.
Ortiz was born on May 1, 1963, in Pleasanton, Texas. He developed his riding skills through his father, Freddie, who was a fixture in the jocks’ room at tracks across Texas prior to pari-mutuel wagering. Ortiz began his career at the smaller non-pari-mutual tracks in Texas when he was 15, but it was when he unloaded his tack on the Louisiana Quarter Horse racing circuit that he found his greatest success. His career highlights include the Dash For Cash Futurity (twice), Dash For Cash Derby, Heritage Place Futurity, Lee Berwick Memorial Louisiana Bred Futurity (three times), Longhorn Futurity, LQHBA Futurity (twice), LQHBA Sale Futurity (four times), Refrigerator Handicap, Retama Park Futurity, Sam Houston Futurity, Bank of America Challenge Championship, Bank of America Texas Championship Challenge, Bayer Derby Challenge Championship and the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship
Ortiz and his wife Priscilla have three children and reside in Floresville, Texas.
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 at Santa Anita Park.
That Sunday afternoon will feature the running of the Grade 1, $2.2 million All American Derby, the richest race for 3-year-old and older Quarter Horses. Champion Ochoa headlines the All American Derby and if he wins he will become the all-time leading money earning Quarter Horse. Also, champion Noconi makes his final start in the All American Gold Cup.