Francisco D'Angelo, a multiple-stakes winning trainer in Venezuela, celebrated his first stakes win in the U.S. Saturday after Cowboy's Hero scored by 1 ¾ lengths in the $75,000 Mecke Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The 51-year-old D'Angelo, a former leading trainer in Venezuela before venturing to South Florida in 2015, has been a multiple stakes-placed trainer in the U.S. before Charlotte Racing Stable's 6-year-old gelding broke through in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds and up.
“I'm very excited to win my first stakes in the United States,” said D'Angelo, who has saddled 81 winners from 650 starters in the U.S. “This is a good horse. After he went to the turf, he's a different horse.”
Cowboy's Hero raced between horses off the early pace set by War Giant, who posted fractions of 24.28 and 47.60 seconds for the first half mile. The D'Angelo trainee advanced to gain an inside position directly behind the pacesetter heading into the far turn. Driven by Thunder, the 3-5 favorite ridden by Hector Berrios, mounted an outside challenge on the turn leaving the backstretch as War Giant drifted off the rail. Carlos Lugo took advantage and sent Cowboy's Hero through the opening on his way to his first stakes victory.
War Giant, a stakes winner on dirt making only his second start on turf, held second under Emisael Jaramillo, a half-length ahead of late-running Ambassador Jim. Driven by Thunder finished another length back in fourth.
Cowboy's Hero ran the 1 1/16 miles over a firm turf in 1:40.78 to collect his third win 16 starts. The son of Cowboy Cal was making only his second start for D'Angelo, finishing fourth in an optional claiming allowance behind victorious Driven by Thunder in his first start.
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