Rene Douglas made a triumphant return to his native Panama on Sunday, where he launched a riding career that would carry him to 3,587 victories over 27 years in the United States. That career ended suddenly on the afternoon of May 23, 2009, when a horse Douglas was riding at Arlington Park fell, rolling over him, and leaving the jockey paralyzed from the chest down.
Douglas, 50, spent six months in the hospital and has undergone several stem cell treatments in the interim. It's been a struggle, but he has reemerged with the encouragement of family and friends to enter the bloodstock world, putting together deals to buy stakes winning horses like Golden Moka and Private Zone in the name of Good Friends Stable.
His return to Panama was as an owner, and on Sunday he claimed the nation's biggest racing prize when Canadian-bred Coltimus Prime charged to a stretch-running victory under 17-year-old Angel A. Rodriguez in the $140,000 Clásico Presidente de la Republica before a full house at the Hipódromo Presidente Remon racecourse.
The 6-year-old by Milwaukee Brew – trained by Roderick Rodriguez – was a 10-1 longshot in the field of 14, despite a 4-for-25 record in North America that included victory in one leg of the Canadian Triple Crown – the 2014 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.
Coltimus Prime, produced from the Distorted Humor mare Certainly Special, was bred in Ontario by Jayson Horner. He raced previously for the Cabernet Racing Stables of Horner and Michael Weingarten.
Douglas acquired the horse following a fifth-place finish in an allowance race in March at Gulfstream Park with the express purpose of pointing for the Clásico, along with another race in the Caribbean Series, the Copa Invitacional del Caribe, which is open to foreign-bred horses that have raced in member countries of the Caribbean Turf Confederation.
Coltimus Prime had one local run on May 13, finishing second in an invitational behind Noble Bebe, who was back for the Clásico. That race was at 1,800 meters (nine furlongs), and Coltimus Prime had shown in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales that the longer he goes the better he gets. His sire, Milwaukee Brew, was a two-time winner of the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap. Milwaukee Brew's sire, Wild Again, won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles.
Coltimus Prime benefited from a fast early pace in the 2,100-meter race (about 1.3 miles), which was run in 2:11.50. Longshot Tio Fabio (by Mizzen Mast) raced out to an early lead, the quarter and half miles in :23.26 and :46.36. California Music – a 3-year-old colt by Maclean's Music who was favored to add to the resume of Panama's Hall of Fame trainer Alberto Paz “Droopy” Rodriguez – chased the front-runner through those fast fractions and a quick six furlongs in 1:10.86. That took the wind out of his sails for the final half mile.
Young Angel Rodriguez, meanwhile, had Coltimus Prime perfectly placed in midpack, saving ground and biding his time until swinging wide at the top of the stretch. He wore down the front-runners to win going away by about 3 ½ lengths. Uxla P. (by Wilburn) closed for second, with Candy Sugar Lady (Candy Ride) third.
Douglas, who compiled riding titles in Chicago and Florida and won graded stakes races from coast-to-coast, said afterwards he had been watching Rodriguez and felt very confident the young rider would be patient with Coltimus Prime. “I gave him a little advice,” the ex-jockey said afterwards. “He rode a perfect race.”
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