Fray Angelico represented Panama in the Clasico Internacional del Caribe extremely well the past two years at Gulfstream Park but had to settle for second behind Jala Jala in both the 2017 Clasico del Caribe and the 2018 Copa Confraternidad del Caribe.
Fray Angelico has returned to Gulfstream Park for a third time in search of an elusive victory while running in Sunday's Copa Confraternidad for a second time. Trainer Alberto 'Droopy' Paz Rodriguez won't have to worry about facing Jala Jala, who has been retired and has embarked on a broodmare career, but Panama's all-time leading trainer is hardly counting on a victory in the 1 ¼-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up from Caribbean and Latin American countries.
“This year, he's going to pull Kukulkan's tail,” Rodriguez quipped.
Kukulkan, indeed, is an imposing foe in the Copa Confraternidad. The 2018 Mexican Triple Crown Champion remained undefeated after winning the 2018 edition of the Clasico del Caribe at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Fausto Gutierrez, who saddled Jala Jala for her victories in the Clasico del Caribe and the Copa Confraternidad, will be on a quest to repeat the feat with Kukulkan.
Kukulkan experienced his first career defeat in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream in January. However the 4-year-old son of Point Determined rebounded to win a strong allowance race at Churchill Downs in his next start and finish second in the West Virginia Governor's Cup (G3) at Mountaineer two starts later.
“I think he's a nice horse at a good level in the United States, which was the big question after he ran the Pegasus,” Gutierrez said. “After he won at Churchill, he was second in a Group 3. Now, he is back again to win back-to-back in the Clasico del Caribe and the Copa Confraternidad like Jala Jala for the same stable.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Jala Jala to both of her victories, has the mount aboard Kukulkan, whom he guided to a 10 ¼-length triumph in last year's Clasico del Caribe.
Gutierrez will also saddle minor-stakes winner Kandinsky, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Fray Angelico has won three of his six 2019 starts in Panama.
“He's a nice horse. His last race at home wasn't that good because they rode him differently. He always comes from behind,” Rodriguez said. “Last time, he wanted to go to the lead, the jockey gave him so much intention early. I didn't like the way he rode him.”
Luis Saez, a two-time Championship Meet titleist who was edged last year by Ortiz, 135-134, rode Fray Angelico in last year's Copa Confraternidad and will ride him again Sunday.
Justiciero, the 2017 Puerto Rico Triple Crown champion who finished fifth in the 2017 Clasico del Caribe and fourth in the 2018 Copa Confraternidad, returns to Gulfstream with a new trainer.
“This is the first time he is going to run for me here. I've had him the last two races in Puerto Rico,” trainer Jose Dan Velez said. “He is training very, very well here. I know Kukulkan is a great horse, but I think Justiciero is ready to run a great race.”
Juan Carlos Diaz, Puerto Rico's perennial leading rider, has the mount.
Lluvia de Nieve, who finished third behind runner-up Justiciero in his last race, will also represent Puerto Rico with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano on board.
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