Stud David Y Daniel's El Kurdo, second in the Copa Invitacional during last year's Clasico Internacional del Caribe program, will have a chance to reverse that finish Saturday at Gulfstream.
A 7-year-old son of Giacomo, El Kurdo enters the 1 ¼-mile Copa Invitacional with a perfect 4-0 record this year in Ecuador, where he is based. The most recent win came by 22 lengths Oct. 8, marking his 21st victory from 42 career starts.
“This year was really cool because his first race was just 5 ½ furlongs and he was able to win. To have that ability where you can win from 5 ½ to a mile and a quarter is really, really quite unique,” trainer Chad Summers said. “They weren't sure if they were going to send this horse or Kingdom Road and we were watching the last race to kind of figure out what was what.
“He actually won the last prep by 22 lengths and Kingdom Road finished third, and Kingdom Road since has come back and won two in a row, so that's kind of flattered the form a little bit of El Kurdo,” he added. “The real question is going to be where Ecuador's best stacks up with some of the other countries.”
This is the second straight year that Summers, based at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, has handled El Kurdo's North American preparation for the Clasico del Caribe. El Kurdo stayed in South Florida to run in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on Gulfstream's turf three weeks after the Copa Invitacional before heading back to Ecuador.
“My main clients are from Ecuador. They were kind of one of the first ones to give me an opportunity, so it means a lot to me to have that opportunity to kind of pay it back to them,” he said. “To represent Ecuador in the Clasico del Caribe is something that means a lot to us.”
Summers is best known for his work as trainer and co-owner of multiple Grade 1-winning New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits, retired Nov. 14 with eight wins and nearly $4.3 million in purse earnings from 25 career starts, the last coming in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 3. Ecuador's J Stables was also a co-owner.
“The purse might not be huge deal, but this is a big, big deal to all the countries here that are involved, and to have it here at Gulfstream Park and everything else is great. Here at the barn there's just a sea of people. The buzz for this is no different from being in the Breeders' Cup a month ago,” Summers said. “It really is cool to see how excited everyone is from these countries. It's a big festival day and it would mean a lot to the country of Ecuador to bring El Kurdo home a winner.
“I've been fortunate to go to the Breeders' Cup, to go to Dubai, to be a part of the Triple Crown races and stuff like that, and from an energy and excitement level I would put this right up there with all of them,” he added. “The will to win and desire to win from all the connections is very, very strong and it's something where there's a lot on the line more than money.”
El Kurdo drew the far outside post in a field of seven for the Copa Invitacional that includes defending champion Coltimus Prime, Group 1 winner California Music and Group 2 winner Trincheto from Panama; Going Strong and Group 1 winner Mishegas from Puerto Rico; and multiple stakes winner Wildcat Wish from Mexico.
“I have a lot of respect for the Panamanian horses, and California Music is a really good horse. Obviously we know how good Mishegas is, and Coltimus Prime won it last year,” Summers said. “It's a salty field. All four of those horses are quality horses that can compete here in America. We're going face each other here and see how it shakes out.”
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