Trainer Fausto Gutierrez will be on a quest to emerge victorious from the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe for the third consecutive year Sunday at Gulfstream Park.
Gutierrez, who visited the winner's circle with a pair of Mexican stars in Jala Jala (2017) and Kukulkan (2018), will once again be well represented in Saturday's headliner of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe, a five-stakes event for Caribbean and Latin American horses.
First-race post time for Sunday's 11-race program is set for 11:40 a.m.
Gutierrez is scheduled to saddle three horses for the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds – Thibaut, El Santo and Lopecitos. Thibaut and El Santo are rated first and second in the morning line, at 7-2 and 4-1, respectively.
“This year, I have three horses in the race, so I think we have a very good chance,” Gutierrez said. “I think the competition is at the same level with the other countries. There's good horses from Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Panama. The Mexican horses this year are good ones and I have plenty of confidence we can win this race again.”
Thibaut, El Santo and Lopecitos finished 1-2-3, respectively, in the final prep for the Clasico, the Clasico Kremlin at the Hipodromo De Las Americas.
Thibaut enters the Clasico del Caribe in search of his third straight victory of 2019. The son of Famous Again won the Clasico Criadores (G1) in September.
El Santo, a son of Take Charge Indy, finished 1 ¾ lengths behind Thibaut in the Clasico Kremlin after winning his 2019 debut in the Jockey Club Mexicano (G1) June 1. In 2018, the Mexican-bred colt had won two Group 1 stakes, including the Mexicano Futurity, in which Lopecitos finished third.
“He was the 2-year-old champion. He's had a short season because he had a problem with one of his legs,” Gutierrez said. “Now, he's good.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., who has ridden the winners of six Clasico Internacional del Caribe races the past two years, has the mount aboard Thibaut. Ortiz rode Jala Jala and Kukulkan for their Clasico del Caribe victories. Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the mount aboard El Santo, while Jose Ortiz has the call on Lopecitos.
Gran Omero, who has won nine of his 10 starts in Venezuela, is rated third in the morning line at 9-2. The won of King Seraf has won five Grade 1 wins, including his last three races.
“He's nine for 10 at this moment. His only loss he was third but was very close to the winner. He has won all the top races for 3-year-olds in Venezuela. He's a champion. I think he's going to run a very good race,” trainer Reynaldo Yanez said. “I'm feeling very good about it. This is a spectacular opportunity to have a very good horse like this for this race and I think he has a great chance to win the race.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Gran Omero.
Panama figures to be well represented with three starters in the Clasico del Caribe – Senor Concerto, who is rated fourth at 6-1 in the morning line, Turpin Time and Fix.
Senor Concerto will ride a five-race winning streak into the Clasico del Caribe. Turpin Time has won two of his three career starts, finishing a close second to Senor Concerto in his only loss in the Carlos y Fernando Eleta Almaran (G2). Fix finished third in that race.
Luis Saez has the mount on Senor Concerto, while Jose Lezcano is slated to ride Turpin Time. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call on Fix.
Trainer Alberto 'Droopy' Paz Rodriguez, who saddled Fray Angelico for a second-place finish behind Jala Jala in the 2017 Clasico del Caribe, is hopeful that Fix will demonstrate considerable improvement Sunday.
“He's a nice colt. He gave me trouble. The first leg of the Triple Crown he lost by a half-length. He didn't change leads. We changed the rider and the same thing happened in the second leg. In the last race, we changed the rider and he did it again. He didn't change leads. He got between horses and wouldn't keep going,” Rodriguez said. “We've changed equipment. We changed the bridle. We put blinkers on him. We've been working with him between four and five horses, and he seems to be doing good. He's a nice horse.”
Puerto Rico will be represented by undefeated Papa Candelo, a gray son of Hockenheim won has won his four career races by a combined 49 ¾ lengths.
“His last two races were stakes races in Puerto Rico. The last two races were the same distance he's going to run here in the Caribbean stakes,” trainer Jose Dan Velez said. “He likes to run in front all the time. Sometimes he can be in the middle with horses but his best races are when he's a front-runner.”
Juan Carlos Diaz, Puerto Rico's all-time great, has the return call.
Jamaica will be represented in the Clasico del Caribe for the first time in more than a decade by not one but two Jamaican-bred horses, both Triple Crown Champions.
Supreme Soul is the 2019 Triple Crown champion in Jamaica,
“If we were to win here, oh that would be huge,” trainer Anthony Nunes said. “We're hoping we'll just run well and represent our country well, and everything is a bonus after that.”
Juice Man traveled from Jamaica to Trinidad to become a Triple Crown champion.
“The reason why I have come here with Juice Man is because I believe he's a really good horse,” trainer Glenn Mendez said. “He's a tough horse. He's mentally a tough horse, and you need that kind of horse for a race like this.”
Doctor Sotelo and The Brother Slew will join Gran Omero in representing Venezuela.
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