Mexico's Jala Jala ran away with a nine-length victory in Saturday's $300,000 Clasico del Caribe presented by Fasig-Tipton at Gulfstream Park, giving jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. three stakes victories in the $600,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe.
The Clasico del Caribe, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, concluded the five-race Clasico Internacional del Caribe that was hosted outside the Caribbean and Latin America for the first time in its 50-year history and highlighted an all-stakes 11-race program.
Jala Jala's stunning win capped a big day for Ortiz Jr., who had won earlier aboard Mexico's Jaguaryu ($12.40) in the $124,000 Copa Dama and Panama's Coltimus Prime ($9) in the $91,000 Copa Invitacional.
“It's been an amazing day winning three races and a dream come true winning the Caribbean Classic. The other two races were so special for me to win these kind of races. It feels like the Breeder's Cup races,” said Ortiz Jr., a native of Puerto Rico who is the leading North America jockey in wins this year. “Everyone from these countries dreams of winning these races and in our country the biggest race for us is this Caribbean Classic. For some people this may not be as big, but for me it's like a Breeder's Cup race.”
Jala Jala ($22.40), one of three fillies in the International Clasico del Caribe field of 12, and Jaguaryu are both owned by Cuadra San Jorge and trained by Fausto Gutierrez.
Jala Jala saved ground under Ortiz Jr. around the first turn and along the backstretch before entering contention on the far turn. The daughter of Point Determined left the rail for the first time to pass tiring pacesetter Platino midway on the turn before swinging wide off the turn in pursuit of Joyme, a filly who is also owned by Cuadra San Jorge and trained by Gutierrez. Jala Jala swept to the lead at the top of the stretch and drew off for an easy win.
Jala Jala ran the 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track in 1:52.14. Panama's Fray Angelico finished second, two lengths ahead of Joyme. Puerto Rico Triple Crown winner Justiciero finished fifth, while Venezuela's El Cubita, the 5-2 favorite, finished ninth.
The Mexico-bred winner had won six of 15 previous starts and had raced exclusively against the boys in Mexico City this year, capturing the Group 1 Esmeralda Stakes in June and a minor stakes last time out.
“I had a big question because she is a filly and the question was how would she go with the speed, but she ran very comfortably,” Gutierrez said. “In the first turn she saved ground well, the other Mexican filly went in front and finally my filly kicked on very fast and is very consistent. We're thrilled.”
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