Tormenta de Oro pulled a 44-1 upset in Saturday's $110,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper on the Opening Day program of Gulfstream Park's Championship Meet, surprising virtually everyone except owner/trainer Patrick Marcondes.
“I was super confident. She breezed (Tuesday) in 45-and-4 (seconds for a half-mile) and galloped out (six-furlongs) in 1:12. She was ready to win a stake. I knew it,” Marcondes said. “I had a good feeling.”
Tormenta de Oro, who won for the second time in four starts since being claimed for $6,250 at Gulfstream Aug. 26, provided her owner/trainer with his first career stakes win while prevailing by a neck in the mile race for fillies and mares that have raced for a claiming price of $8,000 or lower.
The 4-year-old daughter of Benny the Bull saved ground under jockey Luca Panici along the backstretch and far turn as Too Clever by Half and Concealedwithakiss contested the early pace. Concealedwithakiss shook off the tiring Too Clever by Half and opened up a clear lead at the top of the stretch while several contenders looming ominously behind her. Panici found a hole in mid-stretch, and Tormenta de Oro rushed through the opening to outfinish Esken Lady to her outside to prevail over 13 rivals.
“I had a perfect trip. I could save ground, and this filly, the last time, ran huge against Esken Lady and Arella Princess, and they were both favorites in the race,” said Panici, who had finished second behind Esken Lady and ahead of Arella Princess in a starter allowance Nov. 6. “I was pretty confident. I was able to save ground and when she got between horses, she had more heart. She ran huge.”
Amaluna surged from far back to finish third, a neck behind Esken Lady, and a half-length ahead of Arella Princess.
Tormenta de Oro ran the mile in 1:38.53 to claim her seventh win and by far her most significant triumph in 33 career starts.
Marcondes, who moved with his family from Brazil in 1995, interrupted his racing career to study for a civil engineering degree at Barry University but always wanted to train Thoroughbreds.
“I worked for a few guys here and then stopped for college. I came back and quit everything. I said, 'This is going to be my profession,'” said Marcondes, who was winless with 10 starters in 2015 in his first year of training before scoring with six of his 51 starters this year.
The nine-race $1.1 million Claiming Crown was kicked off in the third race with Spectacular Me's 1 3/4-length victory in the $110,000 Distaff Dash, a five-furlong turf event for fillies and mare who have run for a claiming price of $25,000 or lower.
Under a well-timed, ground-saving ride by Jose Ortiz, The 6-year-old daughter of Catienus ($5.80) was well-positioned along the inside into the turn before being eased into the three-path at the top of the stretch. Ortiz waited patiently behind a wall of horses before finding a hole in mid-stretch, and Steve Klesaris-trained Spectacular Me charged through the opening and romped to a commanding triumph.
“I really had no instructions. I talked to Steve last Tuesday at Parx when I saw him there. He told me that I know the filly well and to ride her with confidence and that she is ready,” said the Aqueduct-based Ortiz, who currently leads the nation with 334 victories for 2016.
Spectacular Me, who was claimed for $25,000 out of a winning effort at Belmont on April 29.2015 by Winning Move Stable, ran five furlongs on turf in 56.91 seconds. Pacesetter My Sister Caro finished second under Antonio, three-quarters of a length ahead of Lady Coventry and jockey Corey Lanerie.
Shaft of Light picked up the pace in the fourth race while registering a thoroughly brilliant front-running score in the $110,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong event for horses that raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or lower. Trained by Jorge Navarro for Monster Racing Stables, the son of Smart Strike took command out of the starting gate, posting fractions of 24.59 (seconds), 44.81 and 1:08.79 for the first six furlongs and finishing out the seven-furlongs in 1:21.84.
“My horse had a hard campaign for the summer and we backed off running him because of this race. This is a nice horse. I've always thought he was a nice horse,” Navarro said. “He had some issues and we worked on him, and he came around. He was training really good in the morning.”
Ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, the 7-5 favorite finished 6 ¾ lengths ahead of Flashy Jewel, who was 2 ½ lengths clear of Day of Fury.
“The main focus was to break well and we had to be on the lead. That's the way I wanted to ride him and the way the trainer told me to ride,” Jaramillo said. “The fractions were fast but he was going very easy and was very comfortable on the lead, and when he called on him at the eighth pole, he exploded. The faster the better.”
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