HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – It is a two hour and 45-minute trip from Caracas, Venezuela to Gulfstream Park, one the owners of Wildcat Red have made seven times in the past six months to see their horse run.
They are back again this week to watch Wildcat Red in the most important start yet of his young career, Saturday’s $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1), Gulfstream’s signature race and one of the most significant preps on the road to the Triple Crown.
Bred in Florida by Moreau Bloodstock International and Winter Racing Enterprise, Wildcat Red has made all six of his lifetime starts at Gulfstream Park. He has four wins, including a maiden victory in his debut last September and capped by back-to-back graded stakes triumphs in the Hutcheson (G3) and Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) 21 days apart.
“He’s definitely a Florida horse,” Martino said. “He’s a horse from Florida and people love him, so this horse is all of Florida’s horse. He’s not just ours; his heart is for Florida.”
Wildcat Red is just the second horse owned by Honors Stable, which bought its first horse, Trippi Honor, in 2012. A 6-year-old mare, Trippi Honor injured her knee last year and is currently on the farm in Ocala.
On Feb. 20, trainer Jose Garoffalo claimed Capriccio Blue for $12,500 on behalf of Honors Stable out of a fifth-place finish at Gulfstream. The 4-year-old stakes-placed With Distinction filly has yet to start for her new connections.
Garoffalo picked Wildcat Red out of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. 2-year-old-in-training sale last March for $30,000. So far, the son of Grade 1-winning sprinter D’wildcat has banked $490,850.
“We didn’t start this as a business or anything. We just did it because we were animal lovers and I always had a passion for horses,” Martino said. “My husband said, ‘Why don’t we get a horse that we could race?’ I was like, ‘Fine, that would be great,’ so we got Trippi Honor. After that I said, ‘I want a male now. Let’s get a male horse.’ We were very lucky with Wildcat Red.
“He’s very, very unique actually,” she said. “He’s got such a personality. He’s got the heart of a winner. He’s amazing. If you ever go to the stable and you go to him, he speaks to you with his eyes. He makes you understand what he wants. He’s incredible. He’s ready to run. He loves to go to the track. He’s just amazing.”
Delfino, 54, imports and distributes wine in his native country, and with his brother also own and operate La Montanara, an Italian restaurant in Aventura. He and his wife, who was born in Montreal, are also involved with animal rescue in Caracas.
“We are animal lovers. I rescue cats, dogs, anything I find,” Martino said. “We’re animal protectors, definitely. We think more of the protection of the animal. The wins come, but if your horse is not healthy and not taken care of and not given love, it’s never going to give you what you want.”
Martino said as Honors Stable expands its roster, Caracas-born Garoffalo will remain their trainer. A graduate of both law school and Venezuela’s trainer academy, Garoffalo moved to the U.S. full-time in 1999.
“If we decide to get more horses, it’s always going to be under Jose’s care,” she said. “He’s one of a kind. He’s great. He’s very honest, and he’s good with the animals. He’s good with them. He feeds them really, really right. He takes excellent care of them.”