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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach — We truly never experienced anything like this at a racetrack–any racetrack–before. Think South American cultural festival with a little horse racing on the side.

Well, the racing was the reason that brought out all the people, from South Florida to Caracas and beyond. And not to forget the afterparty at the new Gulfstream Park that currently gets a little newer by the day.

“Think South American and Caribbean Breeders’ Cup, or Equine Olympics of the Southern Hemisphere,” offered Roberto Rodriguez of El Potro

That just about gets it–and don’t forget the flags. On that point, think soccer, not horse racing..

The Clasico Internacional if a five race series topped by the Clasico del Caribe, their Breeders’ Cup Classic, won by The Brother Slew from Venezuela which, to that point, could have the termed the “Revenge for Trump,” as Mexico, to that point, swept the first four races.

The Brother Slew, a 45-1 long shot ridden by Paco Lopez, had to survive a foul claim by Javier Castellano aboard Ferragamo. At first, the incident look like mucho ado about nothing, Castellano taking up on the fence jumps from the wire. A clean trip would not have changed the result.

But as often happens, the head-on told an entirely different story. Under strong right handed “cropping,” The Brother Slew bore in about three paths, put Ferragamo in tight before the bump for good measure at the end.

Veteran reporters and officials who watched replays from trackside on the new large video board in the infield all nodded that their inquiry and Castellano’s object would have resulted in a demotion. Handlers of the #2 and #11 circled their horses outside the circle awaiting the result.

Many were stunned when the result remained “as is.” After the kind of year American stewards had had. maybe they didn’t want to DQ a horse in South America’s biggest event.

And what were the Florida stewards to do? Give Lopez another 30 days, the suspension levied late last week?

In any case, a complete sweep by Mexico was avoided and the victory was a popular one based on final odds of 5-2 and the raucous cheers that followed Ferragamo around the walking ring before the field was led to the post.

“This is the best thing that ever happened in my life,” owner/trainer Paul Valery said through an interpreter. “Just the opportunity to win with this horse and come to Gulfstream Park and win here, it’s a dream come true.”

Valery, a large man, lifted Lopez out of the saddle and put him on his shoulder, carrying him around for a bit. Yeah, Valery indeed was having the day of his life.

Good for the owner/trainer and good for the event. Good for fans, too. I bet on Papa Candelo as I had some good inside information on the 15-1 chance that opened 5-2 on the tote’s first flash.

Leading comfortably throughout, looking like a winner at 9-2 tired soon after entering the straight, as if a mile and an eighth was going to be one furlong too far.

I’ll go back, knowing what to expect next time, a little more of the happy raucousness from a huge crowd yesterday, a group that clearly was enjoying the day. It didn’t seem to be about betting at all.

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10 Responses

  1. Almost sounds like Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC. Glad it was fun. Enjoyed watching Kulkulkan (sixteen wins in 20 starts) jog for Mexico. The call on TVG was en Espanol, nice touch. Steward non-call on bomb Paco mount not unlike refs who worked Pats game vs Chiefs. The only difference is their “calls” should have been “non-calls.” A joke. Don’t get me wrong, not shedding any tears for Brady & Co and Boston radio this morning was talking about Bellichek going nuts on sidelines. The zebra situation is intolerable. Bet with your head, not over it.

  2. C,

    It was like Puerto Rican Day Parade in the stands, too, only with about five more countries represented. It was fun! Also, races called in Spanish at GP also. Kulkulkan just loves this racetrack and as you noted, loves to win…

    Announcer Pete just followed up race call with order of finish, prices, changes, and the like. God willing, we will do it again. Don’t know about rest of track, but apron was like Florida Derby day; crazy! Young people; families. South of the border they still love their racing!

  3. So envy you being at that festival loco at GP. Proof positive why most jockeys hail from our neighbors to the south. Kinda like MLB players from Dominican Republic. Big Papi, Manny Ramirez, the list is endless. Why, JP, can’t USA land an American in “winner’s circle” in tennis anymore. Sampras, Connors, Johnny Mac, Andre, Chrissy, just a memory now. My favorite was Jennifer Capriatti. Not a grand slam winner but still awfully good. Best match ever was her vs Monica Seles at US Open. A slugfest. Seles won, barely.

    1. C, All this is best addressed to Marc Lawrence. I do not follow tennis: Racing is a living and my jam. DO appreciate some college hoop, some football, some baseball, and only Masters golf.

  4. C,
    Don’t know. My knee-jerk answer is that these types of things run in cycles as times change.

    Tennis somehow seems like a wealthy kid’s pastime anymore. The easy answer, even with respect to baseball, is that all kids seem to be playing soccer these days…

    Yes, Clasico was fun, different kind of fun. Think that’s what racing tries to achieve; big difference here? Horses still part of South American/Caribbean culture. Not here, sadly.


  5. Saw a women’s D1 soccer game in ’08 between USC and UCLA at Coliseum in LA. Place was nearly empty that night but went anyway because nothing else to do and both teams were near the top of the rankings. From what I witnessed it looked like a tough sport. Sports Illustrated just announced Sports Person of the Year is Meghan Rampino from Team USA. If racing goes away HRI will become SPI, Soccer Players Insider. JP, we had it pretty good in the ’70’s, huh?

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