The Brother Slew Gives Venezuela Clasico del Caribe Win
The Brother Slew, a 45-1 longshot ridden by Paco Lopez, prevented a sweep by Mexico of the five Clasico Internacional del Caribe stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 8, scoring an upset victory for Venezuela in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe.
“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 Miami and Gulfstream Park and win here, it’s a dream come true.”
The Clasico del Caribe, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds, was the grand finale of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe program for horses representing Caribbean and Latin American countries. The program hosted by Gulfstream for the third consecutive year drew a large crowd, including many fans of the seven represented countries who waved flags rooting for their horses.
The Brother Slew ($92.80) gained prime stalking position along the rail behind Puerto Rico’s pacesetter Papa Candelo, who set fractions of :23.96 and :48.14. The Venezuela-bred son of Slew’s Tizzy continued to track Papa Candelo into the homestretch before being eased to the outside for the stretch run. Brother Slew opened a clear lead in midstretch but was under a drive to withstand an inside bid by Gran Omero, another Venezuelan representative, ridden by Javier Castellano.
“What an amazing feeling this is. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity,” Lopez said. “This was a longshot, but I really love this horse, and when I went to the paddock with no pony, my horse felt very comfortable and very happy jumping around. I didn’t know if I’d win, but I knew we’d be 1, 2, (or) 3. I waited and my horse was looking around a little bit, because there were a lot of people, but my horse ran very big.”
Castellano, whose horse brushed the inside rail nearing the finish line, claimed foul against the winner, and the stewards posted the inquiry sign. The Brother Slew, who finished a length ahead of Gran Omero, was subsequently declared the official winner.
“I (wasn’t worried) about the inquiry,” Valery said. “Either way, winning or finishing second, for me it was a big win.”
The Brother Slew finished in 1:51.76 on a fast track for his second win in seven starts. Gran Omero finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Panama’s Turpin Time.
Kukulkan Strong in Gulfstream Return
Cuadra San Jorge’s Kukulkan was a popular and powerful winner in his Gulfstream return, getting a well-timed ride from Irad Ortiz Jr. and dominating four rivals with a six-length victory in the $98,000 Copa Confraternidad del Caribe.
Trained by Fausto Gutierrez and sent off as the 1-10 favorite, Kukulkan was wrapped up by Ortiz inside the eighth pole and hit the wire in 2:04.19 for his 16th victory and the fourth of the afternoon for Ortiz.
Kukulkan joined former stablemate Jala Jala in winning the Copa Confraternidad and Clasico del Caribe in back-to-back years. Mexico’s Triple Crown winner of 2018 who went undefeated in his first 14 starts, Kukulkan captured last year’s Clasico by 10 1/4 lengths.
Ortiz, the reigning Eclipse Award winner from Puerto Rico, also rode Jala Jala to her wins in the 2017 Clasico and 2018 Confraternidad.
“He’s such a nice horse,” Ortiz said of Kukulkan. “He’s got so much talent. It’s so special to get to ride him.”
Kukulkan’s first defeat came in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) in January. The 4-year-old Point Determined colt rebounded to win an allowance at Churchill Downs and finish second in the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3) at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort two starts later.
Gutierrez was proud of Kukulkan’s effort and hinted a return to graded competition is in the cards for his stable star.
“I think it was an obligation to run in this race here. I think he will run in another level here, back with the strong group. We will stay here and run in the stronger races,” Gutierrez said. “At this level, he is a champion of these horses. If we are being honest, the competition was not tough for him. We have to plan to run here in a good race, maybe a (grade) 3.”
Ortiz has won seven of the 15 Clasico Internacional del Caribe races contested at Gulfstream Park, including the 2017 and 2018 Clasico del Caribe.
“I just have the support from the owners and trainers; you can see I ride for Mexico and I’m from Puerto Rico. I get a lot of support from all of them—Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama—and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me,” Ortiz said. “Doing well on a day like today means so much. All of my people are here, and they go crazy when they see me, so I’m just enjoying the moment.”
Mexico Sweeps Undercard Stakes
Rancho La Soledad’s Genubi Asquifar ($11) gave Mexico its second straight winner to open the Clasico program. Ridden by Lopez, Genubi Asquifar reeled in Dominican Republic pacesetter Best Trebol and drew away in the $86,500 Copa Dama del Caribe for 3-year-old fillies. She completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.35.
Cuadra San Jorge’s undefeated filly Letruska made it a Mexican hat trick in the $85,000 Copa Invitacional del Caribe for 3-year-olds and up, going gate-to-wire to beat the boys and earn her seventh consecutive victory, this one under Gulfstream regular Emisael Jaramillo. A sophomore daughter of Super Saver also trained by Gutierrez, Letruska ($5.20) had plenty left to withstand late runs from Bravo Ignacio and Celandine. She completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.01. It was the first race for Letruska since her second straight group 1 victory in Mexico July 20 and her first win over older males, though she beat older females in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance in April.
Rancho Pozo De Luna’s Sacamandu, at 32-1 the longest shot in the field, gave Mexico a clean sweep of the undercard stakes with a frontrunning score in the $115,000 Copa Velocidad del Caribe for 3-year-olds. Ridden by Luis Contreras for trainer Ariel Ruiz, Sacamandu ($67) ran six furlongs in 1:10.41.