by Gulfstream Park Press Release
December 8, 2017
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – More than eight years after a mid-summer spill cut short a riding career that saw him win nearly 3,600 races including some of the biggest in the U.S. and abroad, Rene Douglas doesn’t reflect much on his past accomplishments.
Instead the 50-year-old native of Panama City, Panama is focused on the future, both when it comes to his health and his horses.
Canadian classic winner Coltimus Prime will represent Douglas in Saturday’s Copa Invitacional del Caribe at Gulfstream Park, one of five stakes that comprise the Clasico Invitacional del Caribe, the premier Thoroughbred event in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Gulfstream will become the first pari-mutuel facility in North America to host the Clasico Internacional del Caribe since its inception in 1966. The event brings together horses, horsemen and fans from six countries – Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
Douglas lives in the neighboring city of Aventura, Fla. and was hopeful of having a horse qualify for the international festival once The Confederation of Caribbean Racetracks in July unanimously approved Gulfstream as its host.
“It’s cool we are able to participate in one of those races. It’s exciting. I can’t wait. Gulfstream has a chance to do it this year and I think it’s very good for racing, not only for Latin America but also here. It’s nice, the first time ever,” Douglas said. “I can’t wait for Saturday to see what happens. Just to participate is going to be fun.
“For the Latin people this day is so special for them. It’s like the Kentucky Derby,” he added. “They all compete through the year just to qualify for the day and it’s not easy. And, it’s hard to win. You’re competing with different countries. And for a jockey, too, we all rode in those races. Riding those races is something big, not only for you but your country, too. You’re representing your country. It’s like going to the Olympics.”
Coltimus Prime earned his way to the Copa Invitacional by winning the Presidente de la Republica (G1) June 4 at Hipodromo Presidente Remon racetrack – the biggest race in Panama. He has run second and third in two of three races , and returns to the U.S. for the first time since finishing fifth in a pair of races during Gulftream’s 2016-17 Championship Meet, after which Douglas bought him.
“The first time I rode in it, I won it. I thought it would be a great idea to try and win it as an owner. I sent him to Panama and thank God luck was on my side and we were able to win the race,” Douglas said. “That race is a mile and a quarter, the same thing as the race here. The idea was to send him there for the big race in Panama and win it if I can and then qualify here for this race in Gulfstream. I thought he had the class and I think he was the right horse for Panama for that distance. He did it, and hopefully we can do it again at Gulfstream.”
Winner of the 2014 Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, Coltimus Prime drew Post 8 in the field of 10 3-year-olds and up and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. The gelding is a son of Milwaukee Brew, a two-time Grade 1 winner at 1 ¼ miles and himself the son of Wild Again, the inaugural winner of the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
“I think he’s got a good chance to win the race. It’s not an easy race. Remember you have to face different horses now from different countries. It’s a little different from Panama when you know who you’re facing,” Douglas said. “So far he’s doing good and I think he’s going to run a good race. Hopefully he wins it.”
Douglas also finds himself doing much better these days, having transitioned from being a successful rider to a bloodstock agent and owner following the August 2009 spill that left him paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair. He has undergone several stem cell treatments with the hope of restoring movement in his body.
From 1983-2009, Douglas won 3,587 races and more than $102 million in purses, including the 1996 Belmont Stakes (G1) with Editor’s Note and the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) with Dreaming of Anna. He won riding titles in both Chicago and Florida and owns several graded victories at Gulfstream, the last coming in the Mr. Prospector (G3) and The Very One (G3) in 2008.
One of the first horses he owned was Golden Moka, who captured the 2010 Prince of Wales in his first start for Douglas. He was followed by multiple Grade 1 winner Private Zone, also campaigned in the name of Good Friends Stable.
“I’m not going to lie to you, after my accident I was down. The first few years were very hard for me. I didn’t even want to think about horses,” Douglas said. “I put a group together, a really god friend of mine from Chicago, and we purchased Golden Moka. Brian Lynch trained the horse, he’s a good friend of mine, and the first time he ran for us he won big race at Fort Erie.
“After that I purchased Private Zone. He had one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. He’s got such a big heart. He made almost $3 million,” he added. “So, that kept me going and really made me happier. Going from doing nothing, it really made me feel like I’m back again.”
Douglas still generally stays away from the track, but remains connected with racing both through his new vocation and the regular well-wishes he receives from fans and horsemen. He did make the trip to Panama to watch Coltimus Prime win its signature race.
“It’s not like when I was riding and you have to go there every day and compete. I don’t have the horses to compete every day so I don’t really go. I think if I go there and watch, I like to see my friends ride and all that, but that would make me really want to ride again,” Douglas said. “Watching races too much will probably get me to think too much. People ask me, ‘Do you watch racing?’ It’s not that I don’t want to watch, but when I watch it makes me want to go back and ride again.
“It’s hard for me. I like to see my old friends and I’m happy for them but I also want to compete with them. I was very competitive. I feel like just jumping back on a horse and ride. I miss riding with my friends in all those big races,” he added. “So many people are wishing me the best and I really appreciate it. I know there are people that ask for me a lot and they all say good things about me and it’s nice. It makes me feel very good.”
Saturday’s Clasico Internacional a Magnet for Top U.S. Riders
The $600,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe will be held outside the Caribbean and Latin America for the first time Saturday, when the annual event’s five stakes, highlighted by the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe presented by Fasig-Tipton for 3-year-olds, will be run at Gulfstream Park.
Celebrated for the first time in the U. S., the Clasico Internacional del Caribe has predictably become a magnet for several major U.S. riding stars, attracting the likes of Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Irad Ortiz Jr., Luis Saez, Joel Rosario and Manuel Franco, not to mention Emisael Jaramillo, the Gulfstream-based rider who has ridden five winners of the Clasico del Caribe.
All are especially excited to participate in Saturday’s five-race event, which headlines an all-stakes 11-race program that also offers six stakes for 2-year-olds, because they grew up in countries in the nine-member Clasico Internacional del Caribe confederation.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” Castellano said. “I think it’s a great event. I’m looking forward to it.”
Castellano and Jaramillo hail from Venezuela; Velazquez, Ortiz Jr., and Franco are natives of Puerto Rico; Luis Saez grew up in Panama; and Joel Rosario was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Castellano and Ortiz Jr. are both named to ride in all five Clasico Internacional del Caribe races. Hall of Famer Castellano is slated to ride Mexico entrant Inspirato in the Clasico del Caribe. Ortiz Jr., who is scheduled to ride 3-1 morning-line favorite Igor in the Copa Confraternidad del Caribe, is named on Jala Jala, a Mexico filly, in the 1 1/8-mile main event.
Velazquez, Saez, Franco and Jaramillo have accepted mounts in four races. In the Clasico del Caribe, Hall of Famer Velazquez is scheduled to ride Venezuela entrant La De Horacio; Saez has the mount aboard Panama entrant Fray Angelico; Franco has the call on Mexico entrant Joyme; and Jaramillo will seek his sixth win aboard Venezuela entrant El Cubita, the 3-1 morning-line favorite.
Rosario is scheduled to ride in two stakes and will seek his second Clasico del Caribe triumph aboard Dominican Republic entrant Immenso. Rosario rode Dominican Republic’s Sicotico for a hometown victory in the 2008 Clasico del Caribe.