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Handicapping the Clasico del Caribe + My Picks

by Dustin Fabian

December 7, 2017

Bragging rights are on the line this Saturday at Gulfstream Park as the top horses in Latin America and the Caribbean compete in the Clasico del Caribe (Caribbean Classic), a series of five races worth more than $600K. This is the Clasico’s first trip to the United States, and this is the first time a North American pari-mutuel facility will host this prestigious event. Horses representing Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic will compete in this year’s Classic.

The day’s marquee race, the $300K Clásico Internacional del Caribe (Caribbean Derby) has been contested since 1966. This year’s Derby field includes a pair of Triple Crown winners, Justicero representing Puerto Rico, and Immenso representing the Dominican Republic.

The Caribbean Classic races races go as Races 7 – 11 Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Here are my previews and best bets of each of the five races.

Dama del Caribe Stakes (Gr I)

Race 7 (2:39PM ET)

Purse: $124,000

Track/Distance: 1 1/16 Miles on the Dirt

Defending Champion: Linda Lola (Puerto Rico)

Gulfstream Park Preview: Dama del Caribe

Horses to Know:

  • Esplendorosa (PR): Rides a 4-race win streak into this race; has won 13-of-18 lifetime.
  • Lady Valery (PAN): Had a 7-race win streak snapped in her last race, her first start since July.
  • Jaguaryu (MEX): Has won three of her last four, including two straight by a combined 16 ½-lengths.

Race Notes: Race is restricted to 3YO Fillies … Esplendorosa (2-2-0-0), Lady Valery (3-3-0-0) and Jaguaryu (3-2-1-0) are a combined 8-7-1-0 at today’s 1 1/16-mile distance … Lady Valery was a late-running 3rd last out behind Derby contender Fray Angelico in a G2 race on October 15 … During Lady Valery’s 7-race win streak, she won races by a combined 35 ½-lengths … Panama’s Alberto Paz-Rodriguez has two entrants, Crown Roses and Cigona … Rodriguez won this race in 2015 with Vicki … Venezuela has won 4-of-7 editions of this race since 2010, followed by Panama (2) and Puerto Rico (1) … Raymond Morales trained duo of Platino (Derby) and Sanjuanera (Dama) worked a bullet 4f in :47.12 on December 4 at Gulfstream Park (best of 49).

Best Bet: #4 Lady Valery (PAN) - 8/5

Best Longshot: #9 Cigona (PAN) - 8/1


Copa Confradternidad Stakes (Gr I)

Race 8 (3:09PM ET)

Purse: $100,000

Track/Distance: 1 1/4 Miles on the Dirt

Defending Champion: Arquitecto (PR)

Gulfstream Park Preview: Copa Confradternidad

Horses to Know:

  • El Tigre Mono (PAN): 2016 Caribbean Derby winner; has won 9-of-19 races lifetime.
  • Arquitecto (PR): Defending champion; has won 2-straight races and 27-of-44 lifetime.
  • Igor (MEX): Has won three straight and is 5-of-8 in 2017; Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride.

Race Notes: The only of the five Clasico races to feature its defending champion (Arquitecto) … Race also attracted 2015 champion, Don Carlos R, who finished 3rd last year … Defending champions will compete against 2016 Caribbean Derby winner, El Tigre Mono … Mexico’s Igor shocked heavily-favored countrrymate, Huitlacoche, last out by 8 ¾-lengths in the Clasico Otono at Mexico’s Hipodromo de las Americas … Huitlacoche won the Mexican Triple Crown in 2015 … Puerto Rico has won two of the last three editions of the race … Don Carlos R is 4-for-8 at the distance and has won 3-of-4.

Best Bet: #1 Arquitecto (PR) - 6/1

Best Longshot: #6 Huitlacoche (MEX) - 9/2


Copa Velocidad Stakes (Gr I)

Race 9 (3:39PM ET)

Purse: $114,200

Track/Distance: 6 Furlongs on the Dirt

Defending Champion: Hombre con Fe (PAN)

Horses to Know:

  • Crotone (VEN): Has won three of his last four and headlines a potent Venezuelan trio.
  • Forze Mau (VEN): Is 2-for-2 lifetime with victories by a combined 11-lengths; won a G1 last out.
  • Blue Adn (PAN): Has finished in Top 3 in five of last six races shorter than one-mile.
  • Atenea (ECU): Based in South Florida with trainer Luis Duco.

Race Notes: The only Sprint race of the Caribbean Classic series … Venezuela appears loaded with three representatives that are a combined 10-6-2-0 this year … Panama has won the last two editions of this race … Mexican entrant, Justiciero, should not be confused with the similarly-named Caribbean Derby entrant … Ecuadorian representative, Atenea, has raced at Gulfstream six times, compiling a 6-0-0-1 record … Average margin of victory for Crotone’s last three wins is 7 ¾-lengths … Trainer Luis Paz-Rodriguez (Blue Adn) won this race in 2015 with Bella Vecina … Trainer Ernesto Ochoa (Master Supreme) won this race in 2010 with Soy Leyenda … Atenea is the lone filly in the field.

Best Bet: Crotone (VEN) - 6/5

Best Longshot: Jota Jota (MEX) - 20/1


Copa Invitacional Stakes (Gr I)

Race 10 (4:09PM ET)

Purse: $91,200

Track/Distance: 1 1/4 Miles on the Dirt

Defending Champion: Salustio (PAN)

Gulfstream Park Preview: Copa Invitacional

Horses to Know:

  • Coltimus Prime (PAN): Canadian-bred won the 2015 Prince of Wales S. at Fort Erie.
  • Mishegas (PR): Has raced primarily in the US; won G1 race in Puerto Rico in July.
  • Quite the Issue (DR): Won the G1 Clasico Dia del Fanatico last out in the Dominican Republic.
  • El Kurdo (ECU): Brings a 4-race win streak into this race and has been with Chad Summers for weeks.

Race Notes: Weird to see this race without Salustio, who won in 2013, 2015 and 2016 … Horses representing Panama have won 6-of-7 editions since 2010 … Mishegas (2nd), Jade Master (6th) and Golden Diamond (7th) all prepped in the same starter allowance race at Gulfstream Park West on November 5 … Just 3-of-10 horses enter this race off a victory … Mishegas was 4th behind Accelerate in the G2 Los Alamitos Derby last September and has won races at Belmont, Santa Anita, Oaklawn and Los Alamitos … Quite the Issue worked a bullet 4f (best of 27) in :47.02 at Gulfstream Park on November 30.

Best Bet: #3 Mishegas (PR) - 3/5

Best Longshot: #9 Quite the Issue (DR) - 20/1


Clasico Internacional del Caribe Stakes (Gr I)

Race 11 (4:45PM ET)

Purse: $300,000

Track/Distance: 1 1/8 Miles on the Dirt

Defending Champion: El Tigre Mono (PAN)

Gulfstream Park Preview: Clasico Internacional del Caribe

Horses to Know:

  • Justicero (PR): Puerto Rican Triple Crown winner; is 8-for-13 lifetime with five straight wins.
  • Immenso (DR): Dominican Republic Triple Crown winner; has won 10-of-14 lifetime.
  • Fray Angelico (PAN): Trainer, Alberto Paz Rodriguez, is seeking his 4th Caribbean Derby victory.
  • El Cubita (VEN): Somewhat surprising ML favorite despite 3-straight losses and 1-for-4 lifetime mark.

Race Notes: Race is restricted to 3YO’s … Three fillies will compete – Mexico’s Jala Jala and Joyme and Venezuela’s La De Horacio … US-based jockeys are well represented among the entries, with Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Manny Franco, Luis Saez, Tyler Gaffalione, Joel Rosario, John Velazquez, Edgard Zayas and Emisael Jaramillo set to ride … US-based riders have won this race six times since 2000, led by Cornelio Velasquez (3x) and Joel Rosario and Jose Lezcano (one each) … Panama leads all nations with 15 Derby victories, followed by Venezuela (13), Mexico (10), Puerto Rico (8), Colombia (1) and the Dominican Republic (1) … Alberto Paz-Rodriguez (Fray Angelico) is the only trainers in the race to have won this race previously (1974, 1992, 2015) … Rodriquez has won nine Caribbean Classic series races throughout his illustrious career … Jockey Emisael Jaramillo (El Cubita) has won 14 Caribbean Classic races during his career, including the Derby five times (2000, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) … Raymond Morales trained duo of Platino (Derby) and Sanjuanera (Dama) worked a bullet 4f in :47.12 on December 4 at Gulfstream Park (best of 49).

Best Bet: #7 Justiciero (PR) - 7/2

Best Longshot: #1 Platino (PR) - 20/1


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