Horses man­age to triple his plea­sure

Trainer Navarro counts 3 win­ners at Gulf­stream claims races

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Sports - By Tom Jicha Cor­re­spon­dent

HAL­LAN­DALE BEACH — Jorge Navarro ar­guably plays the claim­ing game bet­ter than any other trainer in Amer­ica. So it was ap­pro­pri­ate that his horses dom­i­nated the Claim­ing Crown on Satur­day at Gulf­stream Park.

Navarro trainees won three of the nine stakes, in­clud­ing the nom­i­nal fea­ture, the $200,000 Jewel, with Aztec Sense, the horse’s eighth win in a row.

“I told my wife this morn­ing that if we could win one, it would be a touch­down,” Navarro said. “To win three is amaz­ing.”

Aztec Sense, a 3-2 fa­vorite with Emisael Jaramillo, has been with Navarro through­out the streak. The trainer’s other win­ners were more il­lus­tra­tive of his spe­cialty: claim­ing horses and im­prov­ing them. Armed with mostly lower-cal­iber horses, Navarro has fin­ished sec­ond in to­tal wins be­hind Todd Pletcher’s herd of classy horses dur­ing the past three Gulf­stream premier meet­ings.

From a bet­tors stand­point, the high spot of Navarro’s day came as his horses ran one-two in the Iron Horse. Salsa’s Re­turn, a 16-1 shot rid­den by Al­bin Jiminez, ran down 22-1 Donji in the fi­nal strides. The sta­ble ex­acta re­turned $523.60.

Two races later, Navarro struck again with a long shot. Chris Lan­deros got Miss­chief Maas to slip be­tween horses late at 14-1 to cap­ture the Glass Slip­per. Navarro just missed an­other sta­ble ex­acta as Star­ship Reina, who had led most of the way, tired late to fin­ish third.

Navarro also had a first and a third in the Jewel. His Zulu got up for third, be­hind run­ner-up Rich Daddy.

Lan­deros was the rid­ing star of the day with a triple. He also rode Rocket Heat to vic­tory in the Can­ter­bury Stakes and took the meet opener, a maiden race, with So­lar Kit­ten.

Jiminez had a dou­ble. He also won the Rapid Tran­sit with odds-on fa­vorite Uno Mas Mon­delo, who had to over­come a tardy start.

Af­ter leap­ing in the air at the break and fall­ing back to last, Jiminez got Uno Mas Mon­delo to gather her­self then pick off horses grad­u­ally. She fi­nally nailed front-run­ning Mag­ni­fier, an­other from the Navarro barn, in the clos­ing strides.

In other Claim­ing Crown races, Peru, who was ahead of only two the 12 horses at the top of the stretch, un­leashed a fu­ri­ous rally un­der Julien Leparoux to win the Tiara go­ing away. Peru is owned by Ken Ram­sey and trained by Mike Maker, who have 16 and 17 Claim­ing Crown wins, re­spec­tively, each all­time highs.

Ap­peal­ing Fu­ture, rid­den by Nik Juarez, led down the back­stretch, slipped back to fourth go­ing to the turn and then ral­lied again to take the Ex­press. Ox­ford Comma du­eled with 4-5 fa­vorite Blue Bahia through scorch­ing frac­tions and appeared to be drop­ping off the pace, but Miguel Vasquez got her to come on again to take the Distaff Dash.

Horses who made their last start at 21 dif­fer­ent tracks showed up for the nine Claim­ing Crown races. In­ter­est­ingly, the only win­ner whose most re­cent start was in South Florida was Un­cle B, who pro­duced the big­gest price of the day when he scored in the Emer­ald at 36-1 un­der Ri­cardo San­tana Jr.

The Claim­ing Crown made a case that fans pre­fer quan­tity over qual­ity. With no real stakes horses but full fields in al­most ev­ery race, bet­tors wa­gered a record $13.612 mil­lion, up 14 per­cent over last year’s $11.925 mil­lion, which was the record han­dle for open­ing day.

“I told my wife this morn­ing that if we could win one, it would be a touch­down. To win three is amaz­ing.” —Jorge Navarro

GULF­STREAM/COURTESY

Trainer Jorge Navarro, left, and jockey Chris Lan­deros both col­lected three vic­to­ries Satur­day at Gulf­stream's Claim­ing Crown Day.

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