Horses manage to triple his pleasure
Trainer Navarro counts 3 winners at Gulfstream claims races
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
Trainer Jorge Navarro, left, and jockey Chris Landeros both collected three victories Saturday at Gulfstream's Claiming Crown Day.