Welcome to another edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each week in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.
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This week’s story involves a year that now features six crowns.
This year also produced two Triple Crown winners racing on American shores, but with an asterisk.
In the spring, it was Justify who took the sport by storm. Then on Saturday, another Triple Crown winner broke from the starting gate at Gulfstream Park, though this one falls into a different category than Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Justify.
Who we are talking about is Kukulkan, the winner of the Mexican Triple Crown who was the star of the show Saturday in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe at Gulfstream.
The Clasico was the main event among the five races in the $600,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe that showcased top horses from Latin America and the Caribbean and gave horsemen and fans of racing in that part of the world an opportunity to celebrate and salute their champions in front of an American audience.
At time when international racing is becoming more popular in the United States, the Clasico Internacional del Caribe is a perfect fit for Gulfstream and was an entertaining option for racing fans across the country as the year winds to an end.
While Kukulkan might not be on the same level as the top American 3-year-olds, no one can scoff at his record.
The Clasico was his 14th race and his 14th victory, a perfect record that is impressive in any locale. Beyond that, he won by an equally impressive 10 ¼ lengths while giving trainer Fausto Gutierrez back-to-back wins in the Clasico after Jala Jala’s victory a year ago.
“This is like a dream because this horse has a lot of quality. We spoke a few days ago about the capacity he has. This horse has a lot of stamina and he won very easy today. He ran not in his normal style or as he has before. (Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) took him and relaxed and relaxed and when he decided to go, the horse went easily,” Gutierrez said. “He’s a very professional horse, his attitude in the paddock and with everyone in the stands. He’s a real racehorse. To make history and win two back to back with these horses is a dream.”
Aside from the festive mood at Gulfstream, the Clasico Internacional del Caribe proved to be a hit with handicappers. A total of $9.617 million was wagered on the program, an increase of 9 percent over the 2017 total of $8.822 million.
“Once again, the atmosphere surrounding Clasico was incredible,” said Gulfstream General Manager Bill Badgett. “There was such a great energy surrounding the races and the entertainment. We witnessed great performances on the track and saw what incredible and passionate fans this sport has around the world. We look forward to seeing our friends again from the Confederation of Caribbean Racetracks.”
Realistically, the undefeated Triple Crown winner Kukulkan will not bump the memory of undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify from the minds of American horse racing fans. Yet after seeing all of the love for the sport that was on display Saturday at Gulfstream, it can be safely said that racing can be a “world” of fun.
The Also-Eligible List
Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry: