King Carlos Juan takes Copa

Jaramillo beats Elizee to the wire by a neck to win the Dama del Caribe. Ivan Baella/Hipodromo Camarero PR

Puerto Rico has always been the perfect setting for the Caribbean Series festival, and the start of the 2012 edition was no different, under clear skies and a very pleasant 86 degrees, just an ideal day for the most important weekend of racing of the region.

The $53,000, 6-furlong Caribbean Sprint Cup (Copa Velocidad) was the first of the 3 international races of the afternoon. Mexico's Epifanio, a long-striding colt who had the perfect trip his Cuadra San Jorge connections envisioned on the day of the post-position draw, crushed his 5 rivals by almost 10 lengths in the 11th running of the race. They were fortunate enough to pick first, and immediately chose the historically-favoring outside post at 6 furlongs at Camarero Racetrack; however, judging by the winning margin and how the colt showed absolute superiority, the post position probably made no difference in the ample victory by the son of Try N Express (Marquetry -- Virtue Express by Lost Code) a sire with 82% winners from 66 starters. Epifanio was both the first stakes winner for his sire and for Cuadra San Jorge in the series.

Epifanio tracked early leaders Hay Que Creer (PAN) & Garbosa (PR) from third until leading Mexican rider Elvin Gonzalez decided it was time to step on the gas at the quarter pole, to pull away from late-closing Mi Sofy (PAN), the beaten favorite that had a stutter-step start from the inside post. It was Mexico's 2nd win in the race, after having won it in stakes-record time with Walking Proud (1:09'4) in 2006.

The $76,000 Dama del Caribe (Distaff) had thirteen 3 year-old fillies in the gate, but only one 9-time winner of Caribbean Series races: Venezuelan jockey Emisael Jaramillo, aboard 2-1 Guasca (Slaytheodds -- Cryptoroad by Cryptoclearance), a Venezuelan filly with just a maiden and an allowance win from 9 starts, irrefutable signs that it was being enthusiastically bet because of Jaramillo's dominance in the event. Jaramillo went on to deliver in style, as his ground-saving trip proved to be the difference in the filly's victory by a neck over Elizee (MEX), and by a half-length over favored Panamanian filly Dicky's Angel. It was the third lifetime win for trainer Oscar González in the series, the first for the Del Sar-My Beauty Stable, and Venezuela's 2nd victory in the race, which they had previously captured with American Woman in 2010. The winning time was 1:48:57 for the 1,700 mts.

The most important race of the afternoon was the 29th edition of the $100,000 Copa Confraternidad, at the classic 10-furlong distance for 3 year-olds an over, a race that Venezuela had won 8 out of the last 10 runnings. It was supposed to be redemption
race for Veritas, Mexico's champ that had been scratched because of colic, as the morning line favorite for the 2011 Clasico del Caribe in Panama. However, the fact that Veritas had never ran 10 furlongs, and only had two races to his credit in the last 6 months, proved to be obstacles the horse could not overcome, finishing 4th behind Full House Stud's King Carlos Juan (VEN), a son of Shaniko (A.P.Indy) out of a mare by Tactical Advantage, that had won the $150,000 Propietarios La Rinconada Stakes in front-running style in August, the same gutsy style he used to wire the field in 2:08 for the distance. It was the 2nd win in the race for jockey Juan Carlos Rodriguez, but the first one for Carlos Arteaga, a fellow TV and track announcer turned horse trainer a couple of decades ago.

Keeneland Sales was a main sponsor of the afternoon activities; it's Sales Director, Mr. Tom Thornsbury, was a special on-track guest who delivered the Dama Del Caribe's trophy to Ms. Maria Gutierrez, wife of winning Mexican trainer Fausto Gutiérrez. The Copa Confraternidad was run in Mr. Alejandro Fuentes' honor, who has been a driving force in the industry serving as Camarero Racetrack VP's and the island's delegate to the Confederation, a fraternity that enjoyed a delicious appetizer before tomorrow's main course, the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe.