By Blood Horse
Mexico’s Triple Crown champion Kukulkan remained unbeaten in 14 starts when he threw down a 10 1/4-length victory Dec. 8 in the $300,000 Caribbean Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park, providing jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. with his third winner in the five-race Clasico Internacional del Caribe.
The Caribbean Classic, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds, brought down the curtain on a festive event for horses based in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ortiz, who rode three winners during last year’s event, repeated the achievement Saturday with victories aboard Kukulkan, Puerto Rico’s Mishegas in the Invitational Cup Stakes, and Mexico’s Jala Jala in the Confraternity Caribbean Cup Stakes. Ortiz rode Jala Jala to victory in last year’s Caribbean Classic.
“It’s great. I’m so happy to represent my country and Mexico, too,” said Ortiz, a native of Puerto Rico. “It’s a pleasure to ride these kind of horses.”
Trainer Fausto Gutierrez saddled both Kukulkan and Jala Jala.
“This is like a dream because this horse has a lot of quality,” Gutierrez said of Kukulkan. “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. Irad took him and relaxed and relaxed, and when he decided to go, the horse went easily. 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.”
Ortiz rated Kukulkan fifth along the backstretch as Puerto Rico’s El Salsero set a comfortable pace on fractions of :24.50 and :49.03 for the first half-mile, closely stalked by Panama’s Sol De Orion and Kukulkan’s stablemate Kandinsky. Kukulkan advanced along the backstretch to approach the pacesetters before surging between horses to take the lead on the far turn without being asked by Ortiz. The son of Point Determined romped away to win as he pleased to complete the distance in 1:54.80.
“He’s unbelievable. He’s undefeated in 14 races. Horses like him make you look good,” Ortiz said.