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February 17, 2018


by Mike Henry
Powerful 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding appears to stamp ticket to $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen, narrowly missing stakes record; Just Be Kind comes from nowhere (well, kind of) to win Minaret.

X Y Jet was already home free in the $100,000 Pelican Stakes when jockey Emisael Jaramillo tapped the strapping gray 6-year-old gelding with his stick at the 1/8-mile pole.

“It’s not because the horse was getting tired. This horse wants competition,” said trainer Jorge Navarro after X Y Jet’s 7-length victory from Jaguar Poz in 1:09.17, .03 seconds off the stakes record. “Once he puts them away, that’s when he gets lazy on us.

“He has not been an easy horse to train. He has great ability, but he can have a horrible temper,” said Navarro, who has X Y Jet saddled in the paddock for that reason. “(Jaramillo) said he didn’t want to take a chance – if he’s going to win, make sure he’s going to win.”

x y jet

X Y Jet and jockey Emisael Jaramillo are all alone at the finish of the $100,000 Pelican Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

The victory was the ninth in 20 career starts for the Florida-bred son of Kantharos-Soldiersingsblues, by Lost Soldier, who is owned by Rockingham Ranch and Gelfenstein Farm. The winner’s share of $70,000 raised his career earnings to $990,813.

It also gave X Y Jet a 1-for-2 record at Tampa Bay Downs, where he lost the 2014 Pasco Stakes by a neck to Catalina Red – a horse Navarro later trained, conditioning him to a victory in the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes two years ago.

Most important, the authoritative triumph seemed to stamp X Y Jet’s ticket to the United Arab Emirates for the $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 31 at Meydan Racecourse. X Y Jet finished second in that race two years ago by a neck to Muarrab.

“He wants to go to Dubai. We want a vacation,” Navarro said, grinning. “We did the right thing coming here today, and now we’re ready for Dubai.”

X Y Jet paid $2.80 to win as the heavy betting favorite in the 34th edition of the race.

In today’s other stakes, the 37th running of the $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares, 4-year-old Just Be Kind staged a whirlwind rally from mid-pack under Jaramillo to defeat pace-setter Grand Prix by a length-and-a-quarter. The favorite, Stormy Embrace, finished third, followed by R Angel Katelyn.

just be kind

Just Be Kind and jockey Emisael Jaramillo are traveling fastest of all at the end of the Minaret Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

Just Be Kind sprinted the 6-furlong distance in 1:10.59 to improve her career record to 5-for-15. It was her second stakes victory, the first coming as a 2-year-old in the 2016 Ontario Debutante Stakes on the all-weather track at Woodbine.

But it primarily was X Y Jet that had the crowd buzzing before, during and after the Pelican. He sped to the lead from the outset and blazed the opening quarter-mile in 21.81 seconds and the half in 44.41, almost running his six rivals off their feet.

“He’s feeling better than ever,” said Jaramillo. “His ability is from the gate to the wire.”

“He’s ready to run with any sprinter in the nation,” said Navarro, who also won three stakes today at Gulfstream: the Rail Splitter with Delta Bluesman, the Rough and Ready with Aztec Sense and the Little Magician with Sinatra.

X Y Jet had been off for more than a year after undergoing three surgical procedures on his left front knee. He won the Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes on Dec. 23 at Gulfstream in his return, then captured the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 20 at Gulfstream by five-and-a-half lengths.

But Navarro wanted one more indication he was ready for international competition, and knew the Pelican could provide that.

“I didn’t want to work him six times. He’s an athlete, and if he takes one bad step, all the dreams are over,” Navarro said. “I had a lot (of anxiety). But he’s an amazing horse. As soon as he felt (second choice) Recruiting Ready next to him (heading up the backstretch), that’s when he took off.”

Divine Ambition put in a nice rally to finish third, while not threatening the top two. Jaguar Poz, trained by Ron G. Potts and ridden by Huber Villa-Gomez, earned his second runner-up finish in an Oldsmar stakes this season, having finished second on Dec. 30 in the Turf Dash.

If Navarro was anxious before the Pelican, Reade Baker’s assistant, Martine Pare, nearly became panic-stricken as she talked to Baker at his Palm Meadows Training Center base in Boynton Beach via telephone during the race.

“I couldn’t find (Just Be Kind) for a brief moment during the race, and then I said. … ‘Reade, Reade, she just won the race.’ So it was very exciting,” Pare said.

“We knew she was ready. Mr. Baker always has his horses well-prepared, and she was in top condition. We were hoping for a little luck, and we got it,” Pare said.

Jaramillo felt confident despite Grand Prix racing out to a big lead early. “This is a good filly,” Jaramillo said.

The daughter of Sky Mesa-Pretty Valentine, by Macho Uno, paid $19.80 to win.

Jose Ferrer, the jockey on Grand Prix, and her trainer, Keith Nations, agreed she tired a bit late after setting fractions of 22.30 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 44.64 for the half. “That was it. No excuses,” Ferrer said.

Around the oval. Daniel Centeno also rode two winners today. The six-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champion won the second race on Phish Fan, an 8-year-old gelding owned by Lawson Racing Stables and trained by Monte R. Thomas. Centeno added the 11th and final race on the turf aboard History Made, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Bonne Chance Farm and trained by Arnaud Delacour.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. After racing Wednesday through Sunday next week, the track will revert to a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule.

Also ongoing Sunday is the eighth annual Golfest at The Downs Golf Practice Facility, the largest outdoor golf demo and expo in the Tampa Bay area. The hours are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, with children 14-and-under admitted free.

Each ticket comes with a coupon for a small bucket of range balls.

The Oldsmar oval is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.