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March 07, 2020

KING GUILLERMO MAKES DREAMS COME TRUE FOR VENEZUELAN CONNECTIONS

by Mike Henry
King Guillermo pulls off a shocking Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby upset, but his performance and his time suggest more good things may be coming; Starship Jubilee displays class, courage in Hillsborough Stakes victory; Outburst hangs on in Florida Oaks; Trophy Chaser gets the Challenger hardware; Doc Boy wins Columbia.

Retired major league baseball player Victor Martinez played on five teams that reached the postseason, was an American League All-Star five times and slugged 246 home runs in his 16-year career, which ended in 2018.

But in the glow of a raucous winner’s-circle celebration late this afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs, he said nothing in his baseball career compares to experiencing his 3-year-old colt King Guillermo win the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

Here's a YouTube video of the excitement: 

https://youtu.be/tMMUGqAjNS8

“My dad died when I was 6, and I always wanted to have a horse named for my dad,” an emotional Martinez said after King Guillermo posted a 4 ¾-length victory from 3-2 favorite Sole Volante in 1:42.63 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance with Martinez’s Venezuelan countryman, Samy Camacho, in the saddle.

The time was the third-fastest Tampa Bay Derby in the race’s 40 runnings. He earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, which is more than enough to stoke the kind of dreams that flourish this time of year.

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Hard to tell who is flying higher -- King Guillermo or jockey Samy Camacho -- at the conclusion of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (courtesy SV Photography)

“This is absolutely something else. I thank God for this opportunity and putting a great horse in my hands,” said Martinez, who campaigns King Guillermo under his Victoria's Ranch banner. “My mom (Margot, part of the festive scene) taught me how to dream. She taught me dreams are for free. We believed in this horse and he made our dream come true.”

Another Venezuelan, Juan C. Avila, trains King Guillermo, who improved to 2-for-4 with the victory in his first start of 2020. He paid $100.40 to win, the second-biggest payoff in the 40-year history of the race, surpassed only by Bold Southerner’s $179.40 payoff in 1984.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, and King Guillermo earned 50 points with his victory – virtually assuring him a spot in the May 2 Run for the Roses, as long as his connections pay the late Triple Crown nomination fee. He was one of only two horses in the 12-horse field not yet nominated.

That bit of paperwork could wait Saturday.

“I hope he is going to the Kentucky Derby,” said Camacho, whose smile stretched almost to Caracas after the race. “I’m so happy, I say thank you to God and all the team – Mr. Juan Carlos Avila, the trainer, the owner, Victor Martinez, and everybody who made this dream possible.

“From the 3/8-mile pole I had a lot of horse and I was worried a little about Chance It and Sole Volante, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse because he was doing really well in the mornings and he felt strong,” Camacho said.

Sole Volante, the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner here four weeks ago, picked up 20 points with his second-place finish, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Texas Swing – the other horse not nominated to the Triple Crown. Pace-setter Relentless Dancer held on for fourth, followed by second choice Chance It.

King Guillermo is a Kentucky-bred son of Uncle Mo, out of Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band. He was bred by Carhue Investments, Grouseridge Ltd. And Marengo Investments and was purchased by Martinez for $150,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training.

The winner’s share of $210,000 raised his career earnings to $240,350. King Guillermo’s previous victory came on Nov. 2 at Gulfstream Park West in a 1-mile, maiden special weight race on the turf, but the connections decided his workouts on the dirt at Gulfstream since early January merited a shot today.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby was one of five stakes races, four graded, on a Festival Day card that saw 10,021 attend in gorgeous, breezy weather. Total handle on the 12-race card was $13,155,349, the third-largest in Tampa Bay Downs history, with on-track handle of $856,300 up 4.5-percent from last year’s Festival Day card.

In the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf, Florida-bred mare Starship Jubilee, the favorite, withstood a strong stretch challenge from Chad Brown-trained Beautiful Lover to post a 1 ¼-lrngth victory in 1:47.83 for the mile-and-an-eighth. Kelsey’s Cross finished third and Magic Star was fourth in the 11-horse field.

The 7-year-old Starship Jubilee, owned by Blue Heaven Farm and trained by Kevin Attard, improved to 17-for-35 lifetime. The $145,000 winner’s share of the purse raised her earnings to $1,498,667.

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Starship Jubilee, bred in Florida by William P. Sorren, put on quite a show in the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for the victory. “She’s such a classy horse,” Castellano said. “This is the type of horse you can do whatever you want – you can dictate the pace or you can come from behind. I enjoyed the ride and I’m very fortunate to be part of it. It looks like she is getting better and better and better.”

Attard, the son of training legend Tino Attard, who was also here, agreed.

“She’s getting better with age, just like a fine wine, a woman coming into herself,” Kevin Attard said. “She’s 7 but she’s been healthy, and I think it’s great for the sport when you see an older horse like her staying around and running at a top level.

“She has a strong following; every time she wins I get messages from everywhere and it’s just nice to see people appreciate what she brings each time she runs. She’s been a real Cinderella story and has exceeded expectations, obviously.”

Tino Attard claimed Starship Jubilee for $16,000 at Gulfstream in 2017.

In the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, the Eddie Kenneally-trained Outburst held off a frantic rally by Walk In Marrakesh to post a head victory in an excellent 1:42.03 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance.

Outburst was ridden by Castellano, who probably won the race when he managed to slow her down on the lead through a second quarter-mile in 25.62 seconds after a 22.91-second opening split.

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Outburst (inside) and Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano hold off Walk In Marrakesh in a thrilling Grade III Florida Oaks (courtesy SV Photography)

Secret Stash finished third and How Ironic was fourth in the 12-horse field.

“I saw the replay from the last time the horse ran here (an allowance/optional claiming victory on Feb. 7) and she was very impressive,” Castellano said. “I liked the way she finished that day. She is so quick out of the gate, you could see she (almost) beat the gate today and I ended up on the lead. I tried to ride the European style and come from behind and stalk behind the speed, but she never gave me the opportunity to do that.

But what I really liked was the second quarter-mile, the way she slowed down and relaxed,” Castellano said. ‘I loved the way she did it and I liked the way she finished – very impressive – and I think there is a lot to look forward to.”

Outburst, a Great Britain-bred daughter of Outstrip out of Daidoo, by Shamardal, is owned by Marc Detampel, TSF Thoroughbred Racing and Rebecca Hillen. Terry Frey of TSF Thoroughbred Racing was ecstatic, and then some, after the race.

“Coming in, I was just hoping she had a chance,” Frey said. “It’s just fantastic that she won. There were some great horses in there and for her to come in and run a race like this is just so exciting. I’ll tell you what, my heart is still beating like crazy. (Walk In Marrakesh) was running like crazy and I thought maybe (Outburst) had had enough and then it was like, I think she made it – and she did. I was very happy.”

Trainer Avila, too, was over the moon after the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, but earlier on the card he celebrated when his 4-year-old colt Trophy Chaser sprung a mild upset in the Grade III, $100,000 Challenger Stakes. Trophy Chaser rallied through the stretch to defeat King for a Day (the last horse to finish ahead of Maximum Security, in last year’s TVG.com Pegasus, at Monmouth) by a neck under Paco Lopez.

Trophy Chaser, now 4-for-11, is owned by JCA Racing Stable. He is a Kentucky-bred son of Twirling Candy-European Union, out of Successful Appeal.

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Trophy Chaser responds to Paco Lopez's urging to edge past King for a Day in the Grade III Challenger (courtesy SV Photography)

'It’s a great thrill,” Avila said through an interpreter. “I’ve won 12 graded stakes in Venezuela but this is my first in the United States 9the second was soon to come). We’re hoping he comes out good out of the race and we’re going to look for better races.”

Lopez was impressed by Trophy Chaser’s finishing rally after appearing to hesitate for a moment in tight quarters in the stretch.

“He’s a very nice horse. I talk to Avila all the time and ask him ‘Put me on that horse, please,’ and finally he did the last time (an 8 ¼-length victory on Feb. 2 at Gulfstream in a mile-and-an-eighth allowance/optional claimer),” Lopez said.

“Today he ran very good and at the 1/8-mile pole I didn’t need to hit him because he was trying very hard. He had to be tough to beat (runner-up King for a Day),” Lopez said.

Trophy Chaser’s time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was a swift 1:42.28.

In the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf, Kentucky-bred colt Doc Boy rallied from well back to grab a 1 ¾-length victory from Mr. Kringle. Summer Assault finished third and pace-setter Alley Oop Johnny was fourth.

Doc Boy, who is owned by Stallionaire Enterprises, improved to 3-for-6 with the victory, achieved in 1:34.67 for the 1-mile distance, .15 seconds off the stakes record. The son of Into Mischief-Peggy May, by Lemon Drop Kid, is trained by Michael Stidham and was ridden by Joe Bravo.

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Doc Boy rewards jockey Joe Bravo for his patience early in the race with a finish worthy of a Columbia Stakes winner (courtesy SV Photography)

“Everything went just about as planned,” said Stidham’s Tampa Bay Downs assistant, Ben Trask. “When I saw the half-mile in 47 (47.59 seconds), I thought that was probably beneficial to us to have a little bit of pace to run at.

“We gave him a little bit of time after last year; we just wanted to freshen him a little because he ran hard as a 2-year-old. It all worked out today.”

Bravo, who was riding him for the first time, was delighted with Doc Boy’s performance. “He left the gate really fresh, and my main thing was to try to hold his position and keep him relaxed,” the rider said. “He was breathing underneath me really comfortably into the first turn and gave me a lot of horse to play with turning for home.

“My main objective was to stay clear, so I kind of got him to the outside of horses for his run. But Mike Stidham did all the hard work.”

Around the oval. In the second race, the $40,000 Manatee Overnight Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-year-old Florida-bred stakes winner J P’s Delight withstood a challenge from Grade II stakes winner Point of Honor at the top of the stretch and powered home to a 4-length victory under jockey Paco Lopez. J P’s Delight’s time for the 7 furlongs was 1:22.48.

J P’s Delight, who is owned by Brent Fernung and Eugene Cahalan and trained by Kathleen O’Connell, improved to 4-for-5 with the victory. She had won the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 14, also going 7 furlongs.

Point of Honor, who won last year’s Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, held on well for second in her first start since a runner-up effort last August to Dunbar Road in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. Point of Honor won the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan last May at Pimlico.

Thoroughbred racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 3, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 12, when the track is closed.

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