Trainer Jorge Navarro has enjoyed a recent run of success with stakes-winning sprinters Private Zone and X Y Jet, who were the conditioner’s first and only graded stakes winners entering last weekend’s Kentucky Derby Day card at Churchill Downs. Navarro’s count of graded stakes winners doubled Saturday in Louisville as Sharp Azteca captured the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile and Catalina Red won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs.
“This is the second year in a row I’ve won this race,” Navarro said after Catalina Red upset the Churchill Downs at 14-1. “They’re going to have to name this race after me.”
Navarro saddled Private Zone to victory in last year’s Churchill Downs and was sending out Catalina Red for the first time in in the Churchill Downs. Previously trained by Chad Stewart, Catalina Red tracked the early speed of Limousine Liberal and Holy Boss early before moving ahead in the stretch and holding off a late charge from Calculator to win by 1 length. Javier Castellano rode Catalina Red.
“He was picture perfect,” Navarro said. “I’ve only had the horse for a month. I knew all along this was a nice horse and I’ve kept my eye on him for the last few years when he beat X Y Jet in Tampa. I knew he was coming straight from Ocala and I was like, ‘wow, I can’t imagine having this horse at a real racetrack.’ I think he’s only about 75 percent of his best; he’s going to be a nice horse.”
In the Pat Day, Imperial Print set blazing fractions for the opening half before Sharp Azteca took the lead after 6 furlongs in 1:08.32 and never looked back. He won by 2 1/2 lengths from Forevamo in 1:34.37. Edgar Zayas rode Sharp Azteca to his third consecutive win at odds of 13-1.
“I thought this horse was the bet of the day,” Navarro said. “He’s one of the best 3-year-olds in the nation. He came up with some issues, we gave him some time off, doing the right thing for him and looking for the right spots. We took a chance in here because he recently worked five furlongs in 58 seconds. It was the best workout I’ve seen out of him; he just did it so easily. He can run all day.”
Navarro said the rush of going 2-for-2 in graded stakes on Derby Day might not hit him until he returned home to Florida.
“Once I get home, that’s when it will all sink in,” Navarro said. “My body and my mind are going crazy right now; it’s amazing. We’ll see how both horses come out before we make any decision as to where they will go next.”