South America’s greatest Derby hits

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The entry of Florida Derby runner-up Majestomarks the first time since 1971 that a Kentucky Derby starter has had an owner, trainer and jockey who all hail from a South American country.

The Venezuelan-based Grupo 7C Racing Stables, a group of seven brothers led by the Caracas-based Alejandro Ceballos, own Majesto and Longines Kentucky Oaks entrant Paola Queen. The latter finished second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on the same day as Majesto’s Florida Derby performance.

Majesto and Paola Queen are trained by Gustavo Delgado, a leading trainer in Venezuela who moved his operation to the U.S. just two years ago, and both will be ridden by the all-time leading rider in Venezuela, Emisael Jaramillo.

Majesto will break from post 18 of 20 in the Derby and was pegged at 30-1 on the morning line. Paola Queen, also 30-1 on the morning line, will break from post nine in the Kentucky Oaks.

(Read more about Delgado in The Saratoga Special, Page 10 of the Aug. 15, 2015 issue and in The Fort-Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.)

To put things in a little context we researched some other Derby stories with significant South American ties. The greatest hits, South American style, if you will, in chronological order:

1962: Decidedly
Decidedly shattered Triple Crown-winner Whirlaway’s 1941 Kentucky Derby record time by a full second, as the gray California-bred crossed the wire in 2:00 ⅖ to become the first Derby win for legendary Argentine-born trainer Horatio Luro.

Positioned fifth as the field turned for home, Decidedly found another gear under guidance from Hall of Fame rider Bill Hartack, taking the 1962 Derby by 2 1/4 lengths. Luro managed his family’s racing and breeding operation – El Moro Stud in Argentina – before landing in the U.S. in 1937.

1964: Northern Dancer
Just two years after winning the Kentucky Derby with jockey Bill Hartack in record time, trainer Horatio Luro again teamed up with the Hall of Fame rider and won the Kentucky Derby in record time.

Northern Dancer was the first Canadian-bred to win the Derby and did so by besting rival Hill Rise by a neck in a track-record 2:00. Northern Dancer went on to win the Preakness Stakes and Queen’s Plate before becoming one of the most legendary sires in Thoroughbred history.

Luro, known by his colleagues and the media as “El Grand Senor,” would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. He died in 1991 at the age of 90.

1971: Canonero II
Canonero II’s 1971 Derby victory was the last and only time a Derby winner’s owner, trainer and jockey have collectively called a South American country (Venezuela) home. Owned by Edgar Caibett, trained by Juan Arias and ridden by Gustavo Avila, Canonero II’s victory was such an incredible ride that it has been the subject of a book titled, “Cañonero II: The Rags to Riches Story of the Kentucky Derby’s Most Improbable Winner.”

Despite the longshot narrative, Canonero II paid just $19.70 to win because only the top 11 horses could be bet individually at that time. He was grouped with remaining horses into a ‘mutuel field.’

The Kentucky-bred was purchased by his connections for $1,200 at Keeneland and finished third in a Venezuelan handicap with a purse of just $3,500 as his final Derby prep. Canonero II went on to win the Preakness before finishing fourth in the Belmont. Arias reportedly went on to work as an assistant for Majesto’s trainer, Gustavo Delgado, toward the end of his career.

2001: Monarchos
After winning the Florida Derby and finishing second in the Wood Memorial, Monarchos was installed as the 11-1 sixth choice entering the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Under guidance from Peruvian-born jockey Jorge Chavez, Monarchos went five wide around the final turn and caught leader Congaree in the final sixteenth to kick clear by 4 3/4 lengths.

Monarchos’ winning Derby time of 1:59.97 was second only to the great Secretariat. It was the first and only Derby win for Chavez, as well as the first for owner John Oxley and trainer John Ward. Monarchos finished sixth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont, and was retired in 2002. Chavez retired from riding in 2011.

2006: Barbaro
Owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables, Barbaro entered the 2006 Kentucky Derby with an undefeated record in five starts, and was the second choice entering the first Saturday in May at odds of 6-1. Stalking the leaders in fifth and then fourth through the race’s early stages, Barbaro made his move after the first mile and kicked clear in the stretch to win by 6 1/2 lengths, given a tactful ride by another Peruvian-born jockey, Edgar Prado. The margin of victory was the largest since Assault won the 1946 Derby by 8 lengths.

Trained by Michael Matz, Barbaro’s impressive performance was overshadowed by a career-ending injury in the Preakness that later led to his death in 2007. It was the first and only Derby win for Prado, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Prado continues to ride at the age of 48, primarily in Florida, but he does have a mount under the Twin Spires Saturday on Divisidero in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. A massive statue commemorating Barbaro’s 2006 Derby performance stands directly in front of Churchill Downs’ Gate-1 entrance.