In the end, a good racehorse gives his connections a feeling of confidence, of daring. The risks may be great, but faith in ability is an inspirational thing. And so it was that Paula Martinez, having never raced a horse in Panama, with only four years spent as an owner in the sport overall, found herself in the winner's circle at Hipodromo Presidente Remon with the first Mexican-based horse to win the Clasico del Caribe in 18 years.
Diamante Negro, 3-1 second choice and talked about for days leading into the international event, rewarded his connections in the humidity of a Dec. 15 evening with a late-charging victory in the 1 ⅛-mile Caribe, overcoming local filly Jubilee Queen by half a length. The Caribe is a race that has proven difficult for Mexican runners to win, especially when shipping to the steamy climates of host countries such as Panama or Puerto Rico. But Diamante Negro, arriving on a four-race win streak, is considered the best of his generation at home -- and he proved it by handling conditions even better than the local horses, although the top Panamanian contenders put in good efforts to finish second and third.
It was Panama's Tomas Gabriel who set the pace in the Caribe, striking out for about a one-length lead over Mexico's Crater and Venezuelan Good Friend. Jubilee Queen was well-placed in fourth, the favorite at 3-2, while Diamante Negro settled toward the back of the pack behind steady early fractions of :24 ⅕ and :49 ⅕.
Jubilee Queen took the lead turning for home against 10 males, a fleet gray in search of the first Caribe triumph by a female since Bambara in 2009. But Diamante Negro was flying on the outside with his trademark late run, and surged to a half-length victory in the last sixteenth of a mile. He finished the distance in 1:54 2/5 on a fast track.
The victory gave Mexico an 11th win in the Clasico del Caribe, and the first since Locochon in 1995. Martinez, 40, became the first female owner to take the Caribe in its 46th edition. Her trainer, 34-year-old Ulises Silva Trejo, picked up the biggest victory of his eight-year career. The jockey who rode their horse to victory, Moises Gonzalez, also won his first edition of the Caribe. He said the horse ran the same as he did in Mexico, with well-measured early strides and a tremendous final kick.
For Martinez, a former showjumper who owns 11 runners and regularly spends her mornings at the track ("Whatever my horses need, they get," she said), the win was particularly satisfying since she chose Diamante Negro as a youngster and watched develop into a three-time grade I winner in his native land.
"He's my baby. I chose him as a 7-month-old out of the field," the owner said. "The moment I saw him, I said 'This horse is mine.' His record is really good. Last year we had some ups and downs, but then in the final stakes race for 2-year-olds [the Futurity Mexicano last December], he won. And this year he has just improved and improved and improved. Each race he beat his time; it was better and better."
Bred in Mexico by Rancho Pozo De Luna by the late Sadler's Wells stallion Election Day out of the Discover mare Martha's Gift, Diamante Negro extended his record to 9-1-1 from 15 starts for Martinez's Cuadra Mapa. He returned $8 for a $2 wager. After him came Jubilee Queen, 7-2 third choice Tomas Gabriel, Son de Goma, Good Friend, Ancrisman, Turkoni, Coqueto Del Ocho, Diamante Rubio, Reddish Thunder, and Crater.
"That's the way he always wins," Martinez said. "Today, he ran closer to the group. I told the jockey, you can't go like Mexico where you're like 100 strides away, you have to go near. And he did that. I'm so proud of this horse. It feels fantastic."