HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. completed one of the most memorable days of his career, and one of the most memorable days in the 51-year history of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe, when he guided Mexico's Jala Jala to a convincing nine-length victory over Fray Angelico in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The victory was the third of the day for Ortiz, a native of Puerto Rico, in the Clasico Internacional, which was contested outside of Latin America for the first time Saturday. Ortiz also won the Copa Invitacional aboard Coltimus Prime and the Copa Dama del Caribe with Jaguaryu earlier on the card. Jala Jala and Jaguaryu are both owned by Cuadra San Jorge and trained by Fausto Gutierrez.
Ortiz and fellow Puerto Rican native John Velazquez swept all five races on the Clasico Internacional card.
"I've been following these races from when I was 6 years old growing up in Puerto Rico," Ortiz said. "I'm very happy to just have the opportunity to compete in the Caribe. To win it means so much. It was an amazing day, a dream come true. To other people, winning this race might not be that big. For me, it's very special. It's like winning the Breeders' Cup."
Jala Jala, a Group 1 winner in Mexico City earlier this year, was dominant in the 1 1/8-mile El Caribe, readily overtaking her stablemate Joyme approaching the stretch before drawing away with complete authority. Fray Angelico rallied belatedly to finish second, two lengths in front of the tiring Joyme.
Jala Jala and Joyme were two of the three fillies in the El Caribe field along with La De Horacio. Jala Jala, a daughter of Point Given, paid $22.40.
The Clasico Internacional del Caribe, the premier Thoroughred event in Latin America and the Caribbean, proved to be a big hit Saturday at Gulfstream Park both in the packed stands full of noisy, enthusiastic fans and at the parimutuel windows. On-track handle was $1.4 million compared to $947,000 on the corresponding day here a year ago. Total handle was $8.8 million, down slightly from $9.4 million in 2016.
"We were honored to host such an incredible event," said Tim Ritvo, president of Gulfstream Park and COO of The Stronach Group. "This truly was the brainchild of our founder and honorary chairman Mr. Frank Stronach. This has been two years in the making, and the response was incredible. We hope to continue building on our partnership with the fans and horsemen from Latin America and the Caribbean, and we thank them for participating."