It was back in 1978 that there were two Triple Crown winners sharing the spotlight as Affirmed and Seattle Slew were the year’s biggest stars.
This year also produced two undefeated Triple Crown winners racing on American shores, but with an asterisk. In the spring, it was Justify who took the sport by storm. Then Dec. 8, another Triple Crown winner broke from the starting gate at Gulfstream Park, though this one falls into a different category than Seattle Slew or Justify .
Who we are talking about is undefeated Kukulkan, winner of the Mexican Triple Crown who was the star of the show Saturday in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe at Gulfstream.
The Clasico, or Caribbean Classic Stakes, was the main event among the five races in the $600,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe that showcased top horses from Latin America and the Caribbean and gave horsemen and racing fans in that part of the world an opportunity to celebrate and salute their champions.
At a time when international racing is becoming more popular in the United States, the Clasico Internacional del Caribe is a perfect fit for Gulfstream and provided an entertaining option for racing fans across the country as the year winds to an end.
While Kukulkan might not be on the same level as the top American 3-year-olds, no one can scoff at his record.
The Clasico was his 14th race and his 14th victory, a perfect record that is impressive in any locale. Beyond that, he won by an equally impressive 10 1/4 lengths while giving owner Cuadra San Jorge, trainer Fausto Gutierrez, and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. back to back wins in the Clasico after a victory by filly Jala Jala a year ago.
Kukulkan draws off in the Caribbean Classic
“This is like a dream because this horse has a lot of quality. We spoke a few days ago about the capacity he has. This horse has a lot of stamina and he won very easy today,” Gutierrez said. “He ran not in his normal style or as he has before. (Ortiz) took him and relaxed and relaxed and when he decided to go, the horse went easily.
“He’s a very professional horse, his attitude in the paddock and with everyone in the stands. He’s a real racehorse. To make history and win two back to back with these horses is a dream.”
Aside from the festive mood at Gulfstream, the Clasico Internacional del Caribe proved to be a hit with handicappers. A total of $9.617 million was wagered on the program, a 9% increase over the 2017 total of $8.822 million.
“Once again, the atmosphere surrounding Clasico was incredible,” said Gulfstream general manager Bill Badgett. “There was such a great energy surrounding the races and the entertainment. We witnessed great performances on the track and saw what incredible and passionate fans this sport has around the world. We look forward to seeing our friends again from the Confederation of Caribbean Racetracks.”
Realistically, the undefeated Triple Crown winner Kukulkan will not bump the memory of undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify from the minds of American horse racing fans. Yet after seeing all of the love for the sport that was on display Saturday at Gulfstream, it can be safely said that racing can be a “world” of fun.