The biggest race of this gala weekend in Panama is the
44th Clasico Internacional del Caribe. Also known as the Caribbean
Derby, it will be run Dec. 11 at Hipodromo Presidente Remon. However, there are
four other races in the Serie del Caribe. Three were run today, Dec. 10, and the rest will
be offered tomorrow.
The Copa Velocidad del Caribe (Caribbean Speed Cup)
at 1,200 meters generated a lot of emotion because the winner, El Celestial, is
trained by the son of the track's president. Both are named Carlos Salazar. The
elder Salazar also was a trainer, and his father, yet another Carlos Salazar,
trained and served as general manager of Hipodromo Presidente Remon.
The current father and son duo, who are large, husky men, both had tears in their
eyes following the race, and the elder Salazar got to present the winning
trainer's trophy to the younger. I presented the trophy to the winning groom.
As part of the winner's circle ceremonies, everybody
receives a glass of champagne. There is a toast and when festivities are
finished, there is a woman holding a tray, where the empty glasses can be
placed. There to raise their glasses were Tom Thornbury, Keeneland's associate
director of sales, and consultant and former U.S. track executive David Vance,
who provides advice to the company that runs the track, Codere. Also in the
winner's circle was Will Mayer, who has assumed the duties of Keeneland's sales
marketing associate, Chauncey Morris, who left to work in Australia.
Carlos Eleta's Haras San Miguel bred El Celestial, who triumphed by 2 3/4 lengths. He is a son of the Red Ransom stallion Trident, who stands at the farm.
Eleta's daughter, Raquel, who oversees San Miguel's operations, joined the
celebration as did Graciela Eleta, the widow of Carlos Eleta's brother, Fernando,
who founded Haras Cerro Punta.
Haras San Miguel and Haras Serro Punta are Panama's
Tato Zeta, a son of Thunder Gulch, captured the Copa Confraternidad Roberto Arrango Chiari del Caribe (Fellowship of the Caribbean Cup) and Portantina won the Copa Dama del Caribe (Lady of the Caribbean Cup).
Vance likes to say "a track is a track is a track,"
meaning that racing facilities around the world have many similarities. An
American attending the races at Hipodromo Presidente Remon wouldn't feel out of
place. Television monitors where I dined were tuned to competition to Aqueduct,
Gulfstream Park, and Hollywood Park. There was a kiosk selling shirts, mugs,
baseball caps, and other Clasico del Caribe souvenirs. Programs cost only $1,
but the past performance information wasn't as extensive as it is in the USA,
and it covered three days of racing.
The exotic touches included a plantain on my lunch plate
and being able to watch racing in Uruguay while I dined.
The elevator I rode was as old and clunky as the
press elevator at Pimlico. But unlike Pimlico's it didn't break down even
though sometimes people were asked to get off because the combined weight of
the passengers was heavy enough to prevent it from moving.
At one point in the afternoon a deluge, accompanied
by lightning and thunder, made it difficult to see the horses competing. That
and the hot, humid air didn't let anyone forget that they were in the tropics.