Rene Douglas and Caltech

Courtesy Becky Johnston

I’m sure Rene Douglas has been in all of our thoughts a lot since Saturday.  He certainly has been in mine.  I went seeking memories and I decided to put some down for anyone else that might be wanting that connection right now.

Rene Douglas came to this country in 1983 after attending jockey school in Panama and 18 months or riding in his homeland.  He then set off to the south Florida tracks.  The tell-it-like-it-is jockey has gone through a rough few years, with both the loss of his brother in 2005 and his father in 2006.  The mysterious charges that got him temporarily ruled off tracks, an action that was later rescinded, had to be devastating.

In 2008 The Blood Horse asked Rene for comments on a Derby questionnaire and a couple of those seem even more poignant today.

I can’t live without: “My family, they’re number one. I’m most happy when I’m with them. I also like to travel, so I guess when I’m traveling with my family is when I’m really happy.”

If I could trade careers with any other athlete, I would be: “That’s a good question. I’m not sure. This is a tough sport, though. I’m not sure if I would do it again, but now I’m hooked and I love riding.”

One thing I wish people knew about jockeys: “A lot of people need to know the truth about jocks. They look at us in a different way than reality. They think we ride, make a lot of money, and go home. But it’s not like that. It’s a tough sport. What about the guys that don’t make money? Sure, on TV they make it look beautiful, but it’s not always that way.”

My First Memories of Rene

Rene Douglas first came to my attention when he rode a speedy but distance capable son of Explosive Bid named Caltech.  Caltech had been floundering in the allowance ranks after breaking his maiden at Pimlico in 1988.  Then the connections took him to Calder and put him on the turf and put a price tag on him, $25,000.  He won at nine furlongs in a speedy 1:46 4/5 seconds.  Three more mediocre fourth place performances found him back on the turf permanently in July of 1989.  Walter Guerra was able to get a win out of him in an Allowance, again running nine furlongs. 

Then Rene took over the reins in August and Caltech took the listed $75,000 Manalapan Handicap at Calder by better than three lengths at 17-1.  He ran the nine furlongs in 1:46 2/5. 

In Caltech’s first 13 races he had earned $33,140.  In his first stakes score, his take was $50,550.   

The connections took their new turf star to Belmont in September and his new jockey to boot.  They ran him in the Grade 3 Lawrence Realization going a mile and a half.  Caltech won by a neck traveling the mile and a half in an outstanding 2:26.  His odds were almost 13-1.

The next appointment for Caltech was a run in the prestigious $750,000 Grade 1 D.C. International.  Prior winners of the race included All Along, Sunshine Forever, Mac Diarmida, Dahlia, Fort Marcy and Sir Ivor.  The race was a prized jewel for Laurel from 1952-1994 and probably most closely resembled today’s Arlington Million or the Breeders’ Cup Turf as far as having an international presence.  In fact, it was the only real international race in this country when it began back in 1952.

The track came up soft, but Caltech had won on a good Calder course, which isn’t always the same as other east coast “off” tracks.  The three-year-old colt certainly had questions to answer.  First, could his speed be restrained against this kind of competition?  Could he handle the surface and could he go from a $25,000 claimer in June to a Grade 1 winner in October?  The best thing he had going for him was his jockey, Rene Douglas.  Watch the race unfold and see how Douglas rations out Caltech’s speed and held him together throughout the 10 furlongs. 

Budweiser D.C. International 1989 Caltech

Caltech won at 13-1.  With pocket change of almost $525,000 from his two-win road trip he would head to his south Florida home base.  It would be only 13 days until the Breeders’ Cup, but look how well Caltech does in the Breeders’ Cup, going a mile and a half with a newfound respect at 4-1.

Pre-Race Breeders’ Cup Turf 1989 – Part 1 Interview with Caltech’s connections

The Race

Caltech might have been a winner at 10 furlongs, though he was probably tapped from his International win, but Rene Douglas gave the colt every chance to win.  He also pocketed another $100,000 for the fifth place effort.

Caltech would never win again and Douglas only rode him one more time, yet for those amazing three months, Douglas and Caltech could do little wrong.

Caltech was bred by Dave Goldman of Capricorn Farm.  Goldman was a writer for several racing publications and a marketing executive for OBS.  He also worked in that capacity for Calder, Hialeah and Gulfstream Park.  He founded a thoroughbred advertising firm. 

Mr. Goldman died on April 23rd of this year.  In his obituary in the Ocala Star Banner it said  “……Dave's major claim to fame as a breeder was Caltech, winner of the 1989 Budweiser (Washington) D. C. International (Gr. I) and an earner of more than $700,000.”

Renee’s three-month exploits with this horse, who had done little before he met him and about the same after he parted company with him gave this very accomplished man what he must have felt was the ride of a lifetime. 

My thoughts and prayers are with Rene his wife Natalia and his sons Michael, Giancarlo, and Christian.

I searched out and put together a group of videos of some memorable races in Rene’s career.  Hopefully, in the next two weeks the news will get better for the Douglas family.  I know they won’t be far from my thoughts.

2009 Elkhorn--Spice Route with an interview Renee Douglas

4/30/2009 Kentucky Juvenile-- Aegean

2008 Manhattan--Dancing Forever, he is the son of Dancinginmydreams

This is the story of Dancinginmydream’s injury and the miracle of her recovery and her foal that Rene Douglas has a special relationship with.

[brightcove videoid="14463937001"]

1996 Belmont Stakes Editor’s Note Douglas’ Classic Win

2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Dreaming of Anna

2008 Pat O’Brien Handicap--Douglas came to town with Lewis Michael and left town with all the marbles.

2008 Rushaway Stakes on Big Glen a gutsy rail-riding trip. You aren’t supposed to win ducking down there, but Rene could.

Between 2001-2008 Rene Douglas took Arlington’s Stars and Stripes Handicap five times. Here he is with a crowd favorite, Silverfoot, winning the race in 2008.

2008 Secretariat Stakes—a European shipper that had done little before this race, Winchester.

2004 Old Hat Stakes-- Madcap Escapade blows the field away

2007 Frances Genter Stakes-Gutsy Rutherienne got a confident ride from Rene and fights for the win between horses.

2008 Arlington Matron—Indescribable won this race last year and finished third under sad circumstance this year, but in the 2008 version, Rene’s mount Leah’s Secret does her best to get a win for the Panamanian.

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