Jorge Navarro, Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet-leading trainer,
earned his 1,000th career victory as Joseph E. Besecker’s Aztec Sense
led most of the way to win the $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) by 1 ¾
lengths over late-running Breaking Lucky on Saturday’s $16 million
Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational card at Gulfstream Park.
It was Aztec Sense’s ninth straight victory, a streak that started a year ago at Gulfstream Park and which mostly recently included the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel Dec. 1. The outcome brought mixed emotions for Navarro, however.
“He took a bad step,” he said. “It looks like the left ankle. My vets are waiting for him. Oh my God, what a racehorse – the heart he has.”
Aztec Sense took the early lead on the inside, but jockey Emisael Jaramillo was content to back off behind Conquest Big E until regaining the advantage rounding out of the turn. Aztec Sense, a gelded 6-year-old son of 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense, covered the mile in 1:36.22 over a sloppy and sealed main track following quarter-mile fractions of 23.10 seconds, 45.10 and 1:09.88.
Aztec Sense paid $7 to win in earning his 13th career victory, to go along with five seconds and a third in 37 starts. He was claimed by Navarro for $12,500 on Aug. 7, 2017 at Parx Racing.
Breaking Lucky, who had been in striking position throughout under Luis Saez, wore down Fellowship late to take second by a neck. Unbridled Juan came in fourth in the field of 10 older horses.
“It came at a bad moment, but I’ll take it,” Navarro said of the milestone victory. “I’m happy. It will hit me later on.”
Navarro, who celebrated his 44th birthday Jan. 16, has finished second to Todd Pletcher, winner of an unprecedented 15 consecutive Championship Meet training titles, the past three winters.
A native of Panama City, Panama, Navarro came to the U.S. in 1988 and began working as a groom and a hotwalker at Detroit Race Course before relocating to South Florida. He was an assistant to his father, trainer Julian Canet, as well as trainers Sam David Jr. and Gamaliel Vazquez, then broke young horses in Ocala for three years, taking out his trainer’s license in 2007.
He has trained three Grade 1 winners – Sharp Azteca, Private Zone and El Deal. Sharp Azteca won $2.4 million in career purses including five graded-stakes and was second in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Private Zone earned $1.35 million lifetime, won three graded-stakes, and was second in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Navarro also won graded-stakes with Catalina Red, Delta Bluesman, War Story and X.Y. Jet, runner-up in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in 2016 and 2018. Aztec Sense has won eight straight races, five in stakes, and is entered in Saturday’s $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3).
In 2016, Navarro broke a 41-year-old Monmouth Park record by winning 59 races. He broke the mark in 2017 with 65 victories and set a new standard again with 85 wins in 2018.
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