HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The recipient of a dream trip under jockey Abdiel Jaen, Proud Azteca rallied from well off the pace to capture Saturday’s $75,000 English Channel Stakes over the Gulfstream Park turf course.
In the process, the Mike Maker-trained 3-year-old finished first for the first time in his five-race career, having graduated through a disqualification after finishing second in his career debut in a $35,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5. Proud Azteca, who went on to finish second twice more in starter optional claiming races at Gulfstream, most recently finished fifth in a Keeneland allowance on April 24.
“Mike sent him back here because he wanted to try him in a stake,” said assistant trainer Evelio Chavez, who oversees a small Maker-trained string for the summer meeting at Gulfstream. “The horse has run good over this track and the owners live here.”
Sent to post as the 7-2 second betting choice, Proud Azteca was rated well of the early pace set by Charlie the Boss and pressed by Gryvon and Gelfenstein into the first turn and along the backstretch. Jaen continued to save ground along the inside while steadily advancing on the leaders leaving the backstretch and into the far turn as Charlie the Boss continued to show the way with Little Daddy, the 2-1 favorite ridden by Jesus Rios, looming as a threat. Jaen proceeded to cut the corner into the stretch to suddenly emerge as a danger.
As Charlie the Boss’s stride began to weaken and Little Daddy launched his outside drive, Jaez sent Proud Azteca between horses, and the Indiana-bred son of Kitten’s Joy responded to draw away by 2 ¼ lengths.
“They broke out pretty fast, so I just relaxed. There was a lot of traffic, but I found the space, and I got through,” said Jaen, who has steadily established himself as one of the top riders at Gulfstream.
Proud Azteca, who earned $45,000 for owners Brenda Tabraue and Jorge Herrera, ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:43.63. Little Daddy finished second in his turf debut, a half-length ahead of Charlie the Boss.