Lopez basks in the glory as the fans create a real buzz on Clasico International day

Paco Lopez is mobbed by supporters in the enthusiastic Gulfstream crowd as he dismounts after winning the big race aboard The Brother Slew. Photo: Lauren King

The Brother Slew, a 45/1 long shot ridden by Paco Lopez, prevented a sweep by Mexico of the five Clasico Internacional del Caribe stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday while scoring an upset victory for Venezuela in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe.

“This is the best thing that ever happened in my life,” owner/trainer Paul Valery said through an interpreter. “Just the opportunity to win with this horse and come to Miami and Gulfstream Park and win here, it’s a dream come true.”

The Clasico del Caribe, a nine-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds, was the grand finale of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe program for horses representing Caribbean and Latin American countries.

The Brother Slew’s triumph was a thrilling conclusion to the program, which was kicked off in spectacular fashion by Kukulkan ($2.10), the 2018 Clasico del Caribe champion, who returned to Gulfstream to capture the $100,000 Copa Confraternidad del Caribe by six lengths.

Hosted by Gulfstream Park for the third consecutive year, the 2019 Clasico Internacional del Caribe drew a large crowd, including many fans of the seven represented countries who waved flags and rooted enthusiastically for their horses.

Mexico’s fans were particularly successful while rooting on the winners of the first four stakes prior to The Brother Slew’s upset win. Following Kukulkan’s lead, Genubi Asquifar ($11) won the Copa Dama; Letrusta ($5.20) captured the Copa Invitacional, and Sacamandu ($67) registered an upset in the Copa Velocidad.

The Brother Slew ($92.80) gained prime stalking position along the rail behind Puerto Rico’s pacesetter, Papa Candelo, who set fractions of 23.96 and 48.14 seconds for the first half mile. Patiently handled by Paco Lopez, the Venezuelan-bred son of Slew’s Tizzy continued to closely track Papa Candelo on the turn into the homestretch before being eased to the outside for the stretch run. Brother Slew opened a clear lead in mid-stretch but was under a drive to withstand an inside bid by Gran Omero, another Venezuelan representative, ridden by Javier Castellano.

“What an amazing feeling this is. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity. This was a long shot, but I really love this horse and, when I went to the paddock with no pony, my horse felt very comfortable and very happy jumping around. I didn’t know if I’d win, but I knew we’d be one, two, three,” Lopez said. “I waited and my horse was looking around a little bit because there were a lot of people, but my horse ran very big.”

Lopez, a Mexico native, won three races on Saturday, including the Copa Dama aboard Genubi Asquifar.

Castellano, whose horse brushed the inside rail while lacking room inside The Brother Slew nearing the finish, claimed foul against the winner, and the stewards posted the inquiry sign. The Brother Slew, who finished a length clear, was subsequently declared the official winner.

“I [wasn’t worried] about the inquiry,” Valery said. “Either way, winning or finishing second, for me it was a big win.”

The Brother Slew ran the nine furlongs in 1:51.76 while winning his second race in seven lifetime starts. Gran Omero finished 1½ lengths ahead of Panama’s Turpin Time.

The Brother Slew, who had finished a distant fifth behind Gran Omero in a G1 in Venezuela in June, had earned only $1, 642 before winning the Clasico.

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