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Alberto Paz “Droopy” Rodriguez had three runners in quest of his eighth victory in Sunday's Clasico Presidente de la Republica, the premier race of the year at Hipodromo Presidente Remon in Panama City, Panama, but it was son, Luis, who stole the spotlight with a 62-1 longshot winner named Queen Pearl.
Luis Paz Rodriguez and jockey Jose Batista had to sweat out a long inquiry into the stretch run of the Clasico that saw Queen Pearl rally wide in deep stretch to overtake frontrunning Salustio in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by about three-quarters of a length. Salustio, the defending 2015 Clasico champion and 2-1 co-favorite in the field of 14, drifted out badly, taking the path away from a late-charging Torniquette in deep stretch. The latter's jockey had to slam on the brakes as he tried to split horses in and wound up third.
Stewards disqualified Salustio from second and placed him behind Tourniquette for interference.
Queen Pearl covered the 1 5/16 miles on a muddy track in 2:13.21.
A relieved Rodriguez said he thought Queen Pearl kept a straight path but was worried nonetheless. “You never know what they're thinking,” he said of the stewards.
The victory was the third Clasico triumph for both Luis Paz Rodriguez and Queen Pearl's owner Ricardo Lau, who races as Stud Canton. They previously won in 2012 and 2014 with the Smarty Jones colt Smart D N A.
Queen Pearl, a 5-year-old son of pensioned Lane's End stallion Stephen Got Even out of Spinalong, by Siphon, was bred in Kentucky by George Pruette. Rodriquez acquired Queen Pearl privately after he was listed as a $9,500 RNA at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Select Sales.
The victory was his eighth in 23 career starts.
Father and son Alberto and Luis Paz Rodriguez have won the Clasico 10 times between them
The winner benefited from a fast early pace as Salustio outsprinted the Candy Ride filly Candy Sugar Lady for the early lead. Salustio went the opening quarter in :22.93, :46.58 for the half and 1:12.04 for six furlongs, under pressure throughout. After Salustio covered the mile in 1:39.19, Candy Sugar Lady gave way, and Salustio set sail for a repeat with a clear lead into the stretch. He clicked off a mile and a quarter in 2:06.48 but soon had the winner bearing down on him from the outside, then took a right hand turn, impeding Torniquette.
For now, “Droopy” Rodriguez' record of seven victories in the Clasico Presidente de La Republica is safe. “He will catch me,” the father said of his son, whose 30-horse stable is smaller than the 46 horses trained by the elder Rodriguez.
Juan Carlos Varela, the president of Panama, was on hand to present the trophy for the second consecutive year. The racetrack is named for a former Panamanian president, Jose Antonio Remon Cantera, who was assassinated in 1955 while attending the races.
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