HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Jorge Navarro’s first 999 wins might have each been special, but Saturday, Joseph Besecker’s Aztec Sense pushed the Venezuelan trainer’s total past the four-digit mark when the red-hot gelding earned his ninth straight win in the Grade 3, $150,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Urged along when he broke from post 6 under Emisael Jaramillo at 5/2 odds, Aztec Sense briefly held the lead before allowing Conquest Big E to pull ahead and post opening fractions of :23.10 and :45.10. Riding the rail through the far turn, Aztec Sense advanced midway through it before emerging onto the front stretch with a slim lead, then dug in gamely for the run home. Though the rest of the field tried in vain to catch him, they were unable to prevail, and Aztec Sense crossed with a 1 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:36.22 for the mile-long event over the sloppy (sealed) main track.
Shortly after crossing the wire, Jaramillo pulled up Aztec Sense after the horse appeared to take a bad step. The winner was given a precautionary van ride back to the stables for further inspection.
“It came at a bad moment, but I’ll take it,” Navarro said of his milestone. “I’m happy. It will hit me later on. He took a bad step. It looks like the left ankle. My vets are waiting for him. Oh my God, what a racehorse – the heart he has.”
Breaking Lucky was forced to run six-wide through the far turn but was able to get up in the shadow of the wire and take second by a neck over Fellowship, with Unbridled Juan a head back in fourth. Storm Advisory placed fifth ahead of a spent Conquest Big E, while the 3/2 favorite Copper Town had a miserable time before the race even began. Fractious in the gate, Copper Town reared up and appeared to hit his head before eventually settling enough to allow the gates to open. However, the energy exerted during his pre-race activities was enough to keep him from threatening, and he finished a disappointing seventh, outrunning only Mo Dont No to complete the order of finish. Coal Front and Eye of a Jedi were scratched.
Aztec Sense’s win came in his graded stakes debut and improved his overall record to 37-13-5-1, which includes a mark of 11-10-0-0 since Navarro claimed him for $12,500 on August 7, 2017. The 6-year-old gelded son of Street Sense increased his lifetime bankroll to $637,017.
Aztec Sense returned $7 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3.20 to show. Breaking Lucky brought back $3.80 to place and $3.40 to show, while Fellowship paid $12.80 to show.