Monday, August 28, 2023
HALLANDALE BEACH - Leonel Reyes collected his first riding title in the U.S. and Saffie Joseph Jr. captured his seventh consecutive training championship at Gulfstream Park, where the Royal Palm Meet came to a close Sunday.
Reyes had ridden more than 1,400 winners in Venezuela before venturing to South Florida in 2016 and steadily gaining the respect of trainers and racing fans with each passing year. The 37-year-old riding veteran got off to a quick start for the meet that kicked off April 4 and never looked back, finishing with 93 victories, 18 more than runner-up Edwin Gonzalez.
“It’s amazing. It’s been a lot of hard work,” Reyes said. “I’ve been riding new horses every day. I work hard every morning. I’m very happy for this.”
Reyes, who rode 30 winners during the Championship Meet, has surpassed the 100-win mark in 2023 for the second year in a row.
After being locked in a tight race with Jose D’Angelo for much of the meet, Joseph finished strongly to add another title at Gulfstream, where he has won the Championship Meet title the past two years. Joseph sent out 66 winners, 11 more than D’Angelo.
“This meet means a lot after what we went through in May and having to go through that experience,” Joseph said. “To keep the ball rolling and having our name cleared, which should have been done in the beginning, it means a lot. The title means a lot. They all mean something but this one is right up there with the Championship Meet ones.”
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Michael Yates-trained Dean Delivers was the equine star of the Royal Palm Meet, during which he scored a 2 ¾-length triumph in the $100,000 Smile Sprint (G3) July 1 before going on to finish third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga. Smile Sprint runner-up Big and Classy was the winningest for the meeting that kicked off April 4 with five victories for trainer Bobby Dibona.
The Sunshine Meet gets under way Friday and will run through Nov. 26 leading up to the Championship Meet opener Dec. 1.
The 20-cent Rainbow 6 gross jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $75,000 Friday after the multi-race wager went unsolved Sunday for the fourth consecutive racing day following a mandatory payout. The Rainbow 6 sequence will span Races 3-8, featuring a first-level optional claiming allowance for 2-year-olds going 5 ½ furlongs on Tapeta. Victor Barboza Jr.-trained Grand Mo the First, a son of Uncle Mo, returns after graduating at first asking by 2 ¼ lengths on Tapeta. Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained Big Effect, who finished off the board in the Proud Man on the main track last time out, is also entered. The son of The Big Beast lost a photo finish to highly regarded Bentornato in his debut on Tapeta before graduating by nearly seven lengths on dirt.