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PUERTO RICO HERALD
Mediavilla R. And Jockey Javier Santiago Gear Up For Historic Triple Crown Bid
By Gabrielle Paese
June 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Jockey Javier Santiago and filly Mediavilla R. are poised to make history Sunday at the San Juan Cup, the third leg of the Puerto Rican Triple Crown at El Comandante racetrack in Canóvanas.
The 3-year-old Mediavilla R., who won the first two legs of the local Triple Crown, is aiming to become the first filly in local racing history and just the fourth filly in the world to win a Triple Crown.
Javier Santiago, 24, the track's leading jockey, is vying for his second straight local Triple Crown, a feat never accomplished before in Puerto Rico. He won his first last year aboard Estrellero.
The filly, of Sejm and Flor de la Canela, owned by Félix Rosario and bred at Potrero Los Llanos, has won $372,949 to date, not including bonuses.
The filly drew the No. 5 post position for Sunday's 1 3/16 mile race and Santiago said it will be just right.
"It's fine because that's a striking position," said Santiago. "Now she can run comfortably when she breaks from the gate and be in a comfortable position for the first turn. Later on the pace will dictate the race."
Mediavilla R., who will carry 111 pounds, is one of two fillies in the male dominated field that includes Don Moncho (with Luis Pérez aboard, Salado's Kid (with Alexis Feliciano in the irons), One For Sammy (Wilfredo Rohena riding), El Trocadero (Juan C. Díaz aboard) and Contrapunto (with Andy Hernández up). La Machina (with Jesús Manuel Rios riding), is the other filly in the race.
Mediavilla R. and La Machina will be carrying the lightest loads at 111 pounds, because they are spotted a five-pound bonus. The rest of the field will be at the 116-pound limit.
The filly, under the watchful eye of trainer Jorge Maymó, clocked :59.4 in recent morning workouts gearing up for the San Juan Cup.
"The filly ran better than good," said Maymó, who said he didn't expect such a fast workout time so close to the San Juan Cup. "To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of worried about her running this fast with less than a week until the stakes race, but Javier Santiago told me that she ran easily and that he didn't push her."
This would also be Maymó's first Triple Crown. His father, Javier, won one with Hurly Road back in 1981.
Mediavilla R. turned in stellar performances in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
At the Puerto Rican Derby on May 5, she ran the 1 1/16 mile distance in 1:48.2. On May 26 at the Governor's Cup, the second leg, she was clocked in 1:55.3 over the 1 1/8 mile, where she crushed the opposition by 12 lengths.
El Comandante racetrack, just east of San Juan, offers 280 days of racing per year and has enjoyed a monopoly on the sport locally for more than 40 years.
According to industry figures, $3 billion is gambled annually in Puerto Rico. The track's daily handle is $1 million, with Sunday's slightly higher, said track press director Nidnal Adrover.
Still, the racetrack's owners say they're struggling to keep the operation afloat.
James Wilson, president of the board of directors for Equus Gaming, estimates the track lost $763,000 last year, a particularly rough year for El Comandante Management Company.
In an effort to attract more bettors and make betting more modern, Wilson brought in simulcasting last year, broadcasting races from Florida and New York for local bettors. The move was an economic disaster and the track stopped simulcasting at the close of 2001 after a one-year trial.
El Comandante's best year was in 1994 when more than $288 million was bet. Since then wagering has declined by $42 million, by Wilson's estimate.
To add to its troubles, El Comandante management was recently hauled in the by local IRS, Hacienda, for not withholding its taxes.
El Comandante management currently owes the government $9.3 million in wagering back-taxes after the company failed to send daily betting taxes to the Treasury Department from October 200 to February 2001, falling behind $11 million.
The horse racing industry generates $40 million in taxes a year and is responsible for some 8,000 jobs in Puerto Rico. El Comandante Management Company also has other holdings in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
The track's watchdog is Julio Alvárez, and his position as racing administrator is always a government-appointed post.
"El Comandante will also have to shed some of its subsidiaries that are sucking up its finances," said Alvárez recently. "The preliminary audit reports show that money has been taken from El Comandante to pass to other subsidiaries."
El Comandante features racing for locally bred and imported horses in its regular programming. It also hosts the Caribbean Stakes each December, drawing a field from Central America and the Caribbean. It's the richest purse in all of Latin America.
Last year, the race offered $300,000 for the winners and this year, two races will be added to up the ante to half a million dollars. Panamanian filly Alexia won last year's Caribbean Stakes with jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. aboard. Homeister Jr., who is married to Puerto Rican jockey José Carlos Ferrer, became the first woman to ride in and win a Caribbean Stakes in the race's history.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the most recent recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.