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Panama’s Spago Wins Caribbean Stakes, Other Notes

By Gabrielle Paese

December 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Three-year-old Panamanian colt Spago, ridden by Cornelio Velazquez, charged past Mexico’s Casty and Dominican Republic’s Oliver D midway to the final stretch to win the 37th edition of the Caribbean Stakes by a handy 1 1/2 lengths with a time of 1:52.47 over the 1 1/8-mile distance at El Comandante Racetrack in Canovanas.

The Caribbean Stakes

The victory was Velazquez’s third overall in Caribbean Stakes races and his second straight for Panama, a record for jockeys at this event. Panama now has a record 12 victories at Caribbean Stakes races since 1966. The 36-year-old Velazquez is currently 20th in wins in the United States with 214 and earnings of $10.875 million. He won his first Caribbean Stakes in 1992 aboard Leonardo and his second last year with Cafajeste.

Spago, meanwhile, won his sixth race in a row and became just the sixth winner of a Triple Crown to gain top Caribbean Stakes honors. The others are Panama’s Montecarlo (1973), Mexico’s Pikotazo (1980), Puerto Rico’s Vuelve Candy B. (1991) and Panama’s Leonardo (1992) and Evaristo (1998).

Spago, who netted the $300,000 top prize, broke from the gate eighth and held his position for the first seven furlongs before settling into third place, a length behind leaders Casty and Oliver D. Velazquez said he waited until the time was right to move Spago into the lead.

"I didn’t like the post position (12) the horse was assigned, but did my best to cut the distance by moving near the inner lanes in the curves. When I demanded more speed from my horse in the last three furlongs, he had plenty of energy left," said Velazquez, who was inducted into the Caribbean Thoroughbred Racing’s Hall of Fame last week.

Puerto Rico has not won a Caribbean Stakes since 1994, the year Julio A. "Nano" Garcia won aboard El Gran Nano. Puerto Rico’s best entry, Omar Alejandro, finished a distant fifth.

In other races, Venezuelan 4-year-old Arzak won the 1 3/16-mile Confraternity Stakes by 4 _ lengths with a time of 1:59.47 over Panama’s DiStefano with jockey Rafael Torrealba aboard. In the Sprint Cup, Puerto Rico’s Portentoso, ridden by Javier Santiago, shot out of the gate and held on to win the six-furlong race by 5 _ lengths over rival Cachito, of Panama with a time of 1:11.23. Panamanian rider Angel Rivas was the Jockey Challenge winner after first and second places in the first day of programming.

Basketball entities reach accord

The Superior Basketball League and Puerto Rico Basketball Federation reached an accord this week in their bitter power dispute, but not in time to save the Caguas Criollos for the 2005 season. The Criollos became the fourth SBL franchise to opt out of the upcoming season. It will be the first time in 36 years that the Criollos sit out the season, joining Quebradillas, Mayaguez and Morovis, all of whom face financial difficulties. The SBL will play its season with 10 teams, the first time in 35 years.

As for the SBL and the federation, the two entities, which underwent a separation of powers four years ago, sorted out their differences and agreed to share control. The Puerto Rico basketball team gained near total autonomy in the deal, although it will now have to share $130,000 of its profits with the women’s and junior international teams. Meanwhile, the SBL will give a portion of its sales (25 cents per ticket) to the federation.

"The impression was given that this was a dispute over the Puerto Rico team and who was going to make money off it, but that’s just not true," said Ricardo Carrillo, co-franchise holder of the Santurce Cangrejeros and one of several attorneys involved in the controversy. "The Puerto Rico team doesn’t belong to the Federation or the League. It belongs to Puerto Rico. It belongs to the fans that watch every play from their TV sets at home. It belongs to the kids who line up behind the bench for autographs from the players. We are just the gatekeepers."

Cotto to defend WBO title

Miguel Cotto (21-0, 17 KO) makes the first defense of his World Boxing Organization junior welterweight title this weekend when he meets former champ Randall Bailey (28-4, 27 KO) on the undercard of the Vitali Klitschko-Danny Williams fight in Las Vegas and on HBO pay-per-view.

Cotto sparred with fellow Puerto Ricans Luis Galarza and Henry Bruseles, both of whom are more or less Bailey’s height, for this fight. He called his training sessions helpful, but said no sparring was substitute for the real thing.

"Nobody does exactly what the guy in the ring is going to do," said Cotto. "Not until I get up in the ring will I know exactly what I have to do to win."

Cotto said he put little stock in Bailey’s comments that Cotto’s previous rivals were lightweights who had moved up to 140.

"We’ll find out when we get into the ring and you can ask him that question after fighting me for three or four rounds," said Cotto.

Cotto virtually silenced any questions about him making the 140-pound weight limit.

"My weight is fine, it’s not an issue, it’s just that some people like to write about it," said Cotto. "I have never not made weight for a fight."

As for Cotto’s future, Top Rank president Tod DuBoef admitted that he’d like to keep Cotto on a plan of four fights per year, but said getting the top names in the division would not be easy.

"Most of the bigger guys with recognizable names like Floyd [Mayweather], [Kostya] Tszyu are not so excited about getting into the ring with Miguel," said DuBoef. "Our job is to get those fights together and make them happen."

Top Rank as well as the stateside media look to Cotto as the future of a tough 140-pound division that includes the likes of WBA and IBF champ Tszyu, Arturo Gatti, IBF champ Vivian Harris, Sharmba Mitchell and Top Rank’s other big draw, Mayweather. Mayweather will fight Cotto’s training partner, Bruseles, in late January.

"Miguel’s career is slowly rising," said Top Rank president Tod DuBoef. "He’s doing a good job in the ring and we see him as the next possible superstar in the business. Obviously you have the Mayweather-Gatti fight, which could happen next year in June. I would say you can’t expect to see a Mayweather or Gatti versus Cotto before late ’05. Our goal with Miguel is to keep him as active as possible. And as you know with other fighters, it is difficult to get both sides to the table."

This is Cotto’s third fight of 2004 in Las Vegas. On Feb. 28 he scored a fourth-round TKO victory over Victoriano Sosa and on May 8 he won a unanimous decision over Lovemore N’Dou, both fights at the MGM Grand. This is the eighth time in his career Cotto will fight in Vegas. He has also fought eight times in Puerto Rico.

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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