By Meredith Daugherty
With 16 horses entered in six of the nine races comprising Gulfstream Park’s 20th annual Claiming Crown Dec. 1, trainer Jorge Navarro stacked the deck in his favor and was justly rewarded.
Capping off a banner day in which Navarro trainees claimed three races on the opening day of the Championship Meet, Aztec Sense sealed the deal in the headlining $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes, and remained undefeated in eight starts for 2018.
“Amazing day,” Navarro said. “I told my wife, ‘If we can win three races today, it’s a touchdown.'”
After finishing fourth in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes last year, Joseph Besecker’s Aztec Sense returned to the Claiming Crown with renewed purpose. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite in Saturday’s 12-horse field, he broke sharply in the 1 1/8-mile dirt test and raced two wide as last’s year’s Jewel winner and fellow Navarro trainee Flowers for Lisa set the pace through the first half-mile in :47.70.
In range of the leader along the backstretch, Aztec Sense made his move under jockey Emisael Jaramillo three furlongs from home and took control of the field briefly by a half-length before being passed by a driving Rich Daddy.
Shifting out to race five wide in the upper stretch, Aztec Sense dug in with a final kick as the field approached the wire, dueling with Rich Daddy before collaring the short-lived leader to win by a neck in a final time of 1:52.75.
Aztec Sense the CC Jewel credit Leslie Martin