Trainer Jose D’Angelo was all smiles Saturday morning after Grupo 7C Racing Stables’ Jesus’ Team walked off the track following a 5-furlong breeze over a muddy track in 1:00.80 in preparation for the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) to be run here Nov. 7.
“It was a good work and he will come back again next Saturday and work a half-mile,” said D’Angelo, who never has started a horse at Keeneland.
“I have only been in this country a year,” the 30-year-old native of Venezuela said. “I have not been here to race but I have been to the sales.”
Jesus’ Team has been at Keeneland for two weeks, following his third-place finish in the Preakness (G1) that gave D’Angelo his first taste of the American classic races.
“At home, we would watch all the big races like the Preakness and the (Kentucky) Derby (G1) and to be there was a dream,” D’Angelo said. “Everybody was so nice; it was not like a competition.”
D’Angelo took over the training of Jesus’ Team a month after he broke his maiden on March 18 for a $32,000 claiming price at Gulfstream Park.
“The first time I worked him, it was not what I wanted,” D’Angelo said. “His next work, we broke him from the gate and I said, ‘He’s ready’.”
On May 8, Jesus’ Team won a $25,000 claiming race going a mile by 6¾ lengths. The performance had D’Angelo thinking he might have something special on his hands.
“I told the owners I wanted the opportunity to run with the best horses in Florida,” D’Angelo said. Another boost to his confidence came on May 31 at Palm Meadows Training Center when Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law worked a half-mile in :48.40 and Jesus’ Team worked in :47.70.
“We kind of laughed a bit that he and Maximum Security can go from claiming (races) to champions,” D’Angelo said, referring to last year’s champion 3-year-old male.
Following that work, Jesus’ Team competed in a June 10 allowance race at Gulfstream. He finished three-quarters of length behind Grade 3 winner Sole Volante, who went on to run in the Belmont (G1) and Kentucky Derby, and finished ahead of Grade 2 winner Ete Indien.
D’Angelo began looking at a possible path to the Kentucky Derby, opting for the TVG.com Haskell (G1), in which he finished fourth behind subsequent Derby winner Authentic, and then a third-place finish in the Jim Dandy (G2) before going to the Preakness.
Which brings D’Angelo and the star of his 17-horse stable to Keeneland.
“I brought him here right after the Preakness to get him acclimated,” D’Angelo said. “He likes it. It is so quiet here and beautiful; it’s like heaven.”
Keeneland Press Release/ Coady Photography