BALTIMORE, Md. – Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Jose D’Angelo saddled his first winner in the U.S. with his third starter, Beach Dreaming, on June 27, 2019 at Gulfstream Park.
The 30-year-old South Florida-based trainer will saddle his first starter in a Triple Crown event Saturday, when he will send Jesus’ Team to the Pimlico racetrack for a clash with 10 other 3-year-olds in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
D’Angelo has taken the fast track to Thoroughbred racing’s center stage, but he is very well aware of the high level of competition he will face in the Preakness, including Hall of Famers Bob Baffert (Authentic, Thousand Words) and Steve Asmussen (Max Player, Pneumatic, Excession).
“I have grown up watching trainers like Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen. To be in the same race with them is very special to me,” he said.
D’Angelo learned from the best in Venezuela, being the son of Francisco D’Angelo, who won numerous training titles in his homeland while based at La Rinconada Hippodrome.
“I went to the track every day, every week, because my father was a trainer,” said D’Angelo, who began training on his own in 2012.
Success came quickly.
“I won the Clasico Simon Bolivar, the most important stake in Venezuela, with Dreaming of Gold in 2014. That’s my best race until Saturday,” he said. “It was a great day because I was the youngest trainer to win the race.”
D’Angelo’s training career continued to flourish, winning the training title in Venezuela in 2018.
“I decided to come to the U.S.,” he said, “to follow my dream.”
And his father, who began training in South Florida in 2015.
“My relationship with my dad is amazing. I learned all my skills from him,” D’Angelo said. “He helps me with my horses, and I help him with his horses, because we’re a team.”
D’Angelo first ventured to the U.S. to saddle Venezuelan-bred Forze Mau for a second-place finish in a race on the Clasico del Caribe Internacional program at Gulfstream Dec. 9, 2017, before returning to Venezuela. Since his permanent move to the South Florida, he has saddled 29 winners from 139 starters.
Jesus’ Team, who is owned by Grupo Seven C Stable, joined his barn after breaking his maiden in a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream for another trainer March 18. The son of Tapiture romped to a 6 ¾-length triumph for a $25,000 claiming price in his first start for D’Angelo before finishing a close second in an optional claiming allowance behind graded-stakes winner Sole Volante. He made a huge jump in class to run in the July 18 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, finishing fourth behind Authentic, the Preakness morning-line favorite and Kentucky Derby hero. He went on to finish second behind Preakness rival Pneumatic in the Pegasus at Monmouth and second in the Sept. 5 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga.
“I think in his last three races, he didn’t have any luck during the race. I think he’s a horse that is getting better with his races,” said D’Angelo, whose stable is based at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. “I’m very sure he’s going to run a good race.”
Photo: Jesus’ Team. Credit: Maryland Jockey Club