OLDSMAR, Fla.–King Guillermo deserved one more chance, said owner and former five-time Major League Baseball all-star Victor Martinez, about the bay son of Uncle Mo.
And King Guillermo’s coronation took place Saturday at Tampa bay Downs, as he scored an authoritative 4 ¾-length victory in capturing the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (Grade II). It was the first stakes win for the Juan Avila charge, who races in the silks of the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner’s Victoria’s Ranch, and it was Martinez’s first stakes win as an owner.
King Guillermo was ridden to victory by Tampa Bay Downs-based jockey Samy Camacho.
However, the victory itself took on even greater gravitas for the winning connections. The horse was named for Martinez’s late father.
“It’s all family,” said Martinez. “My dad died when I was 6-years-old. I always wanted to have a horse with my dad’s name. It means a lot.”
It was Martinez’s mother Margot, who told her son to always set his sights high, to have a vision, and work toward those goals, something that left an indelible imprint and continues to resonate with Martinez to this day.
“My mom told me, ‘Son, dream big,’” said Martinez. “Dreams are for free. They don’t cost anything.”
But the familial ties are far greater, with King Guillermo’s victory paying homage to not only his father, but to the farm’s name, which celebrates the life of Martinez’s children.
“I have a ranch in Okechobee, a cattle ranch, and it’s named Victoria’s Ranch because I have four kids, a boy and three girls,” said Martinez. “The boy’s name is Victor Jose and the girls’ names are Maria Victoria, Barbara Victoria and Camilla Victoria.”
King Guillermo’s first start was in a sprint race on the dirt, where he placed sixth, but the 3-year-old colt switched surfaces for his next two starts, breaking his maiden in his second start on Nov. 2 at Gulfstream Park West. He ran third in the final race of his juvenile campaign, his stakes bow in the Pulpit Stakes, at Gulfstream Park on Nov. 30.
“He deserved one more chance,” said Martinez. “When he made his debut, it was at 5 ½ furlongs. It was so short of a race. We decided to move him to the turf and he did great in those races. And you know what? He’s been working great on dirt. He deserved another on the dirt. And here we are.”
When Martinez was a member of the Detroit Tigers, he shared something powerful with his teammates, an objective he seems to have reached.
“I always dream,” said Martinez. “I always told Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, that I was going to have a horse in the Kentucky Derby. We’ll see. I think I’m kind of close.”
Martinez, who was an accomplished professional athlete, said Saturday’s victory was a defining moment. There’s no comparison with King Guillermo’s win in the Tampa Bay Derby, and what he had attained in his vaunted major league career, where he was known as V-Mart, that it wasn’t even close to the excitement he felt after the bay colt’s impressive victory.
“It’s something else,” said Martinez.
It was a visceral experience for King Guillermo’s jockey Samy Camacho. A wide grin, tears of joy and an aura of excitement that seemed to define what was almost a surreal moment for the rider.
“I’m so happy,” said Camacho, who was in a jubilant state. “I say thank you to God and the whole team, the trainer, the owner, Victor Martinez, and everybody that made this dream possible. I’m so excited and happy.”
Camacho was the leading jockey at the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Downs meet, and was overwhelmingly ecstatic about the victory, sharing the red and white carnations from the winner’s garland with those in the winner’s circle.
“This was my first Tampa Bay Derby, and I want to keep working hard, realizing dreams and doing my job,” said Camacho. “From the 3/8ths pole, I had a lot of horse, and I worried a little bit about Chance It and Sole Volante, about them coming from the back. But I had a lot of confidence in my horse because he did really good in the morning, training. I hope he’s going to the Kentucky Derby.”
Martinez, who like Camacho is from Venezuela, continues to turn visions into reality.
“When I came to this country, I was dreaming,” said Martinez. “And here I am, still dreaming.”
By Ben Baugh