Grupo Seven C Stables’ Jesus’ Team, who finished second in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland Nov. 7, is scheduled to make his next start in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park Dec. 5.
Trainer Jose D’Angelo will use the Claiming Crown headliner, one of nine stakes for horses that have started for a claiming price at least once in 2019-20, as a prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Jan. 23.
“I prefer a race before the Pegasus World Cup. I don’t want to work him up to that race from the Breeders’ Cup,” D’Angelo said. “He needs a race in December.”
The 1 1/8-mile Jewel is restricted to 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $35,000. Jesus’ Team broke his maiden in a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream March 18 in his fifth career start. He came right back to score a 6 3/4-length victory for a $25,000 claiming tag May 8 before moving on to prove himself against graded company in his next six starts.
In his two most recent starts, the 3-year-old son of Tapiture finished a distant third behind Swiss Skydiver and Authentic in the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course and second in the Dirt Mile, in which he closed from off the pace to finish 3 1/2 lengths behind runaway winner Knicks Go.
“After he won the race for $25,000, I saw a big change in him,” D’Angelo said. “With every race, he gets better and better.”
D’Angelo’s stable is based at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Fla., where Jesus’ Team will prepare for Gulfstream’s 2020-21 Championship Meet from Dec. 2-March 28.
“After the Breeders’ Cup, we sent him to Ocala for rest in the paddock and round pen for a week. He’s happy and healthy,” D’Angelo said.
Jesus’ Team is among the most prominent names on the list of 25 Jewel nominees, which includes grade 1 winner Math Wizard and grade 3 winner Harper’s First Ride.
The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Math Wizard, who captured the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing, has breezed twice at Gulfstream since finishing fifth in the Sept. 5 Woodward Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. He was beaten 16 1/4 lengths by Global Campaign in the Woodward.
The nine Claiming Crown stakes attracted a total of 271 nominations, including 52 nominations for the $95,000 Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or lower. Trainer Mike Maker, the all-time leading trainer in Claiming Crown history, has nominated 10 horses to the Emerald, including defending champion Muggsamatic.