Saw Claire Novak’s piece circulating on Twitter that Venezuelan champion filly Bambera would be racing Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The race is the $150,000 Rampart, and it will be the filly’s US debut. An audible was called by her camp after Rachel Alexandra was declared out of the Apple Blossom—the intended target for Bambera and still a possibility—and instead of moving to Oaklawn to prepare, she’ll now race in Florida. She’s been in steady training at Calder since December with trainer Pablo Andrade, and last week her Venezuelan trainer, Gustavo Delgado, arrived to monitor her development.
This isn’t the Bambera camp’s first rodeo. In 2008, the same original connections—owner Stud Paula C and trainer Delgado—brought over the Venezuelan champ Taconeo, who like Bambera also was bred by Haras San Isidro and sired by the Sadler’s Wells horse Water Poet. Taconeo, like Bambera, also had impeccable credentials: He was a Venezuelan triple crown winner and the only horse to win the Clasico Simon Bolivar—the most famous race in Venezuela, at La Rinconada—in the same year, 2007. He was trained in the US by Kiaran McLaughlin, but in three US starts he could manage only a 2nd in the $82,000 John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga over 1 5/8 miles on turf. After returning to Venezuela that year, Taconeo won the Simon Bolivar again in 2008, which neatly told the story of Venezuelan form vs. the US.
This is very much in line with International Cataloguing Standards’ classification of Venezuela as a “Part II” country, which means the country’s Group races are considered only black type events, instead of Group-designated races; therefore, Bambera, a multiple Group 1 winner in her native country, is only considered a black type winner according to international form protocols.
Everyone is aware that Canonero appeared from Venezuela to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1971, but since then, to Taconeo in 2008, there have been several other big-time Venezuelan failures, most notably the filly Trinycarol—at one time the leading filly money earner in the world and third on the all-time list at the time behind only John Henry and Spectacular Bid with $2,640,648 earned in Venezuela, a “Part I” country at the time. Like Taconeo, she was best over a distance and won her last start in Venezuela by 25 lengths over 2 miles! Before that, she’d set a track record at 1 7/8 miles.
Trinycarol arrived in the US in 1983 from Venezuela with a Bambera-like reputation, as a winner of 18 of 24 starts, and she was trained here for Eugene Klein and her original owner by Wayne Lukas. Needless to say, she earned about $2,600 here in a handful of starts. Mind you, she was trained by an ex-quarter horse trainer who valued speed and never got the distances she enjoyed, either.
Delgado has said that Bambera is the best filly seen at La Rinconada over the past 50 years and the best he’s trained, so according to him she’s better than all the horses mentioned above, including Trinycarol and Taconeo, who actually accomplished more in Venezuela by winning the triple crown and the Simon Bolivar the same year. Bambera, a winner of 16 of 18, was upset in one leg of the triple but did win the Simon Bolivar, too, in 2009 at age 3 over 2400 meters (that means that Water Poet, the best sire in Venezuela, has been responsible for the last three Simon Bolivar winners).
The one noticeable difference between Taconeo and Bambera is pace; Bambera has more, which will help here. Taconeo needed to be hard ridden from a long ways out, and he was only just better than the competition in two Simon Bolivars and significantly outpaced here on dirt. His 2nd place finish at 1 5/8 miles on turf played more to his running style and pedigree.
Bambera also needs firm handling like Taconeo, but because she’s speedier she’ll have a chance to keep contact with the field. What neither of the Water Poets—nor for that matter Trinycarol—faced in Venezuela was serious early speed, the hallmark of US racing, and this allowed them to get away from the competition.
I’ve included some videos below, including Trinycarol’s Simon Bolivar from 1982, Taconeo’s two Simon Bolivars in 2007 and 2008, and Bambera’s Simon Bolivar from 2009.
At 10 furlongs and up, based on pedigree and running style, Bambera would probably be a much stronger threat than at lesser distances. We’ll see how she does Saturday and whether she can make the transition to the US that several before her couldn’t.
1982 Simon Bolivar (Trinycarol is 3rd early)
2007 Simon Bolivar (Taconeo is in light blue silks, 3rd early)
2008 Simon Bolivar
2009 Simon Bolivar (Bambera in light blue silks)