February 26, 2010

Venezuelan Superstars

In 1971, Canonero II shocked the racing world with an overpowering score in the Kentucky Derby. Canonero came from way back, and swept past the leaders to win by nearly four lengths. His payoff of $19.40 might seem like no big deal, but the 9-1 odds were only because he was part of the mutuel field. He was one of six horses in the field that year, and probably would have been 100-1 or higher as a sole betting interest. The unheralded horse, very well may have been the biggest surprise in the storied history of the Run for the Roses. Canonero has something important in common with a new potential star, her name is Bambera. New and potential, are words that are true in America, but in her native Venezuela, Bambera is already an enormous star. Venezuela happens to be the same South American country that gave us Canonero.

Bambera is a Venezuelan bred, four-year-old daughter of the Sadler’s Wells sire Water Poet and has come to the States on an absolute roll. Her last race was in December, and it was her first outside of Venezuela. In that outing, Bambera romped in the biggest race in the Caribbean. It was in the Clasico Internacional del Caribe at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico. In the Clasico, otherwise known as the Caribbean Derby, Bambera defeated the best three-year-olds in Central America both male and female. The big win furthered her impressive resume. Bambera improved her overall record to 16 wins in 18 races and has now won six in a row. Amazingly she had 13 wins out of 14 starts last season. The only time she was defeated last year was a narrow loss when 2nd in one of the Triple Crown races in her native Venezuela. Bambera came that close to sweeping both the Venezuelan Triple Tiara and Triple Crown. Most of Bambera’s wins have been tour-de-force displays of overwhelming talent.

So dominant in Venezuela, and then in Puerto Rico, Her Royal Highness, as she is lovingly known as in her native land, needs to find bigger and better contests for her immense talent. This has prompted Bambera’s connections to take her on the road where they will test her against the toughest dirt competition in the world. Yesterday we learned that is likely to include a race against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom Invitational. If she lines up against those two in seven weeks, The Happening at Hot Springs will be a race that is even bigger than when Canonero pulled of his stunner 39 years ago.

What did the original Venezuelan sensation do after the Kentucky Derby, you ask? Proving that his Churchill romp was no fluke, Canonero came back two weeks later to win the Preakness by a length and a half and broke the track record in the process. When the Caracas Cannonball started in the Belmont Stakes, in hopes of the first Triple Crown in 23 years, he attracted what at the time was the largest Belmont crowd in history. Triple Crown glory was not to be, as Canonero, who was clearly not at the peak of health for the Belmont, finished fourth. What he accomplished in the Derby and the Preakness was memorable enough in America, but in Venezuela he was a national hero. Can Bambera make the kind of splash that Canonero did?

There is reason to be hopeful. While Canonero was promising in Venezuela, he was far from the star that Bambera is. Compare her sparkling record to Canonero’s record of six wins from ten starts in their homeland. She has proven herself to be superior, not only to the females, but also to the best males that the country has to offer. She is an outstanding horse who should be competitive at high levels in America. How competitive, and whether that will put a scare into America’s Queens is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, her entry against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom adds a little spice to an already tasty dish.

19 comments:

william said...

wow adding an international flair to the race would be interesting....is she going to be running before that somewhere?...i remember the hoopla at belmont for canoneroII with so many people travelling in from venezuela to see him..thanks for the memories brian

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks William, and yes, a race before then seems prudent. The Rampart may be the ticket.

LDP said...

I saw her December start, thanks to, none other than, Brian, for tipping me off. I have one word for this filly and it is awesome. She will give both our fillies a run for their money. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Kimness said...

And, from what I read, she should keep the pace honest & fast. I just wish the connections of Rachel & Zenyatta would hurry up & nominate!!

The_Knight_Sky said...

Yep. When they're not winning Derbies, they're winning beauty pageants.

Not that there's anything wrong with having Maria Conchita Alonso present the trophy in the winners circle. ;-)

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks for the props LDP.

No worries Kimness, they will nominate.

And thank you TKS, for helping me think of Maria Conchita Alonso one more time...big fan ;-)

Colins Ghost said...

Wouldn't it be something to see Bambera upset the apple cart at Oaklawn (pun intended)? I mentioned Canonero on my site this week too -- great minds think alike.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks Kevin at Colins Ghost, I loved your current piece, as per usual.

mvlach77 said...

It may be already but if Bambera joins Rachel and Zenyatta this may be the best female field of horses ever assembled for one race. It will even have an international feel to it.

mvlach77 said...

Now we just need Goldikova....just kidding.

Ramon J. Brito said...

Hey Brian, thanks for this article on behalf of all Venezuelan racing fans. Certainly Bambera became an idol down here and everyone is anxious to see her U.S. debut, which is supposed to be in the Rampart Stakes @ Gulfstream Park. After that, we will know if facing Rachel and Zenyatta is a possibility.
There's one difference between Bambera and Cañonero II: the Cannonball was bred in Kentucky, and some people say that maybe going back to his native land made this $1,200 bargain a Kentucky and Preakness winner, who knows?

Brian Zipse said...

mvlach77, it is getting more exciting by the day. I know you were kidding about Goldikova, but they really did try hard to get Vodka.

Ramon, I am so happy that a Venezuelan got to read this, and that you enjoyed the piece. Tell your racing friends about ZATT. Do you know if they will televise her American races in Venezuela?

Ramon J. Brito said...

Brian, the race will not be televised in Venezuela, but we keep track on American racing at several simulcast places in Caracas and other main cities...

mvlach77 said...

Brian, I heard you on Derek Simon's show today. Great job. Very informative. I liked the discussion about Oaklawn favoring speed horses so far. (I guess that gives away the fact I'm a Rachel fan)

Brian Zipse said...

Too bad Ramon...I can only imagine how big a star she is there!

Thank you mvlach77 (I do not know your name). I enjoy being on Derek's show a great deal, he does an excellent job. P.S. - Just between me and you...I'm a Rachel fan as well!

Kimness said...

Just watched Bambera's race - WOW - thanks for posting it Brian

Sharon said...

I'm in the Zenyatta camp (but I do love Rachel too)...but even more so, I would love to see a really exciting race that will attract interest from the general public, not just racing fans. It sounds like this Venezualan superstar will do just that. Can't wait!

railrunner said...

I first heard about Bambera last July and I've been keeping an eye on her ever since. The Apple Blossom is going to be terrific if this amazing triple runs!
Thank for the update Brian.

Luis Malito said...

I´ve just read about this blog in the website of Ramón Brito and I find it very interesting. Bambera is the best horse by far in the Caribbean, but I don´t think she could threaten the supremacy of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta with only a couple of months in the U.S., even more if she goes directly to the Apple Blossom...the best choice would be going slow by winning some allowances or handicap race, and then trying with the best horses of the world. A defeat in her first U.S. race would be traumatic for her...