By Bill Finley
There may not have been a more improved horse in 2020 than Jesus' Team (Tapiture), who began the year in maiden claimers and finished it off with a second-place finish in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and a win in the Claiming Crown series. He kicked off 2021 with another second-place finish, in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
But the best may be yet to come.
Trainer Jose D'Angelo has decided to pass on the $20-million Saudi Cup and will, instead, point the 4-year-old for the G1 Dubai World Cup on March 27. Should Knicks Go (Paynter) and Charlatan (Speightstown) both run in Saudi Arabia that could mean they won't tackle the Dubai World Cup. If so, Jesus' Team could be among the top threats in the race.
“With the Dubai World Cup, I have more time to get him into better form,” D'Angelo said. “I think that I have a real chance to win the Dubai World Cup because it is a two-turn race and the Saudi Cup is one turn. The Dubai World Cup is one furlong farther. I think Jesus' Team will like that.”
Jesus' Team is owned by Grupo 7C Racing, a stable compromised of seven brothers based in Venezuela. He began his career for trainer Jose Garoffalo before being transferred to D'Angelo's barn prior to a $25,000 claimer at Gulfstream on May 8. He won by 6 3/4 lengths that day and then came back to finish second in an allowance.
“When he first worked out for me, I saw something in him,” D'Angelo said. “In his first race for me, he showed me something. He was amazing in that race. In his workouts after that he looked incredible. I talked to the owner and I said that it's only my first year in the USA, but I see something in this horse and I think we can run in the big races.”
Jesus' Team made his stakes debut in the GI Haskell S., where he was fourth and followed that up with third-place finishes in the GII Jim Dandy S. and the GI Preakness S.
Jesus' Team developed into exactly the type of horse D'Angelo hoped to have in his barn when he left Venezuela in 2019 to try to make it in the US.
He is the son of the prominent Venezuelan trainer Francisco D'Angelo and dropped out of college after two years to go out on his own. D'Angelo made his debut as a trainer when just 22. In 2014, he saddled Dreaming of Gold (Ven) (Documentary) to win the Classico Simon Bolivar, one of the most prestigious races in Venezuela. In 2018, D'Angelo was the leading trainer in his native country. Still in his twenties at the time, he had a bright future in Venezuela, but decided to move to Florida. He currently has 17 horses based at Palm Meadows.
“It was always my dream to run in the biggest races in the USA,” he said. “I made the decision to follow my dreams.”
D'Angelo has gotten off to a solid start, saddling his first US winner on June 8, 2019. He's won 37 of 203 starts for a winning percentage of 18%.
“I am happy and proud of what I have done,” he said. “But I think this year will be an amazing year for our barn.”