King Guillermo didn’t fit the profile of a Kentucky Derby contender entering Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), finishing sixth in his lone previous dirt start, and the 49-1 outsider was making his first appearance since a third in a turf stakes last November. He changed the narrative with a massive upset in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier, parlaying a forwardly-placed trip into a 4 3/4-length rout.
Samy Camacho was up for trainer Juan Avila, and King Guillermo likely guaranteed himself a spot in the May 2 Kentucky Derby field with the 50-point prize. However, he wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown. His connections can pay a $6,000 late nomination fee before March 30 to ensure his participation after missing the $600 early deadline.
King Guillermo is owned by former baseball star Victor Martinez’s Victoria’s Ranch. Overlooked as the 10th choice among 12 runners, the son of Uncle Mo completed the 1 1/16-mile distance 1:42.63.
“I’m so happy, I say thank you to God and all the team – Mr. Juan Carlos Avila, the trainer, the owner, Victor Martinez, and everybody who made this dream possible,” Camacho said. “I’m so excited and happy. My first Tampa Bay Derby and I want to keep doing my job and realizing my dreams.
“From the three-eighths pole, I had a lot of horse and I was worried a little about Chance It and Sole Volante, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse because he was doing really well in the mornings. I hope he is going to the Kentucky Derby.”
King Guillermo tracked up close in second as Relentless Dancer established early splits in :23.89, :48.16 and 1:12. After taking a short edge into the lane, he drew off stylishly to a commanding advantage by midstretch, and cruised to the finish line as much the best.
Sole Volante, favored at 3-2 off a 2 1/2-length win in the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, made up a lot of ground in the final furlongs after racing far back early, getting up to be a clear second in deep stretch. Next came Texas Swing, the longest price of three Todd Pletcher runners at 19-1, and Relentless Dance wound up another half-length back in fourth.
King Guillermo returned a $100.40 win mutuel, and three of the top four finishers were 19-1 or higher. The top four picked up points toward a Derby berth, but Texas Swing will have to be a late Triple Crown nominee as well.
Completing the order was 5-2 second choice Chance It, Market Analysis, Spa City, Unrighteous, Letmeno, Bye Bye Melvin, Tons of Gold and Mo Mosa.
Bred in Kentucky by Carhue Investments, Grouseridge and Marengo Investments, King Guillermo was purchased for $150,000 at the 2019 OBS April 2-year-old sale. He hails from the Dixieland Band mare Slow Sand, who is closely related to numerous turf stakes winners, and King Guillermo switched to turf after finishing sixth in his career debut on the main track last September.
The bay colt captured his second start by 6 1/4 lengths at a mile on Gulfstream’s turf, and King Guillermo concluded his juvenile season with a third as the favorite to Sole Volante in the Pulpit at Gulfstream. He’s now earned $240,350 from a 4-2-0-1 record.
“We had a lot of confidence in him,” Martinez said. “His workouts have been great and he didn’t do well at 5 1/2 furlongs in his first start, so we decided to put him on turf, but we still believed in him and his dirt workouts were really amazing. We had nothing to lose so we decided to give him one more shot on dirt and see what happens.
“This is absolutely something else. (Nothing in my baseball career) compares to this. I thank God for this opportunity and putting a great horse in my hands.”