by Nick Hahn

Horacio Karamanos added the Colonial Turf Cup notch to his list of winning feats last Saturday night in a tote board shocker at 50-1.  However, the $300,000 Grade II may not have been his best ride at Colonial Downs.  It may not have even been his best ride for winning trainer Lawrence Murray.

“The best running of the Da Hoss there ever was.  Look it up,” Murray says.  “Karamanos went 10 feet in the air.  He’s got no irons and this horse was a run-off.  He’s done.  He’s got no irons and he’s 10 lengths behind the field.  It was over.”

Horacio Karamanos and the man he calls "like a father," Carlos Garcia, smile after Saintly Love's win in the Old Nelson.  Photo by Nick Hahn.

Horacio Karamanos and the man he calls “like my dad,” Carlos Garcia, smile after Saintly Love’s win in the Old Nelson. Photo by Nick Hahn.

Murray was the trainer of Tam’s Terms and regularly assigned Karamanos to stakes winners in the prime of Horaciomania.  The Argentine jockey arrived in Maryland in early 2002 and immediately placed his nameplate among the top riders in Maryland and Virginia.  During the 2003 Colonial meet, he piloted Tam’s Terms in that fateful Da Hoss.

“Karamanos got his feet back in the iron.  The horse was hobby-horsing until he got his feet back in the irons.  Then it was like the horse looked around and said ‘OK, are you ready to go?’ and then dragged him through the field,” concluded Murray.

Murray’s account of the race is conservative.  Karamanos’ ability to stay topside may compare well to Jeremy Rose’s circus show work aboard Afleet Alex in the 2005 Preakness.  The chart says Tam’s Terms was 8 lengths behind, Murray says 10.  I remember it being more than that.

“I remember because it was my birthday,” recollects Karamanos.  “That race was amazing to everybody, like a miracle.  I remember that race like it was yesterday because my colt broke out of the gate.  He was looking in a little bit.  I clipped heels with the horse inside to me.  I bobbled so badly. I lost one iron, I lost everything. I picked up my iron and put it around my foot again and I was standing in my saddle.  I started to the inside and wanted to keep it straight.   I closed the lead.  He finished the race.  It was an unbelievable race.”

Karamanos’ impact on the Maryland-Virginia racing circuit may have been immediate, but its duration hung in the air like cosmic dust.  Karamanos has the most wins in Colonial’s history and won the meet riding titles over four different summers.  His 16% career win rate jumps to nearly 22% at Colonial.  He also has four riding titles in the Free State.

Credit can go to trainer Carlos Garcia for giving Karamanos his opportunity.  He gave Karamanos his first mount in Maryland and his first winning horse.

“He’s like my dad.  I love Carlos.  He’s the best of the best,” praises Karamanos.

Colonial Downs Handicapper “Derby Bill” Watson frequently stumbled over the pronunciation of Karamanos and started to refer to him as “Special K.”  The nickname stuck, frequently displayed on his jockey pants.

In 2007 he landed Red Giant’s nose on the wire first at 37-1 in the mile and a quarter Virginia Derby, again on turf, a $1 million race at the time.   The jockey he beat to the wire that day was Ramon Dominquez aboard Strike a Deal.  Karamanos went wide at the quarter pole and closed for trainer Todd Pletcher.  Last Saturday night, he took nearly the same path.

Horacio Karamanos.

Horacio Karamanos.

“Always in my career, ‘When I got a horse, I got a shot’, especially with stake horses,” added Karamanos.  “You got to do something in a stake.  When you got some horse to ride in a stake, I have to feel confident to win because you never know what happen.”

Karamanos’ ride through the all-stakes Pick Four on Colonial Turf Cup Day included heavily favored Saintly Love’s win in the Old Nelson, an Action Andy scratch in the Da Hoss, a charging second with longshot Idle Talk (30-1) to favorite Channel Lady in the All Along, and the Turf Cup win.  Not a bad afternoon — except his Action Andy mount, trained by Garcia, who had won this race before and certainly would have been a contender.

Karamanos developed his turf racing skill in Argentina.  The better the horse, the better Karamanos could showcase his riding talent.

“Most of the big stakes are on the turf,” the rider explained.  “On grass I get better horses.  There are more quality horses on the grass.”

Although many of his bigger wins have been on the turf, he can also win on the dirt, as he did last fall when Action Andy won the $350,000 DeFrancis Dash.  “Special K” considers that race “very special to me, since I’m from Maryland.”

What else could have been added to Karamanos’ roster of racing feats, if not for the missing 18 months when he returned to Argentina to ride for a big stable in his native country?    On Thursday evening, June 27th, Karamanos managed to get his 10,000th career start on a weather-shortened Colonial Downs card.  He has 1,600 career wins.

None more memorable than his wild ride aboard Tam’s Terms in the Da Hoss.

(Featured image is London Lane in the Colonial Turf Cup.  Photo by Coady Photography.)

Video Vault: Tam’s Terms wins the 2003 Da Hoss