By Dick Jerardi
Gustavo Chacon will never forget the feeling of the Kentucky Derby walkover. He was trainer Derek Ryan’s assistant on May 2, 2009 when he accompanied 19-1 shot Musket Man as the colt headed for the paddock.
“That’s one of the experiences everybody wants to have,’’ Chacon said at his Parx barn. “It was one of the dreams come true. It was like being in the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest thing you ever think when you are in the horse business…The horse ran amazing. I was so happy to be there.’’
Musket Man finished a solid third in the Derby behind Mine That Bird. The horse also finished third behind Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird in the Preakness.. Earlier, Musket Man had won Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby. In 2010, Musket Man finished second in the Met Mile and third in the Whitney.
Chacon, a native of Guatemala, has been training for a decade after coming to the United States in 1989. His first job in horse racing was at Santa Anita Park with trainer John Sadler. His horses have earned $1.5 million.
“I’m really happy to be around horses all the time,’’ Chacon said, “It makes you feel better.’’
He has a very good horse in training now, E. T’s Gypsy Woman, a 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred filly with two wins in three starts and earnings of $67,790.
“We’re thinking about the open allowance race,’’ Chacon said about what’s next. “She just won the Pa. bred allowance…Then, we’re looking at the Pa bred races.’’
Chacon was also the trainer for Exotic Appeal during much of her career which ended after 53 races in 2019 and included $127,540 in earnings.
“She was an excellent filly, but she got really sick,’’ Chacon said. “One day, she was completely down. She was like a 104.5 temperature. I called the doctor. The doctor looked at her and said `I don’t think she’s going to make it.’’’
Chacon was having none of that. He was told it would cost a lot of money to save her. He said “that’s fine. I don’t care how much it costs.’’
He was also told, even if she survived what turned out to be an ulcer on her lung, she would not run again. Chacon wasn’t buying that either. Exotic Appeal was given 200 tablets of medication for 21 days.
“She started coming around.’’ Chacon said.
The owner decided he did not want Exotic Appeal anymore so he sold her to Chacon for $3,000.
She finished third in her first start back, then second and first.
“After they sold her to me, she made about $70,000,’’ Chacon said.
After being retired, she was adopted as part of the Turning for Home program.
“She was very special, a little filly,’’ Chacon said.
The trainer believed in her and was rewarded. Now, he has another nice filly in E. T’s Gypsy Woman. Perhaps, the really big horse will be next.