While it’s premature to predict what level of success apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado will achieve, both in the short term and the long run, he’s already showing signs of fitting in among the deep Tampa Bay Downs colony.
Maldonado, a 25-year-old Puerto Rico product, won on two of his three starters today, giving him three winners at the meet. He lit up the tote board in the third race on the turf, riding 3-year-old filly Al Tirah – at 38-1, the longest shot in the race – to a 2 ¾-length victory from Good Value.
In the sixth race, Maldonado (pictured) showed he can handle an odds-on favorite, acing the 5 ½-furlong contest on Truly Mischief by 6 ¼ lengths for owner-trainer Juan Arriagada.
The 4-year-old gelding Truly Mischief was claimed for $8,000 by trainer Benny Feliciano for new owner MCR Stable.
Maldonado, who is also a licensed farrier, began his career as a jockey on May 21 at Gulfstream Park. He exercised horses for top trainer Chad Brown in south Florida in 2019 and 2020, then spent much of the last two years lowering his weight to be able to compete in the afternoons.
“He’s a nice kid who is serious about what he does,” said agent Eddie Joe Zambrana, a former jockey. “He’s got a lot of talent for being an apprentice, he’s a hard worker and he listens to what the trainers tell him. I think he has a good future if he stays the way he is.”
Today marks the first time Maldonado has ridden two winners on a single card. He began the day with a “one-race-at-a-time” mentality, which seemed to keep his confidence high for both victories.
“Not really,” Maldonado said when asked if he expected to win both races, “but I always believe in myself.”
Zambrana said days like today will bolster Maldonado’s confidence further, and that of trainers looking to get weight off via the apprentice allowance. “The more confidence the trainers have,” Zambrana said, “the more chances they’ll give him.”
Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho won both halves of the late daily double. He won the eighth race on Flipping Fish, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by MCR Stable and trained by Benny Feliciano. Camacho added the ninth race on the turf with Sir Lumpalot, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Madison Avenue Racing Stable and Jagger, Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness.
Beginning Dec. 27, Oldsmar racegoers can pick up a free 2024 calendar, while supplies last, at the main entrance gate. The calendar offers a vibrant reminder of some of last season’s racing highlights and sights and scenes from a typical day at the track.
Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. The co-features include the seventh race, a $54,000 conditional allowance/optional claiming race for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, and the eighth race, a $53,000 conditional allowance/optional claiming contest for horses 3-and-upward at a mile-and-40-yards on the main track.
Sunday racing begins Dec. 24. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.