OLDSMAR, FL. – Entering today’s eighth race, owner-trainer Juan Arriagada found himself on the verge of making track history.
Arriagada won with his first three starters today, and with horses in the eighth and ninth races, he had a chance to eclipse the Tampa Bay Downs record of four training victories on a single card.
It just wasn’t meant to be, though. After his 3-year-old filly Countrygirl Pride, owned by Equine Services, finished second to Lil Annie Rose in the eighth, his 4-year-old gelding Truly Mischief flattened out at the top of the stretch in the ninth on the turf, finishing as an also-ran.
But there was no sadness to be found after a three-victory day lightened the dank, leaden skies for the conditioner and his backers.
“He (Truly Mischief) had a perfect trip, then he gave up,” Arriagada said with a wry smile. “But you have to enjoy days like this. They don’t happen often, and I’m very happy. Tampa Bay Downs is like my home, I feel very comfortable here and I like the people.”
Gerald Bennett (three times), Jamie Ness (twice) and Kathleen O’Connell are believed to be the only trainers to win four races on a single card at Tampa Bay Downs. Arriagada would have enjoyed joining that company, but saddling three winners for the first time in his career was soothing salve indeed.
The “hat trick” gives him 199 career victories as a trainer.
Arriagada, who won the track’s Leading Owner title last season and was fourth in the Leading Trainer chase, is a low-key individual who believes attention to detail is the biggest factor in getting the best from his horses. But while he prefers to keep a low profile, Arriagada actually has a substantial following.
A former jockey who won about 300 races in Peru and Chile before coming to the United States in 2004, he emerged on the national scene as a trainer in 2021 with Estilo Talentoso, a 4-year-old filly he had purchased as a 2-year-old for $15,000.
After finishing third in her first 2021 start, the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Estilo Talentoso competed in seven consecutive graded stakes races, winning the Grade III Bed o’Roses at Belmont and placing in five others, including a pair of Grade Is. She finished her career with earnings of $532,538.
Time will tell if and when his next graded-stakes winner will arrive, but a fourth-place finish two seasons ago in the Oldsmar trainer standings, when he was also second among owners, shows last season was no fluke and his methods are working.
Arriagada’s big day started with back-to-back victories in the second and third races, both as owner and trainer. He won the second race with Practicality, a 4-year-old filly ridden by Jose Batista. Arriagada added the third with Pyron, a 7-year-old horse ridden by apprentice Gabriel Maldonado.
Pyron was claimed from the victory for $6,250 by trainer Rafael Romero for new owner Soto Racing Stable.
Arriagada made it 3-for-3 in the sixth race with 4-year-old gelding Just Plain Ornery, owned by him in partnership with Barbara Anderson. Carol Cedeno was the rider.
“I don’t know if there is a key” to winning three races, Arriagada said. “You have to see what are the right spots (races) for the horses and not be afraid to lose them through the claims box. Some people get scared of losing a horse, but if you want to play, it’s part of the game.”
2019 Breeders’ Cup winner Storm the Court produces solid effort. Storm the Court, a 6-year-old whose claim to fame is his victory in the 2019 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at odds of 45-1, may have found a new outlet for his inherent passion as a turf sprinter under trainer William E. Morey.
The Kentucky-bred son of Court Vision nearly pulled off his first victory since that magical day at Santa Anita, rallying under jockey Antonio Gallardo to finish within a half-length of winner Bohemian Boy in the seventh race at 5 furlongs on the turf.
Storm the Court finished in a dead-heat for second with The Judge and Jury.
In his previous start sprinting 5 furlongs on the grass at Horseshoe Indianapolis on Oct. 4, Storm the Court rallied to finish third.
This was Storm the Court’s first race at Tampa Bay Downs. Time will tell if he has turned a corner, but today’s effort was certainly encouraging.
Sandpiper, Inaugural nominations released. Nominations have been released for the first stakes races of the 2023-2024 meet on Saturday, Dec. 2, with 27 2-year-old fillies nominated to the 46th running of the $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes and 20 2-year-old colts and geldings nominated to the 38th running of the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes.
Both races are contested at the sprint distance of 6 furlongs.
The Dec. 2 card also is the launch date for the Oldsmar oval’s popular “10 Days of Festivus” Handicapping Contest, an online event which offers players a chance to vie for the first-place prize of $1,000 and the second-place prize of $500. The contest runs through Dec. 23; Festivus Challenge rules and other information can be accessed at www.festivuschallenge.com
Gerald Bennett, Tampa Bay Downs’s leading trainer the last eight seasons, has nominated three horses to each stakes. His Sandpiper nominees include D’lightful Summer, owned by Bennett’s Winning Stables, Inc., in partnership with J.P.G. 2, LLC and Mr Pug, LLC. D’lightful Summer ran a credible fifth in August in the $203,500 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, beaten only 2 ½ lengths for the top spot.
The Florida-bred filly Chi Chi, a Sandpiper nominee from the barn of Herman Wilensky, is a two-time stakes winner since Sept. 24, taking the E. L. Gaylord Memorial at Remington Park and the Juvenile Fillies Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Other stakes winners nominated to the Sandpiper include Great Britain-bred Granny Budgie, trained by William E. Morey; Kant Resist It, trained by Jon Arnett; Let Them Watch, trained by Michael Maker; Toupie, trained by H. Graham Motion; and Xtreme Diva, from the barn of McLean Robertson.
The Inaugural nominees include the stakes-placed gelding Gotts Got It, a two-time winner from the barn of trainer Ron G. Potts who finished second in the Fitz Dixon, Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes at Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 26; trainer Michael B. Campbell’s colt Patriot Spirit, who led for 6 furlongs of the Grade III Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs before fading to sixth place; and the Gulfstream Park stakes-placed colt Sound of the Beast, trained by Rohan Chrichton.
Around the oval. Pablo Morales rode two winners today, both on the turf. Morales won the fourth race aboard Toolcat, a 6-year-old mare owned by Tammy and Robert G. Klimasewski and trained by Ron G. Potts. The rider added the seventh race on Bohemian Boy, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Ironhorse Racing Stable, LLC and Tristan De Meric and trained by Mark Casse.
Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. The co-features are the seventh and eighth races, both offering purse money of $53,000.
The seventh race is a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward. There are 12 horses entered, with 3-year-old Perfectly Golden the 7-2 morning-line favorite. The Kentucky-bred, who has won three of her last four races, is trained by Gregg Sacco and will be ridden by Samy Camacho.
The eighth is an allowance/optional claiming race for fillies and mares 3-and-upward going 7 furlongs on the main track. There are 10 entered, with 3-year-old Florida-bred Both Sides the 2-1 morning-line favorite. She is trained by John Vinson and will be ridden by Pablo Morales.
Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with Sundays added to the mix on Dec. 24. The track is open every day except Christmas and Easter 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.