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Racing News

Published Apr 26, 2024
by Mike Henry
Daniel Centeno

By winning the Suncoast Stakes on Feb. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs and the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks Presented by FanDuel TV on March 30, 3-year-old filly Power Squeeze proved she belongs in next Friday’s $1.5-million Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

So did her jockey, six-time Tampa Bay Downs riding champion Daniel Centeno.

Following the 52-year-old Venezuela product’s outstanding performance in the Gulfstream Park Oaks – in which Centeno avoided an early squeeze play going into the first turn after breaking from the No. 1 post position, then timed her power stretch move perfectly to upset 1-2 favorite Ways and Means – owner Bill Cosgrove of Lea Farms and trainer Jorge Delgado agreed they need look no further for their filly’s rider under Churchill’s Twin Spires.

Centeno, who will be making his first-ever appearance at Churchill Downs, is still (figuratively) pinching himself to be sure it’s for real.

“You never know in this business,” said Centeno, whose previous brush with the classic scene came in 2019 when he rode Alwaysmining to an unplaced finish in the Preakness at Pimlico. “You only have to get the opportunity to ride the right horse and try to keep on her for something like this to happen.

“When I talked to the owner and he told me he wants me to come to Louisville and ride her again, I said ‘Sure, no problem. I’ll follow her wherever you want me to go.’ The filly and I get along real well, so now we’re going to the Oaks,” Centeno said.

While Power Squeeze’s credentials are topnotch – she is 4-for-6 in her career, with a four-race winning streak – she is expected to face such standouts as 2023 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Just F Y I, Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes winner Leslie’s Rose, Grade II Fantasy Stakes winner Thorpedo Anna and Ways and Means, along with eight or nine others.

Despite the imposing lineup, if Power Squeeze can duplicate her Florida form, she should be right in the mix for the garland of pink stargazer lilies awarded to the winner.

“It’s very exciting,” said Centeno, who plans to fly to Louisville on Thursday with his wife Brooke and his father Enrique. “I’ve ridden a lot of nice horses in my career, and it’s never too late to get another one. I’m blessed and grateful to Jorge and Mr. Cosgrove to be going.”

Power Squeeze completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream in 1:44.19. Her winning time of 1:40.22 in the mile-and-40-yard Suncoast, the Oldsmar oval’s “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” prep race, was less than a second off Nest’s stakes record. Nest went on to finish second in the 2022 Longines Kentucky Oaks to Secret Oath.

Centeno thinks Power Squeeze, a daughter of Union Rags out of the Awesome Again mare Callmethesqueeze, will welcome the added distance of the mile-and-an-eighth Longines Kentucky Oaks.

“I think the longer she goes, the better she’s going to be,” Centeno said.

Around the oval. Michael Simone, who has saddled 12 winners at the current meet, has been selected as the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month. Half of his victories have come since March 17. A Queens, N.Y., product, Simone is the son of late trainer Vic Simone, who trained multiple-Grade III winner Brushing Up in the late 1990s.

Michael came up under his father and began training on his own in 2007. He sent out 15 winners at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2007-2008 meet, but decided to leave the business after his father died in 2012.

After getting laid off from his car dealership job four years ago during COVID-19, Simone teamed with his uncle, Wayne LaMarche, to claim 3-year-old filly Frontier Woman for $5,000 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. Frontier Woman won her next start for the duo, and Simone knew some form of fate had led him back to where he belonged in the first place.

Simone will receive the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month award on Saturday between races.

Jockey Pedro Cotto, Jr., scored career victory No. 999 in today’s ninth and final race on the turf aboard 17-1 shot Laloba Feroz, a 6-year-old mare owned by Raidel Gonzalez and trained by Nestor Cascallares. Cotto is scheduled to get one shot Saturday at capturing No. 1,000, on Fast N Steady in the first race.

In today’s sixth race, a 5 ½-furlong claiming affair, apprentice jockey Cesar Gonzalez guided 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Papa Katz through an opening along the inside in the stretch to post a 1-length victory from Wow Wish. The victory was the first in the United States for the 27-year-old Gonzalez, a product of Caracas, Venezuela.

Gonzalez, who was “initiated” by his fellow riders with a spray hose, several buckets of ice water and shaving cream on his return to the jockeys’ room, had won an amateur race at La Rinconada in his homeland five years ago. He had been working since for a shot at coming stateside to compete. Today’s race was Gonzalez’s second here and second in the country.

Papa Katz is owned and trained by Monica McGoey. He paid $54.20 to win as the second-longest shot in the eight-horse field.

Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:18 p.m. As the meet winds down, Tampa Bay Downs will present racing cards Sunday, Wednesday and next Friday and Saturday, which is Kentucky Derby Day. The track 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.




Daniel Centeno

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