The competition for the second Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Award of the meet was a wide-open contest entering the day, with five conditioners having a chance to follow Kathleen O’Connell on the honor roll.
Turns out, a bunch of trainers not in the running for the Boot Barn honor waylaid the Friday plans of the five contenders. When the dust cleared, Tampa Bay Downs newcomer Jose Francisco D’Angelo (6-for-23 for the meet) edged Jamie Ness, Juan Arriagada, Darien Rodriguez and Gerald Bennett for the award, based on a combination of total victories and winning percentage.
D’Angelo, a 33-year-old Venezuela product, is a third-generation horseman. His late grandfather Jose worked for the Venezuelan version of the racing form and his father Francisco was a champion trainer in Venezuela, a feat young Jose duplicated in 2018.
Jose moved to south Florida soon after, and Dame Fortune struck quickly in the form of Jesus’ Team, a Kentucky-bred who started getting really good in the spring and summer of 2020, his 3-year-old year. After back-to-back victories at Gulfstream Park, Jesus’ Team finished fourth in the Grade I TVG.com Haskell; third in the Grade II Jim Dandy and the Grade I Preakness; and second to Knicks Go in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland.
Still sharp as a tack, the Grupo 7C Racing Stable star won the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Gulfstream and opened 2021 with a runner-up finish to Knicks Go, again, in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream.
Jesus’ Team is now competing at Camarero in Puerto Rico, where he won the Group I Clasico Jose Celso Barbosa in July under current trainer Ramon Morales. “He got sick last year and lost a lot of training, but it was a good journey with him,” D’Angelo said. “He put me on the map here.”
D’Angelo – who has close to 60 horses at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach and four in New York, in addition to his 25-horse stable here – is also racing at Gulfstream, where he sent out two winners today.
His father is his main assistant, but Jose notes “we are a team. We work together well, and I can go to Tampa or New York or Monmouth in the summer and be confident things are taken care of.”
Trainer Tim Schuh and jockey Marcos Meneses teamed to win the fourth and fifth races today. Schuh, who has a four-horse stable, sent out Money Train Racing and Schuh Sun Racing’s 3-year-old filly Tap and Chu to break her maiden in the fourth race. In the fifth race on the turf, Meneses rode 2-year-old colt Magic Heart to a maiden score for Schuh Sun Racing and Ten-Ten Racing.
Meneses added a third victory in the ninth and final race on the turf with Castagno, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Jose A. Gallegos and trained by Jennifer A. Quinones.
Leading jockey Samy Camacho also rode three winners today, the first two on the turf. Camacho scored first in the third race with Jailhouse Justice, a 2-year-old gelding owned by Anthony Bradshaw and Anthony Granitz and trained by Granitz. Camacho added the seventh on Diamond Hands, a 4-year-old filly owned by LSU Stables and trained by Christophe Clement.
Camacho then won the eighth race on the main track on Mish, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by C2 Racing Stable and trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Off the Meds scored the biggest upset of the still-young meet in the sixth race, rallying from last place on the backstretch to defeat 4-5 favorite Hercules by three-quarters of a length in the mile-and-a-sixteenth claiming race.
Off the Meds, a 6-year-old gelding who was ridden by Jose Batista, paid $154.20 to win on a $2 wager. Off the Meds is owned by Hector R. Gonzalez and trained by Juan Carlos Avila.
It was the eighth career victory for Off the Meds but his first since Oct. 19, 2022 at Parx Racing.
Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:49 p.m. There are four races on tap offering more than $50,000 in purse money, including the seventh at a mile on the turf, in which trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey’s 3-year-old colt Conversing is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Camacho is named to ride.
The Hall of Famer McGaughey is 16-for-45 at Tampa Bay Downs since the start of the 2021-2022 meet.
Tampa Bay Downs will then conduct its first Sunday card of the meet on Christmas Eve, with an eight-race program scheduled to begin at 12:24 p.m, about 11 hours before the big guy starts sliding down chimneys. Tampa Bay Downs will then race on a Sunday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule through May 4, with the exception of Easter Sunday, March 31, when the track will be closed.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas and Easter for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.