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Racing News

Published Mar 17, 2024
by Mike Henry
Huber Villa-Gomez

Today’s lesson on bouncing back from adversity comes from 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Everdoit, his trainer Kevin Rice and jockey Huber Villa-Gomez.

Everdoit, a homebred gray son of Gary D-Jaggermama, by High Cotton, proved easily the best in today’s third race at Tampa Bay Downs, powering through the stretch under Villa-Gomez to post a two-length victory from even-money favorite Incinerator. While impressive, it’s what happened beforehand that made the victory especially noteworthy.

Last month, Rice and breeder-owner Donald L. Ming made the decision to run Everdoit in the Grade III, mile-and-a-sixteenth Sam F. Davis Stakes, with near-disastrous results. After hopping at the start and unseating Villa-Gomez, Everdoit raced on before bolting to the outside on the backstretch, likely in an effort to get back to his barn. Fortunately, neither horse nor rider were injured, and an outrider managed to get to Everdoit and calm him.

“He hit the plastic rail, but luckily he only had a couple of scratches,” Rice said.

That episode followed Everdoit’s performance on Jan. 1 in the 1-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream, where he led through the first half-mile before “he pulled a green move at the quarter pole and the jockey (Edgard Zayas) had to straighten and steady him in the middle of traffic,” Rice said. Everdoit finished last in the six-horse field.

Undaunted, Rice and Ming took aim at the Grade III, mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9, this time with Antonio Gallardo aboard. Everdoit tracked a dawdling pace through the first half-mile, but he lacked the needed response to stay in contention, dropping back to eighth in the 10-horse field.

Fans of late major league baseball pitcher Tug McGraw – who coined the phrase “Ya gotta believe” when his 1973 New York Mets rallied from last place on Aug. 30 to come within a game of winning the World Series – will enjoy what happened next.

“He wasn’t tired at all (after the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby). It was like the race didn’t take anything out of him,” Rice said. “This race today (a mile-and-40-yard allowance/optional claiming event) came up and he was doing fine, so we brought him back.”

Rice also gave Villa-Gomez another shot, a race after he and Ming decided Gallardo, a five-time Oldsmar riding champion, was a better option for the Oldsmar oval’s biggest race of the season.

Is it fair to wonder if Everdoit and Villa-Gomez both felt as if they had something tp prove? After all, Everdoit is a horse, and Villa-Gomez has ridden more than 2,200 winners.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Everdoit proved he could have a bright future, and his jockey reminded anyone not paying close attention he can still get the job done on a good, competitive horse. First-place money of $33,850 helped further obscure the previous few outcomes.

“I’m happy for Huber,” said Rice, who watched the race from his Critter Hill South farm in Williston, outside Ocala. “He helps me in the mornings and tries to do everything I ask. It’s all a team effort, anyway, which is why I was able to watch the race today from home with my wife and our two kids.

“I told Huber to let him find his own pace today, and (Everdoit) got after the leaders on the turn for home. He went right on by (Incinerator), and it looked like he galloped out the best of any of them after the race, so it was just what we were looking for.”

The same could be said for Villa-Gomez, who did not stop believing in Everdoit despite their Sam F. Davis mishap. He’d also been aboard when Everdoit broke his maiden here on Dec. 2 at 13-1 odds.

“A nice horse like this, he picks my head up,” Villa-Gomez said. “He is very kind and very professional. I think he’s going to keep growing up and this race will build his confidence. I rode him a little aggressively at the end, but he responded with his class.”

Rice said he may point Everdoit toward the Grade III, $400,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes on April 13 at Keeneland.

After all, in this sport, it seems you always have something to prove, and it is often rewarding just to get the chance to do so.

Around the oval. Angel Arroyo rode two winners today. He captured the second race on Duke of Dooly, a 4-year-old gelding owned and trained by Carlos M. Sepulveda. Arroyo added the seventh race on the turf with My Great Illusion, a 3-year-old gelding owned and trained by Rohan Crichton.

Trainer Gregg Sacco swept the late daily double. He won the eighth race with Roadrunner the Cat, a 3-year-old filly owned by Karen Wilkin and ridden by Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr. Sacco added the ninth and final race on the turf with It Can Be Done, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Red Oak Stable and ridden by Jose Ferrer.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:50 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 31 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.



Huber Villa-Gomez

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