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Racing News

Published Mar 20, 2024
by Mike Henry
The Oldsmar oval's only six-time jockey champions, Daniel Centeno and Mike Manganello

A legendary figure in Tampa Bay Downs racing history came back during today’s card, 61 seasons after he first rode here.

Accompanied by his wife Kitty, Mike Manganello – whose victory in the 1970 Kentucky Derby on Dust Commander was one of 2,598 career winners for the Hartford, Conn., product – lunched with close friend Ann Ferrentino and renewed acquaintances with Edward Cantlon, an Association Steward, and Dennis Petrucelli, the track’s Clerk of Scales. Both men competed against Manganello in his heyday.

“He was my mentor, like an older brother,” Cantlon said.

“We went to his house every Sunday to eat,” Petrucelli recalled. “He made good meatballs.”

Manganello, who turns 83 next week, also stopped by the jockeys’ room to chat with Daniel Centeno after his victory in the fourth race on Freedom Road. They are the only jockeys in Tampa Bay Downs history to win six riding titles (Manganello won 28 titles in total).

On a glorious spring afternoon, the Oldsmar oval never looked better to the racetrack lifer. “It (Tampa Bay Downs) really got good. There have been a lot of improvements,” Manganello said. “(Track President and Treasurer) Stella (F. Thayer) really did a good job.”

Manganello began his career in 1959 at 18 and rode for 20 years before switching to training. He sent out 67 winners over the next five years before returning to the saddle and rode 157 winners following his comeback.

He then became a steward, working at numerous tracks before settling at Belterra Park in Ohio. After 25 years in the booth, he retired in 2016.

Last fall, the Manganellos, who live in Lexington, Ky., self-published his autobiography, The Hartford Hurricane: My Life as a Thoroughbred Jockey. It is available through Amazon and www.barnesandnoble.com

Some of the memories and documentation were provided by Lillian Manganello, Mike’s mother, before she passed in 2020 at 101.

“Every place I ever went, it was new and an adventure,” Mike said.

“We just wanted everyone to know his story,” Kitty said. “We wrote it for the family more than anything, but there are so many people in the industry who have loved it. A lot of jockeys have reached out to us because it’s brought back a lot of memories.”

One of those memories is quite recent and surrounds the time Manganello rode a second Kentucky Derby winner.

“Mike is good friends with (trainer) Eric Reed and a week after he won the 2022 Derby with Rich Strike, we went to see him at Mercury (Equine Center, in Lexington). Eric told Mike to get up there and gave him a leg up, and Mike took Rich Strike around,” Kitty said.

Another exciting adventure, richly remembered and told.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho won both halves of today’s early daily double. He was victorious in the first race on Back to Reality, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Frank Catapano and Nicholas Primpas and trained by Wayne Potts. Camacho added the second race with Final Verdict, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Wadie F. Khalaf and trained by Christos Gatis.

Final Verdict was claimed from the race for $12,500 by trainer John Rigattieri for new owners Patrick Mogauro, Jr., and James Mogauro.

Antonio Gallardo swept the late daily double, keeping him within four victories of Camacho in the standings, 66-62. In the eighth race, a $53,000, 6-furlong maiden special weight contest, first-time starter Fortysixcounts rolled to an impressive 13 3/4-length victory from favorite D Hopper in a speedy time of 1:10.01. Gallardo rode the winning 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding for owner DiBello Racing and leading trainer Kathleen O’Connell.

Gallardo added the ninth and final race on the turf on Gilded Age, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Blu Boy Racing Stables, Ohana Racing Stable, Leon King Stable Corp., Soldi Stable and Joseph R. Hardoon and trained by Jose Francisco D’Angelo.

A new chapter in the Sunshine State’s rich history of breeding, raising and racing top-level Thoroughbreds will be written Sunday during the 21st annual Florida Cup, a collection of six $110,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds.

Post time for Sunday’s first race should be around noon. All licensed owners, breeders and trainers are invited to a luncheon free of charge from noon-3 p.m. under the big tent adjacent to the paddock.

Three races are scheduled on the main dirt track and three are slated for the turf course. The dirt races include the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, for 3-year-old females going 7 furlongs; the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, for 3-year-old males going 7 furlongs; and the NYRABETS Sprint, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at 6 furlongs.

The turf events are the Equistaff Sophomore Turf, for 3-year-olds going a mile-and-a-sixteenth; the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, for fillies and mares 3-and-upward, at a mile-and-a-sixteenth; and the ESMARK Turf Classic, for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:19 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.



The Oldsmar oval's only six-time jockey champions, Daniel Centeno and Mike Manganello

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