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December 17, 2014


by Mike Henry
Inaugural winner Catalina Red, Sandpiper champ R Sassy Lass head Skyway Festival Day nominations lists; Daniel Centeno rides four winners, while trainer Kathleen O'Connell gives Antonio Gallardo a leg up on three.

Catalina Red, winner of the Inaugural Stakes here on Dec. 6 in stakes-record time, headlines a collection of 28 juvenile colts and geldings nominated to the 16th running of the $100,000, seven-furlong Pasco Stakes on Dec. 27.

Also on tap for the final Saturday of 2014 at Tampa Bay Downs is the 31st edition of the $100,000, seven-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, which has attracted 20 nominees. Heading that list are the first three finishers in the Dec. 6 Sandpiper Stakes: winner R Sassy Lass, runner-up Coco’s Wildcat and third-place finisher Innovative Idea.

The Oldsmar oval’s annual Skyway Festival Day card also features the 2014-2015 debut of track announcer Richard Grunder’s Morning Glory Club Show at 10 a.m., featuring a personality from the world of Thoroughbred racing. Free coffee, donuts and grandstand passes will be provided to all who attend.

On today’s card, five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno rode four winners, chipping away at Antonio Gallardo’s lead in the standings. The Spaniard – who won the 2013-2014 Oldsmar riding title with 124 victories – was aboard three winners, all for trainer Kathleen O’Connell.

More on today’s big two-legged winners below.

All Thoroughbred race horses in North America celebrate their birthdays on Jan. 1, and the Pasco and Gasparilla represent a chance for many of the participants to prove they can handle an additional furlong of ground while stoking their connections’ ambitions of tackling more lucrative, two-turn races as 3-year-olds.

Recent winners of the Pasco who have used the race as a springboard to greater fame and riches include Musket Man (2009), who won the then-Grade III Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade II Illinois Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the BlackBerry Preakness; Prospective (2012), who won the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade III Ohio Derby; and Dynamic Sky (2013), who finished third in the Queen’s Plate and won the Grade III Red Smith Handicap last month as a 4-year-old.

The honor roll of Gasparilla winners includes Ebony Breeze (2003), who went on to capture the Grade III Florida Oaks and the Grade III Azalea Breeders’ Cup as a 3-year-old and added two additional Grade IIIs over her five-year career; and Diva Delite (2010), who won the Grade III Florida Oaks here two starts after her Gasparilla score to cap a five-race winning streak.

Catalina Red’s triumph in the Inaugural was nothing short of breathtaking, as he pulled away through the stretch under jockey Daniel Centeno to post a seven-and-a-quarter length victory in 1:09.32 for six furlongs. The Florida-bred son of Munnings-Lovely Dream, by Freud, who was recording his first victory in four starts, is owned by Anthony Lenci and trained by Chad Stewart.

The second and third-place Inaugural finishers are also on the Pasco nominations list released by Tampa Bay Downs Stakes Coordinator Gerry Stanislawzyk. Runner-up Charlie’s Brother is owned by Stanley S. Moles and Starr Stables, LLC and trained by Lynne Scace, while Duke of Luke, a gelding, is owned by Frank Coniglio, Nick Rebro, Richard Rendina and Sidney Ritman and trained by Joan Scott.

Possible new shooters for the Pasco include Illinois-bred colt Dom the Bomb, a multiple-stakes winner owned by V-Leaf Stables, LLC, Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli and trained by Rivelli; along with stakes winners Dekabrist, owned and trained by Gennadi Dorochenko; It’s Not Me, owned by White Wabbit Wacing, LLC and trained by Jorge Navarro; and Twotwentyfive A, owned by Jacks or Better Farm, Inc., and trained by Stanley Gold.

The connections of Florida-bred filly R Sassy Lass – owners Averill Racing, LLC, Silver Oak Stable and Gregory Kaufman and trainer Kirk Ziadie – may elect to give her an opportunity to duplicate her stirring, come-from-behind victory in the Sandpiper in 10 days. That was her second consecutive victory, and improvement will make her tough to beat, regardless of the venue.

Sandpiper runner-up Coco’s Wildcat, owned by Gilbert G. Campbell and trained by Kathleen O’Connell, showed plenty of fortitude in her half-length defeat, while third-place Sandpiper finisher Innovative Idea – owned by Godolphin Racing, LLC and trained by Eoin Harty – closed ground well to be third. Both should be formidable in their next assignments.

Other intriguing Gasparilla nominees include Leap Year Luck, already a winner of three stakes, owned by Jacks or Better Farm, Inc., and trained by Stanley Gold; and Curtis C. Green’s unbeaten (2-for-2) stakes winner A. P.’s Glory, trained by James DiVito.

Top jocks Centeno, Gallardo shine; O’Connell saddles three winners. Daniel Centeno had an afternoon to remember, making four trips to the winner’s circle to give him 10 victories through the first nine days of the meeting. Antonio Gallardo rode three winners – all for trainer Kathleen O’Connell, herself a two-time Tampa Bay Downs training champ – to raise his total thus far to 19.

O’Connell now has six victories, tops among the track’s conditioners.

Centeno fired the opening salvo by winning the second race on J’s Two Step Halo, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by Janis Maitlen and trained by Gerald Bennett. He added the fourth race on 5-year-old mare Rhonin Victoria for owner Lady Luck Stable and trainer Christos Gatis and returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh race on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Wind of Bosphorus for owner Chalk Racing and trainer Thomas McCooey, Jr.

Centeno made it a grand slam in the eighth race on 3-year-old gelding Uno Concerto for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Sandino Hernandez, Jr. Two of Centeno’s winners were claimed: Rhonin Victoria by trainer James T. Wright for owner Donat Ferland, and Wind of Bosphorus by trainer Wayne Minnock for new owner Douglas Terry.

Expect the O’Connell-Gallardo combination to produce results throughout the meeting. They captured the third race with 3-year-old filly Old Wives Tale for owner Double T Racing; the fifth on the turf with a nice-looking 2-year-old colt, Prince Vincenzo, for owner DiBello Racing, LLC; and the sixth with 2-year-old gelding Shine for Jon for breeder-owner Gilbert G. Campbell.

Trainer Joe Woodard is off to a hot start with four victories after 3-year-old filly Good Catholic Girl’s triumph in the first race. Like Woodard’s earlier local winners, Good Catholic Girl is owned by Billy, Donna and Justin Hays and was ridden by Geovany Garcia.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25. Simulcast wagering will not be offered Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. On that day, The Silks Poker Room will be open from 10 a.m.-1 a.m., and The Downs Golf Practice Facility will close at 4:30 p.m.