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December 20, 2014


by Mike Henry
Impressive 3-year-old filly appears a likely candidate for the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes next month; Mecke Mantle, Yogi Berra entered Sunday.

A few moments before post time for today’s fifth race, Joan Scott got that queasy feeling familiar to most trainers saddling an overwhelming favorite.

“I was confident, but I was worried about her getting a goofy trip or something going wrong,” Scott said following 3-year-old filly Speed Seeker’s four-length victory in the Lambholm South Race of the Week. “People are going to think you’re an idiot if you can’t win with a 2-5 shot.”

Scott had scant cause for concern during the mile-and-a-sixteenth, allowance/optional claiming turf race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward. After breaking a step slowly, Speed Seeker moved quickly to the lead under jockey Erick Rodriguez and was never threatened, winning from nine older rivals in an impressive time of 1:41.22.

With a Twist finished second, followed by Finura and another Scott trainee, Indygo F M A.

Meanwhile, in the ninth race, an allowance/$16,000 optional claiming event at five furlongs on the turf, 3-year-old gelding Cee ’n O repulsed a determined bid from 9-year-old Hold On Smokey by a half-length in excellent time of 55.66 seconds.

Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo rode Cee ’n O, owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trained by eight-time leading Oldsmar conditioner Jamie Ness.

But back to Speed Seeker, a Florida-bred daughter of Heatseeker-Seraphic Too, by Southern Halo, who entered her race with serious credentials, having won the Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies on the Woodbine turf in Toronto in August after a respectable fifth-place finish (beaten only two-and-a-quarter lengths) in the Grade II Lake George at Saratoga.

She stepped up in company at Keeneland in October in the Grade I, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for sophomores, and soft turf and a troublesome trip contributed to a seventh-place finish. Scott had high hopes entering that race. “I thought she was a goddess,” she said.

In her most recent start, Speed Seeker finished mid-pack in last month’s Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Scott said everything went right for Speed Seeker today, and Rodriguez joined the conditioner in that assessment. “We had a lot of confidence in her. It looked like she was much the best of this field, and it worked out well,” Rodriguez said. “She got the lead and was doing it real easy, and turning for home I had plenty of gas to make it to the wire.

“She has a lot of class and it kind of worked out the way we thought,” Rodriguez added.

Scott had hoped to debut Speed Seeker during the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Downs meeting, but her first start did not happen until June at Woodbine because of shin problems. It resulted in a seven-and-three-quarter length victory on the turf.

Scott said Speed Seeker could be a candidate for the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the Oldsmar turf on Jan. 31.

Speed Seeker is owned by Robert K. Johnson, Frank Coniglio, Frank Ferrogine, Richard Rendina and Sid Ritman. “They have been in the game a long time, they have good attitudes and they can take the hardships with the fun and the wins,” Scott said. “They know you have to kiss a lot of frogs (to discover racing royalty).”

For the second consecutive Saturday, several bountiful payoffs lit up the tote board. First-time starters Arabian Rose and Jaye’s Moondust – both trained by Robert Boileau – finished first and third in the first race at odds of 49-1 and 43-1, respectively. The winning 2-year-old filly paid $101.40 to win, and the $1 trifecta combination of 2-9-3 paid $6,582.00. Augusto Marin rode the winner.

The sixth race superfecta combination of 2-10-8-4 paid $40,184.50 for a $1 wager. The winner was Not Enough Cats, a 3-year-old filly trained by Kenneth Wirth and ridden by Oriana Rossi. The Super High-5 was hit in the 10th race, with the $1 combination of 7-4-2-5-1 paying $11,469.30.

Return of Sunday racing features “Hall of Fame” runners. Tampa Bay Downs will conduct its first Sunday card of the 2014-2015 meeting with a 10-race program beginning at 12:25 p.m. Sunday racing has been a staple of the Oldsmar Thoroughbred scene since 1986.

Baseball fans, take notice: In the sixth race on the turf, trainer Peter Wasiluk, Jr., will saddle 4-year-old gelding Mecke Mantle for owner Another Step Stable. Three races later, trainer Dennis Griffith will send out 3-year-old colt Yogi Berra for owner Bach Stables, LLC.

Racing will then return Friday, Dec. 26, followed the next day by the Skyway Festival Day card featuring the $100,000 Pasco Stakes for 2-year-olds and the $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Friday also kicks off the track’s always-popular, weekend-long 2015 Calendar Giveaway, with 10,000 calendars available for distribution.

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.