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December 21, 2014


by Mike Henry
Yogi Berra the horse now 2-for-2 after eerie coincidences result in emotional victory; John Kudlo of Tampa wins 10 Days of Festivus handicapping contest.

As Yogi Berra might have once said, coincidences are funny things. You never know if they’re meant to happen.

The 3-year-old colt named for the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher won his second career race today at Tampa Bay Downs, holding on for a three-quarter length victory from Sancerre in a snappy 1:23.22 for the seven furlongs in the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week.

Daniel Centeno was again aboard Yogi Berra, whose 89-year-old namesake was watching the allowance/optional claiming race at home, according to a tweet from his granddaughter, Lindsay Berra. The victory came 10 months to the day after the Florida-bred broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs under similarly gloomy skies.

What’s more, his first victory also came as the No. 9 horse in the ninth race.

Breeder-owner Jessica Steinbrenner (Bach Stables), daughter of late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, said Yogi Berra the horse had been sidelined with a minor injury, but obviously has recuperated fully and returned to serious form with his second victory in two career starts. The son of Majestic Warrior-Esperanza d’Oro is trained by Dennis Griffith. Yogi Berra paid $9.40 to win.

Adding to the Yankees theme, a 4-year-old gelding named Mecke Mantle (close enough to Yankees Hall of Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle for today) won the sixth race on the turf under jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr. Mecke Mantle, who paid $17.80, is owned by Another Step Stable and trained by Peter Wasiluk, Jr.

Festivus Challenge. John Kudlo of Tampa, who moved here a few years back from Albany, N.Y., after retiring from IBM, claimed first prize of $1,000 in the “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” handicapping contest with a final mythical Festivus Wallet total of $6,228.

Kudlo, who shared a daily award earlier in the contest, and his wife Susan are regular patrons at Tampa Bay Downs. “We never miss a track day,” he said after beating out 776 contest rivals.

Kudlo’s big score during the contest was a mythical $100 win wager on 3-year-old filly Three Timer in the ninth race on Dec. 10. Three Timer, who is owned and trained by M.C. Reardon and was ridden by apprentice Janelle Campbell, paid $106 to win, increasing Kudlo’s bankroll by $5,300.

“When somebody rang up $3,000 the first day, I realized my regular handicapping skills were not going to be enough to make that up,” he said. “I knew I had to get real aggressive with long shots that had a decent shot.

“Three Timer was making her first start on turf and was bred out of her eyeballs for the grass (by Hat Trick, out of Darling Dancer, by Danehill), so I decided to pull the trigger and she blew that field out of the water. I’m just so thrilled to finish on top – it’s awesome,” Kudlo said.

A full list of contest winners will follow in a subsequent press release.

Holiday racing schedule. Following a four-day break to enable horsemen, jockeys, stable workers and track employees to enjoy the Christmas holiday, Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs will resume Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m.

That program serves as an appetizer for the 10-race Skyway Festival Day program on Saturday, featuring the $100,000 Pasco Stakes for 2-year-olds and the $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Both are seven-furlong events.

The Pasco, which is the ninth race on the card, has drawn a field of nine 2-year-old colts, including Anthony Lenci’s Catalina Red, the winner of the Dec. 6 Inaugural Stakes here in stakes-record time of 1:09.32. Catalina Red is trained by Chad Stewart and will again be ridden by Daniel Centeno.

The morning-line favorite at 5-2 is Gelfenstein Farm’s X Y Jet, a south Florida-based runner who has a victory and three seconds from six lifetime starts. X Y Jet is trained by Jorge Navarro and Antonio Gallardo has been named to ride.

The Gasparilla, carded as the seventh race, has attracted a field of 10 juvenile lasses, including the first two finishers in the Dec. 6 Sandpiper Stakes: R Sassy Lass and Coco’s Wildcat. R Sassy Lass, to be ridden by Gallardo, is owned by Averill Racing LLC, Silver Oak Stable and Gregory Kaufman. Kirk Ziadie is the trainer.

Coco’s Wildcat is owned by her breeder, Gilbert G. Campbell, and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. A rider has yet to be named.

The 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Gasparilla is A. P.’s Glory, owned by Curtis C. Green and trained by James DiVito. She will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister, Jr. A. P.’s Glory is 2-for-2, including her Aug. 2 victory in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Stakes.

Saturday also kicks off track announcer Richard Grunder’s popular “Morning Glory Club” Show, beginning at 10 a.m. His guest will be the track’s new “Paddock Preview” host, Andrew Demsky. Attendees will receive free coffee, donuts and Grandstand passes.

Friday also marks the start of Tampa Bay Downs’ Calendar Giveaway Weekend, when 10,000 calendars celebrating the track’s 89-year history and the majesty of the breed will be distributed.

On today’s card, trainer Peter Wasiluk, Jr., won with both of his starters. Wasiluk saddled 7-year-old mare Mambo Maya, owned by himself and wife Sharyn, to win the first race with Keiber Coa in the irons. Wasiluk then sent out Another Step Stable’s 4-year-old gelding Mecke Mantle to win the sixth race under Rosemary Homeister, Jr.

Daniel Centeno rode two winners. Prior to his victory on Yogi Berra, he won the eighth race on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Singing Monarch for owner The Elkstone Group, LLC and trainer Ron G. Potts.

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.

Golfest 50-50 Raffle to benefit charities. Beginning Friday, Dec. 26, The Downs Golf Practice Facility will conduct a 50-50 raffle to benefit charities affiliated with its annual Golfest demo days and golf expo, which will be held the weekend of Feb. 14-15, 2015.

The winner of the top prize (half of the gross cash amount from raffle ticket sales) will be drawn upon the conclusion of Golfest on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 15. Drawings will also be held for dozens of other prizes, including two tickets to the first men’s major tournament of 2015 in Georgia, won last year by Bubba Watson.

Raffle tickets will be available in the Golf Shop at The Downs Golf Practice Facility through Feb. 15 during normal business hours. The cost is $5 per ticket, $10 for three tickets and $20 for 10 tickets. There is no limit to the number of tickets that may be purchased.

Proceeds will benefit Folds of Honor, which provides annual scholarships to family members of servicemen and women killed or disabled in action; Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc. (TROT); Trinity Café in Tampa, which serves 260 hot meals each day to the homeless, hungry and working poor; Thanks Troops, which provides recreational equipment and opportunities for wounded warriors; and the Special Operation Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and counseling to the offspring of Special Operation personnel killed in the line of duty.

Other prizes include a day of Thoroughbred racing for four at Tampa Bay Downs; $50 in range balls; half-hour lessons at The Downs Golf Practice Facility; golf equipment and merchandise from top manufacturers; rounds of golf for four at various area country clubs and courses; daily tickets to the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor the week of March 9-15; and merchandise from the first men’s major tournament of 2015 in Georgia.

Golfest is one of Florida’s largest demo days and expos, featuring the annual “Celebrity Golf Challenge;” the chance to sample and purchase the latest equipment; clinics and demonstrations; more than 20 golf lifestyle booths; and fun events for families.

For details, call (813) 854-4946.