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December 28, 2014


by Mike Henry
Track record-holder Ancil heads deep nominations list for Jan. 10 Turf Dash Stakes; New Year's Eve will be rockin' at the Downs.

A diverse group of 34 turf-loving Thoroughbreds – including two fillies – comprise the nomination list for the 11th running of the $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 10, 2015. The Turf Dash is for horses 4-years-old and upward.

Heading the list of nominees is 2014 Turf Dash winner Ancil, a soon-to-be 6-year-old gelding who established the Oldsmar grass course record of 54.88 seconds in capturing last season’s renewal and earning an invitation to the Royal Ascot race meeting in Berkshire, England in June to compete in the King’s Stand Stakes. The Kentucky-bred Ancil, owned by Scott Farmer of Lexington, Ky., and Kathy Thompson of Brooksville, Fla., is trained by Joan Scott.

Trainer Wesley Ward, who won back-to-back editions of the Turf Dash in 2012 and 2013 with Houyhnhnm Stable’s Great Attack, has nominated Abdullah Saeed Almaddah’s lightly raced gelding Green Mask to the upcoming event. A soon-to-be 4-year-old son of Mizzen Mast (who produced the two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-winning distaffer, Mizdirection), Green Mask is 3-for-6, including a victory in the Paradise Creek Stakes at Belmont last spring.

Ward won Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita this year with Judy the Beauty in the Filly and Mare Sprint and Hootenanny in the Juvenile Turf.

Past Tampa Bay Downs leading trainer Gerald Bennett has nominated three horses to the Turf Dash. The most accomplished is Thunder Harbor, currently a 5-year-old gelding, who is owned by Bennett’s Winning Stables, Inc., and La Marca Stable. Thunder Harbor is 9-for-35 lifetime while competing at 15 racetracks, including Tampa Bay Downs (1-for-1).

Meanwhile, eight-time leading Oldsmar conditioner Jamie Ness appears to have a serious Turf Dash candidate in Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.’s Cee ’n O, whose final start as a 3-year-old on Dec. 20 at Tampa Bay Downs at the Turf Dash distance resulted in a half-length victory in a speedy 55.66 seconds.

The runner-up in that conditional allowance, current 9-year-old fan favorite Hold On Smokey, has been a rock for owner-trainer Joyce Kielty and her late husband Donald Kielty, with 19 victories from 60 starts and career earnings of more than $400,000. His lone stakes victory came more than six years ago in the Robert M. O’Malley Memorial at Suffolk, but he is as determined as the day is long and many long-time observers swear he has not lost a step from his career-best form.

The two filly nominees to the Turf Dash are current 4-year-old Sky Treasure from the barn of trainer Mark Casse and current 3-year-old World Gone Wright, conditioned by Robert G. Smith.

On today’s card, trainer Dennis Ward – the father of the aforementioned Wesley Ward – swept the early daily double with a pair of runners from his Ridenjac Racing outfit (named for his grandchildren, Riley, Jack and Denae).

Ward saddled 6-year-old gelding Rio Grey to win the first race under jockey Mike Allen. In the second race, a starter allowance, Ward’s Extreme Excess won under Brian Pedroza.

Five-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno and defending jockey champ Antonio Gallardo each rode two winners. Centeno was aboard 5-year-old gelding Fortin in the third race for owner Stud El Aguila and trainer Sandino Hernandez, Jr., and he won the sixth race on the turf on 3-year-old gelding Sonofachub for owner Dream Team Racing and trainer Robert G. Smith.

In the seventh race – the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event – 2-year-old colt My Johnny Be Good opened a lot of eyes with a 14 1/2-length victory from Be Nice Coach. My Johnny Be Good, bred and owned by Casner Racing, LP and trained by Eoin Harty, sped the distance under Gallardo in 1:09.33, a mere .66 seconds off the track record.

My Johnny Be Good, now 2-for-4 lifetime, was sired by Colonel John, who won the 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers while trained by Harty. His pedigree suggests he could be a candidate for the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, part of the Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card, on Jan. 31.

Gallardo added the ninth race to his ledger with 4-year-old filly Abiding Love for breeder-owner Bruce Tallisman and trainer Benny Feliciano. The filly is 2-for-2 at the meeting.

If you’re a horse player with a sympathetic bone in your body, you can commiserate with the connections of 3-year-old filly Tempest’s Flash, owner Hallmarc Racing, LLC and trainer Joseph Arboritanza. In the eighth race on the grass, she finished second for the sixth time in six career starts, this time to 3-year-old filly Maryanna Star and jockey Pablo Morales. Maryanna Star, who paid $72.20 to win, is owned by Smokey Lynne Bare and her breeder Dr. Ira P. Mersack and trained by Philip Oliver.

New Year’s Eve extravaganza. Tampa Bay Downs rings out 2014 with a nine-race New Year’s Eve card on Wednesday beginning at 12:25 p.m. There is no charge for grandstand admission and there will be a Super High-5 carryover of $3,849.

The Oldsmar oval will offer simulcast wagering on New Year’s Day before a bountiful three-day weekend to kick off 2015.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.