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January 07, 2015


by Mike Henry
In his second year at Tampa Bay Downs, trainer Eoin Harty might have a serious candidate for the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Jan. 31.

Trainer Eoin Harty holds up his 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner, Colonel John, as a gold standard against which he measures any highly talented Thoroughbred that enters his barn.

So when a 3-year-old colt such as Colonel John’s son, the Casner Racing, LP Kentucky homebred My Johnny Be Good, comes along, the 52-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland finds it hard to contain his excitement.

Father and son “have very similar personalities,” said Harty, who plans to prepare My Johnny Be Good for the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Festival Preview Day, Jan. 31. “Colonel John was not only very talented, he was a very sensible horse, and that’s a lethal combination.

“My Johnny Be Good seems to have those same qualities, and he looks a lot like his father,” Harty said. “He has shown all the signs of being a very good horse from the first time I worked him, and he is starting to dot all the ‘I’s’ and cross all the ‘T’s.’ ”

Out of the Elusive Quality broodmare Im So Fine, My Johnny Be Good did so with a giant exclamation point in his fourth and final start of his 2-year-old season on Dec. 28. He drew away to a 14 ½-length victory under jockey Antonio Gallardo in eye-popping time of 1:09.33 for six furlongs. My Johnny Be Good is 2-for-4, with a second and a third.

Harty, who has seven victories at the Tampa Bay Downs meeting from 21 starters, has been selected as the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month.

Another intriguing Harty runner is a full brother to Colonel John, the 4-year-old colt Seal Six. Also bred and owned by Casner Racing, LP, Seal Six won a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance/optional claiming event on Jan. 4 in a solid time of 1:45.33.

Horses sired by the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Tiznow, are often late-developing sorts, and Harty hopes Seal Six will fit into that category after posting his second victory in 11 career starts. “The potential is there for him to be a good horse. I think his best days are ahead of him,” Harty said.

Harty, who was the head assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert for the Triple Crown bids of Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998, broke out on his own in huge fashion. He trained the 1-2 finishers in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park, Tempera and Imperial Gesture (some may remember the Harty-trained exacta paying $768.00). Tempera was voted an Eclipse Award as Champion 2-Year-Old Filly.

Harty’s richest victory came when Well Armed won the $6-million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline by 14 lengths in 2009. He currently trains Colonel Joan – who finished third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita – for his wife, Kathy, and Mark DeDomenico LLC.

Harty also worked with Street Cry when the Godolphin runner was a 2-year-old, saddling him for a third-place finish in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Two years later, Street Cry won the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap while trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

As remarkable as Harty’s background is in racing, his family lineage is pure, 100-percent storybook, and he is the fifth generation of his family to train racehorses. His grandfather Cyril, a member of the Irish Army show-jumping team, trained Knight’s Crest, who won the 1944 Irish Grand National. Eddie Harty, Eoin’s father, was a member of Ireland’s three-day eventing equestrian team that finished fourth in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Nine years later, Eddie Harty won the prestigious Grand National at Aintree near Liverpool, England aboard 12-year-old Highland Wedding. Eddie Harty and his wife Patricia currently live on The Curragh in Ireland, a 5,000-acre tract of common land in County Kildare.

“I guess it was pretty much set in stone I would work with horses,” Harty said.

A resident of southern California, Harty splits his time between his strings at Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita. Whit Beckman is his assistant locally.

“There is nothing I don’t like about (Tampa Bay Downs),” said Harty, now in his second season here. “The surface, the facility, the area, the people – I really enjoy the time I spend there and think it is a terrific spot.”

And as the seasons continue to prove, Harty knows how to pick out the best spots for his charges.

“Live It Up Challenge.” Registration has begun for the second annual free online “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, with players vying for the grand prize of a seat in the 2016 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship and $1,000 in cash.

Additional prizes of $1,000 for second place, $500 for third and $500 for most winners selected throughout the contest will also be at stake. The contest runs from Saturday, Jan. 31 – which is Festival Preview Day at Tampa Bay Downs – through Saturday, April 4, which is Florida Cup Day.

Players can register online and get the complete set of rules at on the Internet. All wagers are mythical. Players must make a selection every day; those skipping a day incur a strike, with three strikes ending their participation. Players also incur a strike when their selection in one of that day’s “Challenge Races” does not finish first, second or third.

All players begin the competition with two life lines. A new feature will give players the opportunity to purchase two additional life lines before the contest and extra life lines at two specified times during the competition. The deadline to register is 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 31, the first day of the contest.

On today’s card, leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo extended his streak of winning days to 19 at the Oldsmar oval and 20 overall. Gallardo won the third race, a maiden claiming event for 3-year-old fillies, on Royal Jewely for owners Shamrock Thoroughbreds and Anthony J. Piarulli. Gerald Bennett trains the winner.

Bennett and Gallardo also teamed to win the ninth and final race today on the turf with 4-year-old filly Hero Wisdom, owned by Laurie Moore. Gallardo has 41 victories through 20 days of the 2014-2015 meeting, 22 more than runner-up Daniel Centeno.

Hero Wisdom was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Anthony Granitz.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. The track’s feature race on Saturday is the 11th edition of the $100,000 Turf Dash for older horses at five furlongs.

The Turf Dash will be the eighth race Saturday and has attracted an overflow field of 14.

Tampa Bay Downs will conduct racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through January before adding Thursdays to the mix in February. The track 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.

Beginning Sunday, and each Sunday thereafter, fans are invited to enjoy Sunday Brunch in the Skye Terrace Dining Room. For only $28.95, patrons can savor first-class dining and enjoy a panoramic view of the racing action from high above the track.

Tampa Bay Downs will hold its annual Cap Giveaway Day on Saturday, Jan. 17. Fans will receive a high-quality cap with the new Tampa Bay Downs logo with each paid admission and have the opportunity to meet many of the track’s leading jockeys and get autographs.