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January 09, 2015


by Mike Henry
Bettors face a stern challenge picking the Turf Dash winner, with a likely potential for massive payoffs; Gallardo's win streak ends.

Tampa Bay Downs bettors who enjoy their racing flat-out and wide-open will have their hands full deciphering Saturday’s $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash Stakes, which has drawn an overflow field of 14 horses.

The Turf Dash is the eighth race on a 10-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. The 11th annual event for horses 4-years-old-and-upward is limited to 12 starters.

Five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno will be gunning for his fifth victory in the Turf Dash aboard the morning-line 7-2 favorite Bold Thunder, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Andrew Sulley and trained by Patricia Farro. Bold Thunder is slated to break from the No. 10 post, which can be disadvantageous at the Turf Dash distance with the short run to the far turn.

Bold Thunder captured the Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream last winter in 55.22 seconds, a time good enough to win nine of the 10 runnings of the Turf Dash. In his most recent start on Dec. 21 at Gulfstream in a five-furlong turf allowance, he finished fourth in his first start after a layoff of almost three months.

Second choice on the morning line at 4-1 is Margaret Burlingham’s 10-year-old gelding Saint Leon, who will be making his 39th career start. Positioned in the No. 8 post, Saint Leon is trained by Michele Boyce and will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister, Jr.

Despite his advanced years, Saint Leon finished first or second in six of his seven starts in 2014. He has won the last three editions of the Arlington Sprint Stakes at five-and-a-half furlongs at Arlington Park and has been first or second 25 times.

Although Green Mask drew the No. 11 post, the 4-year-old gelding is certain to attract considerable wagering support based on his 3-for-6 career record and his two-legged connections.

Last May at Belmont Park, Green Mask won the $100,000, seven-furlong Paradise Creek Stakes on grass for then-trainer Christophe Clement. Owned by Abdullah Saeed Almaddah, he is now trained by Wesley Ward – winner of the 2012 and 2013 Turf Dash Stakes with Great Attack – and will be ridden by Mario Pino, who has more than 6,600 victories in a career dating to 1977.

Yes I’m Lucky is another to watch closely, if the 4-year-old colt draws in from the also-eligible list. The Edward Plesa, Jr.-trained Kentucky-bred is 5-for-8 lifetime, including four stakes victories. He has been off since his victory last April in the one-mile Mr. Light Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream.

The lone graded-stakes winner in the field is Ruberto Racing Stable, Inc.’s 7-year-old gelding Stormofthecentury, trained by Maria Bowersock and to be ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr. He will break from the No. 2 post. The Florida-bred won the Grade III Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing in 2013 going five furlongs.

No. 4 Mongol Bull, owned and trained by Bradlee Rainwater, deserves a close look as well. The Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding, who will be ridden by Christopher Emigh, was a fast-closing second in the Grade III Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select in October after winning his previous three starts.

Saturday’s “Morning Glory Club” Show features trainer Anthony Granitz, who earned career victory No. 1,000 Sunday with 4-year-old gelding Wedding Savior. The show begins at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the grandstand.

Track announcer Richard Grunder will conduct a lively question-and-answer session with Granitz, who is also the President of the Illinois Chapter of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America and a director of the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA.

Admission is free and attendees will receive free coffee and doughnuts and Grandstand passes.

On today’s card, leading jockey Antonio Gallardo saw his streak of 20 consecutive racing days with at least one victory come to an end, finishing second in three races. The featured sixth race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs, was won by the 5-year-old mare You Bought Her.

The Florida-bred You Bought Her is owned by Richard Perkins and Hinsley Racing Stable and trained by David Hinsley. Brian Pedroza was the jockey.

“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.

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.