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April 15, 2015

CENTENO, GEORGE THANKFUL FOR PRAYERS AND SUPPORT

by Mike Henry
Ashley George, jockey Daniel Centeno's partner, confronts her ordeal with a grace and strength all who know her admire.

Five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno is grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support for his partner Ashley George, who is in New York Presbyterian Hospital with complications from Cystic Fibrosis.

The inherited condition causes congestion of the lungs and other organs, and doctors have told the 30-year-old George she needs a lung transplant to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. She is currently looking forward to being placed on a waiting list, the next step toward finding a suitable donor.

“She was moved (Tuesday) night from the intensive care unit to a regular room, and she is feeling better,” Centeno said after winning Wednesday's seventh race on the turf on 4-year-old filly Comedia. “She is a fighter, and hopefully all the support we have gotten from everyone is going to make her even stronger.”

Centeno and George have been together 10 years. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Jazmyn, who attends school locally.

George is being attended to in New York by her grandmother on her father’s side and will remain in New York when she is released from the hospital, Centeno said. Her parents are deceased. He plans to move his tack to Delaware Park at the conclusion of the Tampa Bay Downs meeting.

“It’s hard sometimes (to focus) on riding – I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “But I am trying to stay strong for her and for our daughter. I can’t let her down. And I try to stay busy. That is the only way I really know how to handle it.”

George’s friendly smile and enthusiasm for Daniel and the Tampa Bay Downs community of horsemen have been missed at Tampa Bay Downs in recent weeks. Complications from Cystic Fibrosis, including pneumonia, resulted in her being transferred last weekend from Tampa General Hospital to New York Presbyterian.

Centeno values the support he has gotten from his fellow riders. “So many of them have told me that if we need anything, just ask,” he said. “Everybody has been great with me. The whole Tampa Bay Downs community is like a big family.”

Kentucky Derby simulcast is May 2. Plans are underway for the simulcast of the 141st edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands from Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday, May 2.

Carpe Diem, who won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 by five lengths, is ranked third on a variety of current Run for the Roses contenders lists, behind last year’s 2-Year-Old Champion, American Pharoah, and unbeaten Dortmund.

Todd Pletcher trains Carpe Diem, while Bob Baffert trains American Pharoah and Dortmund. Carpe Diem is owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Stonestreet Stables LLC and was ridden to victory in the Tampa Bay Derby by John Velazquez.

Carpe Diem could become the third Tampa Bay Derby participant to win the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense won both races in 2007, while Super Saver – trained by Todd Pletcher, Carpe Diem’s conditioner – was third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby before triumphing at Churchill.

Another Tampa Bay Derby entrant expected to contest the Kentucky Derby is Danzig Moon, who followed his fourth-place finish in Oldsmar with a second to Carpe Diem in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass on April 4.

The gates will open early May 2 and Tampa Bay Downs will present a full card of Thoroughbred action before as many as 20 3-year-olds vie for a slice of horse racing immortality.

The Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies will be contested Friday, May 1 at Churchill Downs. The field could include Include Betty, trained by perennial top Oldsmar conditioner Tom Proctor.

Under jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., Include Betty has blossomed as a 3-year-old, with a victory here on Jan. 3 in a maiden special weight event; a victory in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on Jan. 31, at odds of 18-1; and a thrilling neck victory on April 4 at Oaklawn Park in the Grade III, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, also at 18-1.

In addition to its full card on Kentucky Derby Day, Tampa Bay Downs will also conduct Thoroughbred racing on Kentucky Oaks Day and on Sunday, May 3. The track then will offer simulcast wagering only until the final day of the 2014-2015 meeting, which is Tuesday, June 30, the first day of the track’s annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

Meanwhile, trainer Arnaud Delacour confirmed today he is pointing 3-year-old colt Divining Rod to the Preakness on May 16 at Pimlico after his impressive victory Saturday in the Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

The son of Tapit raced twice at Tampa Bay Downs this past winter, finishing second in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes by a neck to Ocean Knight and running third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1.800.GAMBLER (1.800.426.2537).