Fernando De La Cruz on his way to Indiana Grand to defend his 2014 riding title; Rosemary Homeister, Jr., will bid a fond farewell to her local fans after Wednesday's card in search of stakes success.
The third and fourth-leading riders in the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings, Fernando De La Cruz and Rosemary Homeister, Jr., are moving their tack prior to the May 2-3 closing weekend due to business commitments.
The 28-year-old De La Cruz – who will finish third in the standings with 60 victories (including his Wayward Lass Stakes triumph aboard Awesome Flower on Feb. 14) – will leave tonight for Indiana Grand Race Course. De La Cruz is named on five horses Tuesday, which is opening day at the Shelbyville, Ind., track.
De La Cruz won today’s sixth race on the turf on 5-year-old mare Annamonarchos for owner Steven Mueller and trainer Anthony Granitz. He also won the eighth race on the turf on 5-year-old gelding Crown Thy Good for owner Lael Stables and trainer Arnaud Delacour.
De La Cruz recorded 22 of his victories this meeting for trainer Jason DaCosta.
Homeister’s travel schedule over the next few weeks is more involved. After riding six horses here Wednesday, she will drive to Lexington, Ky., where she is scheduled to ride 4-year-old filly Lots o’ Lex for trainer Gerry Aschinger in the Grade III, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes at a mile-and-a-half on the grass on Friday, closing day at Keeneland.
Homeister, who won on Lots o’ Lex here via disqualification on March 27, had piloted her to a third-place finish on Jan. 31 at odds of 76-1 in the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes.
Homeister, who currently has 42 victories at Tampa Bay Downs (10 more than fifth-place riders Ronnie Allen, Jr., and Victor Lebron), will move to Churchill Downs the following day for the opening of the Louisville track’s season. Her main focus: a reunion with 3-year-old filly Include Betty on May 1 in the Grade I, $1-million Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Under Homeister, Include Betty has blossomed as a 3-year-old, with a victory here on Jan. 3 in a maiden special weight event; a victory on Jan. 31 in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards, 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. She rallied from last place in all three victories.
Include Betty is owned by Brereton C. Jones and Timothy C. Thornton and trained by Oldsmar conditioner Tom Proctor, who scored the biggest victory of his career at Churchill Downs when he saddled One Dreamer to win the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at odds of 47-1.
Win or lose, Homeister will not stick around Churchill Downs for the next day’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, a race she competed in 12 years ago.
Homeister plans to fly to Gulfstream Park the following morning to ride 3-year-old colt Comanche’s Storm for trainer George S. Bush in the English Channel Stakes on the turf. She then will fly to Chicago and Arlington Park, which begins its meeting May 1.
Homeister won today’s fifth race on 5-year-old gelding Concerto’s Encore for breeder-owner Norma J. Emond and trainer Joseph Arboritanza.
Veteran jockey Harry Vega, who is tied for 11th in the current standings with 21 victories, will join De La Cruz at Indiana Grand, along with Orlando Mojica. Luis Garcia, tied for eighth in the Oldsmar standings with 22 victories, is at Pimlico in Baltimore.
On today’s card, former leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Willie Martinez won his first race since his return to Oldsmar, capturing the first race on 5-year-old mare This Is She for owner Odessa Farms, Inc., and trainer Scott McKenzie.
Martinez rode his first career winner at Tampa Bay Downs in 1989. In between, he has ridden more than 3,100 winners, including Trinniberg in the 2012 Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.
Trainer Arnaud Delacour and jockey Daniel Centeno teamed to help 5-year-old gelding Corinthian Summer break his maiden on the turf in the 10th race for owner Peter Deutsh. That was the second victory on the card for both Delacour and Centeno; the jockey won the third race on 6-year-old gelding Really Good Guy for owner Santulli Stable, LLC and trainer Giuseppe Santulli.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. The track 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.