Before taking Action Andy to the track for the $75,000 Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, jockey Daniel Coa spotted injured rider Jesse Garcia standing outside the paddock with his arm in a sling.
“This one’s for you,” Coa said, pointing at Garcia. “This one’s for you.”
Garcia, who suffered a broken collarbone, sore ribs and a bruised lung in a spill Thursday, had ridden 5-year-old gelding Action Andy to victory Jan. 7 in the Pelican Stakes. He and trainer Carlos Garcia (no relation) knew the Maryland-bred was even better for the seven-furlong Super Stakes, a belief they expressed loud and clear to Coa.
Following their limited instructions to the letter, Coa kept Action Andy within striking range of early leader Tommy’s Memory until the middle of the turn before surging to the lead. It was a tour de force through the stretch, as Action Andy powered to a 2 ½-length victory from a game Watch Me Go, the 2011 Tampa Bay Derby winner.
The winner’s time of 1:23.22 on a fast track was about a second off the track record.
Coa – who won an earlier $25,000 turf claiming race on the card aboard the 4-year-old filly Anime for Action Andy’s connections, owner Robert Gerczak and trainer Garcia – agreed to split half of his share of the winning purse with Jesse Garcia. “That was the deal. Jesse is a class guy,” Coa said. “Anyone in (the jockeys’ room) would have won on this horse today.”
“Jesse and I talked about the race yesterday, and it looked to be a perfect setup. We figured to follow (Tommy’s Memory) to the turn and take the lead,” Coa added. “The script was perfect, and when we got the lead it was pretty much over.”
“It was kind of emotional, but it feels good, too,” Jesse Garcia said. “The team won, and I’m all for it. I told Danny going in ‘Don’t worry, he is going to bring you there. He is better than the last time I rode him in the (Pelican).’ ”
Gerczak and Carlos Garcia plan to savor the victory before deciding what’s next for Action Andy, who is six-for-21 lifetime with seven seconds. “We don’t have any other plans right now, but I’d like to keep him here because the people have been nice to us,” Carlos Garcia said. “And he loves this track, loves the surface.”
“He has everything going for him right now,” Gerczak said. “Six furlongs, seven furlongs, turf, mud – he is a very versatile horse.”
Kathleen O’Connell, the trainer of Watch Me Go, was pleased with his second-place effort in his first raced since the Aug. 6 Select Stakes at Monmouth. “He (Watch Me Go) hooked a monster today,” she said. “He’ll be better going a flat mile. He’s a fighter, and as long as we’re healthy we can make another battle. The speed has been holding today and we figured that would work against us, but you can’t take him out of his element.”
Jockey Leandro Goncalves began asking Watch Me Go on the turn, and he showed determination through the stretch to finish a nose ahead of third-place finisher Gold Strike Begins. Good Lord was another neck back in the eight-horse field.
“I’ve been working with this horse all along, and I knew he would be sharp,” Goncalves said. “I thought he was as good as he’s ever been. He responded nicely when I asked him to make his run, but it was really a perfect setup for the winner.”
Goncalves, Tampa Bay Downs’ leading jockey, rode three winners on Saturday’s card. He won the second race on 6-year-old gelding Bear Always for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds and trainer Jamie Ness; the fourth on 4-year-old gelding What a Loosecannon for owner Hunt and Smith Ventures and trainer Richard Kohnhorst; and the seventh on 3-year-old filly Let’s Get Married, a first-time starter, for owner Pin Oak Stud and trainer H. Graham Motion.
The Backyard Picnic Area will be the site Sunday for the first Kids and Family Day celebration of the 2011-12 season. Mouse, a 4-year-old Miniature Horse who is the Tampa Bay Downs mascot, will be available to meet fans and pose for pictures.
The festivities also include children’s games and pony rides. Food and drinks will be on sale at the Brady’s Backyard BBQ concession stand.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.