OLDSMAR, FL. – Action Andy joined a select group of Thoroughbreds at Tampa Bay Downs when he won the $60,000 Pelican Stakes for the second year in a row.
But the 5-year-old gelding was in a class by himself Saturday against four rivals, drawing away through the stretch for a two-and-a-quarter length victory from Grade II winner Indiano in a stakes-record time of 1:09.14 for six furlongs.
The victory was the seventh in 11 starts this year and sixth in eight lifetime starts at Tampa Bay Downs for Action Andy, a Maryland-bred son of Gators N Bears owned by Robert Gerczak and trained by Carlos Garcia. Action Andy is 11-for-30 lifetime, with eight seconds.
First-place money of $36,000 raised his career earnings to $560,430. Action Andy has won six stakes this year, starting with his first Pelican score Jan. 7 at the outset of the 2011-12 Tampa Bay Downs meet.
His last three races are all victories, starting with the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap and the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, both at Laurel. The De Francis drew an outstanding 102 Beyer Speed Figure from the Daily Racing Form.
Danny Coa rode Action Andy in the Pelican, one of three winners for the Venezuelan-born jockey.
“I expected him to run a little faster than that,” said Garcia, who was hardly disappointed by Action Andy missing the track record by .47 seconds. Action Andy holds the Tampa Bay Downs six-and-a-half furlong track record of 1:15.47.
“I think he was getting a little late or maybe lazy – one or the other – and Danny hit him three or four times at the 1/8-mile pole just to open up and make sure he wins.
“But he’s in good shape and he looked muscled up, really strong and quiet and relaxed before the race,” Garcia said. “He’s older and he’s getting more mature. He’s from the type of family you have to give time to develop (Action Andy is out of the Not For Love mare Love Me Twice).”
Action Andy broke alertly, then raced up the backstretch inside 20-1 shot Black Belt. Action Andy stuck his head in front at the ¼-mile pole without urging from Coa and then powered away, and although Coa put him to task briefly, his lead was never threatened.
Action Andy paid $3.80 to win. Indiano rallied with energy for second, followed by Black Belt, the Carl Nafzger-trained In the Beat and Westbound Train. Sheik Polis and Cajun Breeze were scratched Saturday morning.
“I worked him the other day and I knew he was sharp, but he surprised me when he broke so well,” Coa said. “Then it was just a matter of letting him run and do his job. I was just along for the ride. It seemed like he was getting stronger late and we were pulling away – impressive stuff.”
Action Andy is the fourth horse to win consecutive runnings of the Pelican (Above the Wind won three in a row from 2003-06). The first horse to win back-to-back Pelicans, Not Surprising, went on to win an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top sprinter in 1995.
Garcia is unsure of when Action Andy will run next, although the Feb. 23 Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs – which he also won last season – seems a logical spot.
Sire Gators N Bears, who earned more than $800,000 racing from 2002-05, won two Grade III stakes in his career, and Garcia said his long-range goal for Action Andy is the Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness weekend. Action Andy was third in the 2012 renewal.
“I love the track here and Action Andy loves it, too,” Garcia said. “All my horses train well here, and hopefully when we go back north, all of them will be sound.”
Coa’s other victories Saturday were on 4-year-old gelding Jacobs Kiss in the third race for owner-trainer Rob Chabot and 7-year-old gelding Let It Rock in the seventh for owner Tom Gregerson and trainer Chad Stewart.
Trainer Jane Cibelli improved to 3-for-3 at the meet when her 7-year-old gelding Osceola Prince won the 10th race on the turf under jockey Angel Serpa for owners Michele Rosa and Lawrence Sargent.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday, with first-race post time at 12:38 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs 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.