OLDSMAR, FL. – Action Andy, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Robert Gerczak and trained by Carlos Garcia, will try to become the fourth horse to win back-to-back editions of the $60,000 Pelican Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 87th season of Thoroughbred racing at the west-central Florida oval enters its third day of competition Friday with a 10-race card that begins at 12:38 p.m.
Friday’s feature race is the ninth, a $30,000, five-furlong allowance event on the turf in which horsemen have the option of offering their runners for a $100,000 claiming price. Six of the eight entrants have chosen to do so.
The following day’s Pelican, contested at a distance of six furlongs, is the sixth race on a card that also begins at 12:38. Six rivals are scheduled to oppose Action Andy, including trainer Martin Wolfson’s 4-year-old colt Indiano, winner of the Grade II Carry Back Stakes at Calder in 2011.
Action Andy, who will be ridden by Daniel Coa, is a slight 3-2 favorite on the morning line, with Indiano listed at 9-5 and the Carl Nafzger-trained 3-year-old In the Beat at 5-1.
Action Andy has built an enviable record in 2012 starting with his victory in last season’s Pelican, run Jan. 7. He followed up by winning the $75,000 Super Stakes on Feb. 11, then won a $35,000 handicap in which he set a Tampa Bay Downs track record for six-and-a-half furlongs of 1:15.47.
The best was yet to come for the Maryland-bred son of Gators N Bears-Love Me Twice, by Not For Love. On June 16, he won the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial, followed by a runner-up effort in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes and a victory at Laurel in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap on Oct. 6.
Three weeks later, Action Andy staged a frenetic rally down the lane to win the six-furlong Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash by a nose, adding $210,000 to his bankroll.
Action Andy is 6-for-10 in 2012 with one second, a third and more than $400,000 in earnings. “That last race was really tough, but he got the job done,” said Garcia, who has saddled 145 stakes winners in his career. “I took my time with him after that race, clipped him and got him used to the weather here. Danny Coa breezed him five furlongs two weeks ago (in 1:01 4/5), and he jogged over the track today (Thursday).
“He likes this track, and he likes to run fresh every five or six weeks, so that’s what we try to do,” Garcia added. “Most of my horses train well here. They stay sound and can compete a little longer. You want to keep them sound and healthy.”
Garcia said Coa may have to keep Action Andy closer to the pace than accustomed because of the presence of speedsters Indiano and Westbound Train in the race. “Sometimes this track is a little fast, and he might have to stay closer earlier, but he has the speed to do that,” Garcia said of Action Andy.
Indiano won the Giant Ryan Stakes at Calder in Miami in his previous start in August, drawing off to a five-and-a-half length victory after stalking fractions of 21.93 for the quarter-mile and 44.90 for the half.
Luis Saez is named to ride Indiano, who is 9-for-15 lifetime. The Kentucky-bred son of Indian Charlie-Separata, by Sam M., won his first five starts in Panama and was named that country’s champion 2-year-old colt before heading back to the United States.
Not Surprising was the first horse to win consecutive Pelican Stakes, in 1994 and ’95. Owned by Robert Van Worp, trained by his son Judson Van Worp and ridden by William Henry, Not Surprising won an Eclipse Award in 1995 as champion sprinter.
Brisco Jack was the next to go back-to-back, winning the Pelican in 1997 and ’99 (the latter renewal was run in January at the outset of the 1998-99 meeting). Above the Wind won three consecutive runnings of the Pelican in 2003, ’05 and ’06.
If Action Andy becomes the fourth horse to win two Pelicans in a row, he should be set to gobble a lot of fish in 2013.
After Saturday, live racing will resume Wednesday. The first Sunday card of the meeting is Dec. 23.
Horsemen, fans and computer-savvy followers of racing are talking about Tampa Bay Downs’ new mobile-wagering platform, Mbet.tampabaydowns.com. The on-track site works with any smart phone or iPad, as well as most laptops and tablet computers.
To establish a daily account, visit any pari-mutuel teller and to open, set your mobile device to the track’s free Wi-Fi and go to mbet.tampabaydowns.com to begin playing. The mobile-wagering platform can only be used on the grounds of the track.
More information is available at the Customer Service kiosk on the first floor of the grandstand.