Four-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., continued his sizzling pace today, riding four winners to give him seven over the past two racing days and 34 for the meeting, eight more than runner-up Antonio Gallardo.
Allen began his winning ways in the third race on 6-year-old mare Skiptothegold for owner Kathryn Wright and trainer James T. Wright. He went back-to-back in the fifth and sixth races, scoring on 4-year-old gelding Plime Blank for owner Doug Terry Racing, LLC and trainer Wayne Minnock, and with 3-year-old gelding Ex Pirate for breeder-owner Glen Hill Farm and trainer Tom Proctor.
The 49-year-old (going on 29) Allen completed his huge day – his second four-victory performance of the meeting – with a scintillating ride aboard 4-year-old filly Miss Twinkle Toes in the 10th race for owners Winning Stables, Inc., and Deborah Owens and trainer Gerald Bennett. Miss Twinkle Toes also provided Bennett with career victory No. 3,400, 20th-highest all-time among North American trainers.
Bennett will be the featured guest at track announcer Richard Grunder’s Morning Glory Club show at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.
TAMPA TURF TEST ON TAP
Saturday’s 11-race card is highlighted by the second round of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, Cap Giveaway Day and an autograph-signing session with jockeys on the first floor of the grandstand.
The Tampa Turf Test races, both offering $25,000 and slated at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, are the sixth and eighth on the program, with the sixth for fillies and mares 4-years-old and upward and the eighth for colts and geldings 4-and-upward. Post time for the day’s first race is 12:30 p.m.
Bright red caps with the Tampa Bay Downs and Lambholm South logos will be distributed to all fans with paid admission while supplies last beginning when the gates open at 11 a.m., while many of the track’s leading jockeys will be available to sign caps and other memorabilia throughout the afternoon.
Native Wave, a 5-year-old gelding who won the first leg of the Tampa Turf Test series for males on Dec. 28, will go for back-to-back victories for owner-trainer David Nunn and co-owner Theresa Salerno.
In addition to the Tampa Turf Test races, the 10th race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event at five furlongs on the turf, will draw plenty of attention from fans and bettors.
The following Saturday, Jan. 25, the most lucrative stakes schedule in Tampa Bay Downs history swings into high gear with three major events offering a combined $310,000, including the 15th renewal of the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour for older fillies and mares on the turf course.
The influx of high-quality, nationally regarded Thoroughbreds continues the following Saturday, Festival Preview Day, with three stakes worth a total of $500,000, including the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis for 3-year-olds and the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses on the turf.
The Feb. 1 Festival Preview Day program also marks the start of the Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus – with the owners of the Davis winner becoming eligible for a $1-million bonus based on subsequent victories in the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby and the Kentucky Derby and a single fan eligible for a $100,000 payout, should the Davis victor capture the next two races.
ENDEAVOUR, LIGHTNING CITY, PELICAN ATTRACT 76 NOMINATIONS
The Endeavour, won two years ago by eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner and Eclipse Award champion Zagora, has attracted 32 nominees. The list includes distaffers from such top trainers as Todd Pletcher, H. Graham Motion, Jonathan Sheppard, Tom Proctor and Christophe Clement.
Pletcher, who saddled last year’s winner, Brazilian-bred Old Tune, might be looking for a repeat of sorts with Ana Luisa, a 4-year-old Brazilian import who won her first three starts before finishing second in a Group I race in her homeland and a close fourth in her first stateside effort, the South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream, last month.
Other notable Endeavour nominees include Baffle Me, a 5-year-old winner of three consecutive turf stakes, trained by Mark Hennig; Grade III winner Silsita, a 4-year-old trained by Pletcher; the Proctor-trained 5-year-old Left a Message, third in Grade III company in her previous start at Aqueduct in November; and 5-year-old multiple-stakes winner Awesome Flower, owned by the presumptive Eclipse Award-winning ownership couple of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.
The 10th running of the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes, for older fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf, has drawn 25 nominations. Among the most accomplished nominees is Madame Giry, a 5-year-old multiple-stakes winner from the barn of past Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Cam Gambolati; 5-year-old Silverette, a career earner of almost $400,000; Cor Cor, a 4-year-old Joan Scott-trainee who has won stakes on turf, dirt and synthetic and finished second in last week’s Minaret Stakes locally; and Seeking Ms Shelley, a winner of her last four starts.
Also on the Jan. 25 program is the $60,000, six-furlong Pelican Stakes, for older horses on the main track. The 7-year-old gelding Action Andy, trained by Carlos Garcia, won the 2013 Pelican and has amassed career earnings of more than $623,000.
Other nominees with impressive resumes include the Pletcher-trained Travelin Man; Sneaking Uponyou, the Mandy Ness-trained 8-year-old who won the 2010 Pelican; Grade II winner Bahamian Squall, from the barn of David Fawkes; and the Forrest Kaelin-trained 7-year-old Good Lord, who set a Tampa Bay Downs track record of 1:22.03 for seven furlongs in winning last season’s Super Stakes.
LIVE IT UP CHALLENGE REMINDER
Serious handicappers and casual horseplayers across the country are registering for the “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, an online competition beginning on Festival Preview Day, Saturday, Feb. 1.
The registration deadline is 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, which is the first day of the contest and also Festival Preview Day, highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a traditional Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands stepping stone.
The grand-prize winner receives $1,000 and a seat at the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (date and site to be determined). Second place receives $1,000, third place receives $500 and a $500 prize will be awarded to the handicapper selecting the most overall winners.
There is no fee for entering the contest. Complete rules are available at the online site. Registration may be accessed through a link on the track website at www.tampabaydowns.com
or by visiting the contest website directly at www.liveitupchallenge.com