Tampa Bay Downs trainer Lori Smock sends her 6-year-old gelding Allie’s Event in quest of his elusive first stakes victory Saturday in the 26th renewal of the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf course.
Four weeks ago, Smock made the decision to keep her Florida-bred son of Wild Event-Crewsin’ Allie in Oldsmar for the $30,000 Tampa Bay Stakes Prep rather than ship him to Gulfstream Park for the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes and a showdown against top turf horse Little Mike.
Allie’s Event rolled to an impressive come-from-behind victory in the mile-and-a-sixteenth race on the turf, the same distance as the Tampa Bay Stakes. Jockey Scott Spieth has the return assignment.
Allie’s Event will face tough competition, as the race has drawn a field of 13, including horses from such prominent barns as those of Hall of Fame trainer and reigning Eclipse Award winner Bill Mott, H. Graham Motion, Dale Romans, David Fawkes and Ian Wilkes.
The most accomplished entrant is 6-year-old Florida-bred horse Duke of Mischief, trained by Fawkes and owned in partnership by the conditioner with Alex and Joann Lieblong and breeder Marilyn McMaster. Former Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno has been named to ride.
Duke of Mischief has won more than $1.7 million in his career. As a 4-year-old, he won the Grade III Fort Lauderdale Stakes, the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and the Grade III Philip H. Iselin. He won the Grade III Charles Town Classic Stakes last year.
Motion has entered the 5-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding Hoofit, who won the Grade III Phoenix on the synthetic surface at Keeneland last fall. Rosemary Homeister Jr., who won this race two years ago aboard Karelian in a memorable upset of Gio Ponti, has been named on Hoofit.
Plesa’s entrant, Successful Mission, is a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding who finished second in a Feb. 4 dirt allowance at Tampa Bay Downs at the Tampa Bay Stakes distance. Jeffrey Sanchez, who won last week’s Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs aboard Great Attack, is the jockey.
Successful Mission, who won the Grade III Miami Mile Handicap last spring at Calder, is a half-brother to top Kentucky Derby candidate Algorithms and two other graded stakes winners.
Other entries of high local interest include include Lentenor, a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro who captured an allowance/optional claiming race on the Tampa Bay Downs turf Dec. 23, and Uptowncharlybrown, winner of the 2010 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Allie’s Event, who has run first or second in all seven of his Tampa Bay Downs career starts, finished second to multiple-graded stakes winner Blues Street in the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 19.
Smock bred Allie’s Event from Crewsin’ Allie, an allowance-winning mare she bought after her racing career. Smock bred Crewsin’ Allie to Put It Back in 2010, but she and her foal died during the foaling.
Allie’s Event breezed five furlongs Sunday in 1:03. “I wasn’t looking for a whole lot in his workout,” Smock said. “He is always right there when I run him, and I’m glad to be here at Tampa Bay Downs. I just wish the race was a little farther, but he always puts in a late run, and I don’t see any reason why he won’t this time.”
Also on Saturday’s card, Tampa Bay Downs star filly It’s Me Mom will face six challengers in a $30,000, 6 ½-furlong handicap for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old, bred and owned by Thomas and Jean Bosch and trained by Lynne Scace, will again be ridden by Willie Martinez.
On Jan. 28, It’s Me Mom won the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park in 1:08.85 for the six furlongs by almost seven lengths. In her previous two starts at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 7 and Dec. 31 – the latter the Minaret Stakes – It’s Me Mom won by 8 ¼-length margins going six furlongs. She has been assigned top weight of 124 pounds by racing secretary Allison De Luca and will concede from 7-to-11 pounds to her opponents.
Veteran jockey Mark Guidry, whose in-the-money percentage of 48 percent is second to leading Tampa Bay Downs rider Leandro Goncalves, is the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Jockey of the Month.
The skill and judgment that have enabled Guidry to win more than 5,000 races were on full display again during the Feb. 17 card. Despite a spot of trouble at the outset of both races, Guidry piloted a pair of Kentucky-bred, 3-year-old first-time starters to victory for trainer Tom Proctor – Temeraine and the filly Never Tell Lynda – in maiden special weight sprints.
The 52-year-old Guidry – who won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks on Lemons Forever – actually retired after the 2007 fall meeting at Churchill Downs. That was a year after his peers honored him with the George Woolf Award, both for his riding achievements and humanitarian efforts assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina in his home state of Louisiana.
But after struggling as a trainer – winning only 30 races over a three-year period – Guidry decided to start anew last summer at Ellis Park, at the combined urging of Proctor and trainer Dale Romans.
Guidry is seventh in victories at Tampa Bay Downs with 21 and sixth in purse earnings with more than $300,000. “Every time I go out, I get better and better,” he said. “It’s all coming back – my fitness is good, and I’m very comfortable here.”
Trainer Chad Stewart won with both of his starters on Wednesday’s card. He co-owns both winners: the 4-year-old filly Aquinnah in the second race and the 6-year-old mare Brinca in the fifth.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Tampa Bay Downs with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open daily for simulcasting, no-limits poker action in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.