Regardless of their actual birth date, all Thoroughbred race horses in North America officially turn a year older on Jan. 1.
So for many of the top 2-year-olds stabled at Tampa Bay Downs – as well as potential-laden youngsters stationed at various training centers in the state -- the Dec. 10
renewals of the Inaugural and Sandpiper Stakes represent a final opportunity to stamp themselves as candidates for 3-year-old glory when 2012 arrives.
But it isn’t only stakes-level juveniles that will be strutting their stuff Dec. 10.
As part of the track’s fifth annual Cotillion Festival Day Presented by Lambholm South, each race on the card will be restricted to 2-year-olds. Their connections hope their performances will stoke the fires of high expectations for their sophomore seasons and beyond.
“Tampa Bay Downs recognizes the importance of providing our horsemen with a venue for putting the finishing touches on their 2-year-olds as they prepare for their 3-year-old campaigns,” said Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube. “We are proud to team with Lambholm South for our Cotillion Festival, and our hope is some of these 2-year-olds progress to contender status for our top 3-year-old races in 2012, including the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Oaks.”
A total of 37 2-year-old colts and geldings have been nominated to the $75,000-guaranteed Inaugural, while 35 2-year-old fillies were nominated to the $75,000-guaranteed Sandpiper. The purses for both 6-furlong races include $25,000 in Florida-bred and Florida-Sired Stallion funds.
The importance of both races was evident last season at Tampa Bay Downs and beyond. Manicero, a Florida-bred owned by Leo Azpurua Sr. and trained by Leo Azpurua Jr., followed his victory in the Inaugural with a triumph in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 15
in his 3-year-old debut.
Manicero continued to excel at Oldsmar, setting a 7-furlong track record of 1:22.13 in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes on April 9.
He has been just as productive since at Calder in Miami, winning the In Summation Stakes, the Naked Greed Stakes and the Needles Stakes. Meanwhile, the fifth-place finisher in the Inaugural, Watch Me Go, shocked race goers three months later by winning the $350,000, Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 43-1.
On the female side, Devilish Lady – owned by Cairoli Racing Stable and trained by Antonio Sano -- followed her Sandpiper victory by winning the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs as a 3-year-old on Jan. 15.
Devilish Lady finished second here in both the Suncoast Stakes and the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes, then solidified her credentials by winning the Grade III Azalea Stakes at Calder.