In an atmosphere of uncertainty, there is at least one sure thing at the racetrack – the unpredictability of 2-year-olds. Angelofdistinction and Quick Flip drove the point home Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs in the $75,000-guaranteed Inaugural and Sandpiper Stakes, respectively, although the winning connections weren’t as surprised by the outcomes as the betting public.
The 27th running of the Inaugural and the 33rd annual Sandpiper served as the centerpieces of the track’s fifth annual Cotillion Festival Day Presented by Lambholm South, a 10-race card devoted entirely to top 2-year-olds training locally and from other major racing centers.
Angelofdistinction, a 2-year-old gelding owned by Brenda Tabraue and Andrea’s Farm and trained by Daniel Pita, rallied through the stretch under jockey Pablo Morales and held on for a head victory from Wildcat Creek in the Inaugural, winning the six-furlong event in 1:11.49. Co-owner Pita named Andrea’s Farm after his daughter.
The winner paid $45 as the second-longest shot in the seven-horse field. Dangerous Trick finished third and 7-10 favorite Luke of York rallied too late, finishing fourth although beaten only a length by the winner.
Quick Flip, a 2-year-old filly owned by Klaravich Stables and W.H. Lawrence and trained by Teresa Pompay, was even more impressive in the Sandpiper, tracking the swift early fractions set by Red Hot Doll before surging to the lead on the turn under jockey Pedro Cotto, Jr. Quick Flip stayed resolute in the stretch, posting a length-and-a-half victory from Blue Forty in the 11-horse field with Live Every Day third.
The winner’s time was 1:10.96 and she paid $17.60. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Speightstown-Motel Lass – a $225,000 2-year-old purchase in the Fasig-Tipton February south Florida sale -- is now 3-for-3 lifetime and might be seen next in the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 14.
“I thought she looked great in the paddock today, and I loved her,” Pompay said. “Her odds were high but, well, I bet her and I’m very happy. She looked great and she’s been training great. She’s done nothing wrong. She is getting better every race and there is a lot of room for her to get even better and better.”
Pompay also trains Currency Swap for Klaravich and Lawrence. That 2-year-old won the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga toward the end of summer.
Cotto, who also rode Quick Flip in her Monmouth Park victory Oct. 23, was grateful for the return assignment. “I knew she would like this track, and I learned riding her up north she was more than just a quick horse,” Cotto said. “She overcame some trouble at Monmouth and still just drew away. This is a sweet filly and I hope I can ride her some more.”
Although he was perhaps not as confident as Pompay, Pita felt good about Angelofdistinction’s chances in the Inaugural. The Florida-bred son of With Distinction-God’s Wild Angel – a $7,500 purchase by the owners as a yearling – entered the race 1-for-6 lifetime, but has turned a corner in his profession since being gelded after his last start.
“I don’t think (the operation) changed his demeanor much, but apparently he wants to run faster that way, so I’m not going to complain about that,” Pita said. “He was working lights out – he breezed last Saturday (at Calder) with a 135-pound exercise rider up, and I took him in 47 4/5 seconds (48 officially). We also closed his blinkers a bit. I was always high on him from the beginning and he proved it today.”
Pita said Angelofdistinction, who is based at Calder, could return Jan. 14 in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Jockey Morales was laughing at his good fortune leaving the winner’s circle.
“(Pita) told me that since this horse was gelded, he had been training terrific,” Morales said. “He really grabbed the bit getting near the stretch, and after that it was my job to find him a lane and let him do his stuff. It was close at the end but he was still trying hard.”
The big disappointment was Luke of York, who entered 2-for-2, including a $125,000 stakes victory at Keeneland. But he had a minor cough last week, this was his first dirt race and he didn’t find his best foot until it was too late.
“He never really got hold of the track and he certainly didn’t run his race,” said jockey Frederic Lenclud.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m., with additional live cards next week Friday and Saturday. The track is open every day except Dec. 25 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.