With the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team mired in a hitting slump – a total of four runs in the past four games – Tampa Bay Downs was the place to turn to for a riding triple and three doubles Sunday afternoon.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno, who is seeking a record fifth meet title, rode three winners to extend his lead in the standings over runner-up Fernando De La Cruz to 12 (81-69) with three weeks remaining.
De La Cruz and Ryan Curatolo scored riding doubles, while trainer Jorge Navarro posted two victories on the card. Curatolo is 11th in the jockey standings with 26 victories.
Navarro’s double raised his wins total to 32 for the meet. He is in second place, 12 behind Jamie Ness – who last failed to win the Tampa Bay Downs training title during the 2005-06 season, when the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays finished last in the American League East Division with a 61-101 record.
After sweeping both halves of the early daily double, Centeno piloted 3-year-old homebred gelding Two Term Leader to a gate-to-wire victory in the 10th race, a maiden claiming event at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, for Glen Hill Farm and trainer Thomas Proctor. More on Centeno’s ongoing success shortly.
De La Cruz’s second victory of the day in the fifth race was a thriller, with the 26-year-old Peruvian and 5-year-old gelding Silver Cloud battling the length of the stretch against Hold On Smokey and jockey Augusto Marin in the 5-furlong starter allowance on the turf. The favorite Silver Cloud, owned and trained by Jason DaCosta, won by a nose in 55.06 seconds, only .14 seconds off the track record.
It was the sixth victory in 22 career starts for Silver Cloud, who had finished second to Great Attack in the $75,000 Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 5.
Navarro enjoyed a profitable afternoon Sunday, saddling two winners and a runner-up from his three starters. In the first race, Navarro sent out 8-year-old gelding Dazzlin Dr Cologne – owned by his wife, Jennifer Harries – for a five-length victory from Sapphire County. The winner’s time for the seven-furlong claiming contest under Centeno was 1:23.09, slightly more than a second off the track record.
The Florida-bred Dazzlin Dr Cologne, claimed by Navarro two starts back, is 13-for-35 lifetime and a “dazzling” 12-for-21 at Tampa Bay Downs.
After his 8-year-old Blazing Prize finished second in the third race, Navarro returned to the winner’s circle with Blue Top Holdings Stable’s 6-year-old Rickyontherun in the fourth race, also a seven-furlong claiming affair. Claimed by Navarro from his previous start, Rickyontherun, with De La Cruz in the irons, romped by four-and-a-quarter lengths from Beat Your Bluff in 1:23.12.
Centeno scored his second victory in the second race, and it was a display of his skill in improving horses that have trouble winning. The 4-year-old filly Starsparklingsky was 0-for-28 entering the race, but Centeno kept her in perfect stalking position behind 1-2 favorite Stashmycash until the stretch, when he pushed her to the elusive triumph for owner Robert Drake and trainer Robert Boileau.
Centeno’s strike rate of 22.1 percent tops all jockeys at the meet with 100 or more mounts.
Curatolo won twice on the turf, a surface the youthful Frenchman seems to enjoy more with each passing day. He won the seventh race, a mile-and-a-sixteenth claiming event, on 5-year-old mare Queen for Life for owner Pedi Racing and trainer Anthony Granitz. Curatolo and 5-year-old mare Temptation Bound finished second in the ninth (a 1-mile claiming race), but were moved up to first with the disqualification of Sing Me a Lullaby for interference through the stretch.
Temptation Bound is owned by M and G Stables LLC and trained by Gary G. Jackson. The ninth was the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week.
From now through May 4, players in The Silks Poker Room have the opportunity to qualify for a drawing to win a Toyota 4Runner from Wesley Chapel Toyota Honda. In any of the cash games, a hand of aces-full or better with one card earns one drawing ticket; four-of-a-kind or better with both cards earns two tickets; a straight flush earns three tickets; and a royal flush earns five tickets.
Sundays and Thursdays are double-ticket days. The drawing for the 4Runner will be held May 5; the winner must be present to attend. In addition, nine tickets will be drawn that day for $599 cash prizes. The Silks Poker Room is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 a.m.
There are three weeks remaining in the 2012-13 meet; Tampa Bay Downs will conduct Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the exception of May 1, when there will be simulcasting only.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcasting, as well as no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.