OLDSMAR, FL. – Three turf races, Cap Giveaway Day and track announcer Richard Grunder’s Morning Glory Club highlight a full day of Thoroughbred excitement Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
Post time for the first of 11 races is 12:25 p.m. The feature is the 10th race, the $30,000 Tampa Bay Stakes Prep, with 10 older horses going to the post in the one-mile event on the turf course.
Patrons will receive a purple Tampa Bay Downs cap sporting the track logo with each paid admission, while supplies last. Fans should plan on arriving early to avoid going capless.
Saturday’s festivities, in fact, begin at 10 a.m. with the always-informative Morning Glory Club. Attendees are welcome to arrive early to watch morning workouts from 9-10 a.m., enjoy free coffee and donuts and secure a free grandstand pass.
Grunder’s special Morning Glory Club guest is trainer Bernell Rhone, currently tied for seventh in the track standings with eight victories. Rhone, who trains at Canterbury Park in the summer, has won 1,190 races since entering the profession in 1977. He is the father-in-law of jockeys Dean Butler and Brittany Arterburn Rhone.
The Tampa Bay Stakes Prep, a prelude to the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 16, appears to be a wide-open contest. Favoritism could fall to breeder/owner/trainer Lori Smock’s 7-year-old gelding Allie’s Event, who has finished first or second in eight of his 10 Tampa Bay Downs turf starts.
Fernando De La Cruz has been named to ride the son of Wild Event, who has been training sharply for his first start since a runner-up effort here May 5.
Allie’s Event – who finished a fast-closing fourth in the 2012 Tampa Bay Stakes – is one of two horses from that race entered in today’s prep. The other, Kinsman Stable’s 6-year-old gelding El Commodore, lost that race by the narrowest of noses to Roman Tiger after leading every step of the way.
Trained by Greg Griffith and to be ridden by Angel Serpa, El Commodore is 3-for-6 on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course. He returned to action Dec. 23 at Gulfstream after a 15-week layoff in an allowance/optional claiming event on the grass, tiring to fifth while likely benefiting from the competition.
Saturday’s other turf races are part of the track’s popular Tampa Turf Test series, to be contested as the fifth and seventh races. Each carries a purse of $20,000. The fifth race is for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward and the seventh is for horses 4-and-upward.
Jockey Angel Serpa rode three winners on Friday’s card, enabling him to narrow Daniel Centeno’s lead in the standings – now 29-27 after Centeno himself won two races.
Serpa’s big day commenced in the first race when he scored on 4-year-old filly Inspeightofthegold for owners Michele Rosa and Lawrence Sargent and trainer Jane Cibelli.
In the fifth, Serpa piloted 3-year-old colt Mr d’Oro to victory for owner Mr. Amore Stable and trainer Jason Servis. The rider’s third triumph came in the seventh on 7-year-old gelding Pot of Gold for owner Blue Top Holdings Stable and conditioner Jorge Navarro.
The Super High-5 was hit in the fourth race, with 47 winning $1 tickets worth $2,542.60 each. The winning combination was 10-12-9-8-7.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday, with a first-race post time of 12:38 p.m. Beginning Wednesday, the track will conduct live racing five days a week – Wednesday through Sunday – through March 3.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Saturday’s simulcast action includes the Florida Sunshine Millions card from Gulfstream Park. Ronnie Allen, Jr., currently fourth in the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings, will ride Hooh Why in Gulfstream’s sixth race, the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf Stakes.
Hooh Why, a 7-year-old mare who is owned by Mark Hoffman and Earl J. Trostrud, Jr. and trained by Nicholas Gonzalez, won the 2012 edition of the race at odds of 17-1 under John Velazquez. She later won the First Dude Turf Distaff Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Florida Cup Day with Rosemary Homeister. Jr. in the irons.