If Thoroughbred trainer Jane Cibelli had her druthers, her racing stable would be comprised mostly of horses bred by her clients or purchased at yearling sales.
“I enjoy taking young horses and turning them into winners,” said Cibelli, who is the recipient of the Hurricane Grill & Wings Trainer of the Month Award. “All my stakes winners have been horses that I created.”
That group includes Chirac, who won the Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth in 2009 as a 4-year-old, and stakes winner A Unique Treasure, a gelding who was second in the 2010 Turf Monster at Philadelphia to subsequent Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge.
The sport’s economic realities dictate that Cibelli’s barn is split roughly 50-50 between homebreds or sales horses and horses she claims off the track. Her proficiency with both classes of runners has raised her stature in Florida and throughout the Northeast.
Bombast, a gelding claimed by Cibelli last June at Monmouth for $12,500, won his next three starts and finished second in the $50,000 Claiming Crown Express Stakes at Fair Grounds in December. D’cats Meow, now a 5-year-old mare, posted two consecutive allowance victories and was second in the Mongo Queen and the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper after being claimed for $20,000 by Cibelli last summer.
Cibelli enjoys celebrating her successes – to a point.
“On Wednesday (Feb. 8), I had two starters here at Tampa Bay Downs, and they both won,” said Cibelli, referring to John Falcone’s 4-year-old gelding Funfaha and Robert Caporella’s 3-year-old gelding Dance to the Roar. “Then I had a horse in at Gulfstream that day that ran third.
“I went home in a bad mood. I like to win.”
More often than not lately, Cibelli has left the racetrack smiling. Going 6-for-13 during a recent stretch elevated her to 10 victories, tied for fifth best at the meeting. Almost half of her starters (19-for-39) have finished in the money.
At Tampa Bay Downs, Cibelli trains 30 horses for a variety of clients. She keeps a string of 10 at Gulfstream and has posted six victories there from 22 starters. Cibelli employs about 20 people between the two operations, and credits her assistant at Tampa Bay Downs, Robert Holman, with “paying attention like I am paying attention.”
Cibelli sent out 70 winners in 2011, with total earnings of $1.5 million, and saddled 26 winners at Tampa Bay Downs last season. That was merely a warm-up for one of the crowning achievements of her career: winning the training title at Monmouth in New Jersey with 32 victories, the first woman to do so.
“Monmouth was huge – not because of being the first female trainer to win the title, but being the leading trainer at a very tough meet. That’s what I was proud of,” Cibelli said.
Plans for Chirac and A Unique Treasure to compete in the Breeders’ Cup were derailed by injuries, but Cibelli understands as well as anyone setbacks are part of racing. As Kipling penned, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same…”
“A lot of it is luck sometimes,” she said. “When your races go and your horses are ready to run, you get that momentum going.”
Jockey Danny Coa won two races on Wednesday’s card, moving him into a tie for fifth place in the standings with Pablo Morales. Coa won the first race on 4-year-old filly Star Reward, breaking her maiden in her 11th try for Vegso Racing Stable and trainer William Phipps.
He was also victorious in the seventh race on 5-year-old mare Comic Miss for Winning Stables, Inc., Ray Rech and La Marca Stable and trainer Gerald Bennett.
Live racing resumes Thursday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. There is Super High-5 carryover of $6,480.90. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility is the site for Golfweek’s Golfest Presented by Transitions Championship on Saturday and Sunday. Golfers of all ages and ability levels can sample and buy new equipment, get free lessons, enjoy clinics and demonstrations and enter the $25,000 Putting Challenge both days.
Tickets are $10 daily for adults, with children 16 and under admitted free. Golfest hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available at the Downs Golf Practice Facility or online at www.golfest.com
A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Future Champions Golf Tour and The First Tee. Golfweek’s Golfest is the nation’s largest outdoor golf lifestyle event and the only such show in the Tampa Bay area.
The list of instructors and celebrities set to attend is a veritable “Who’s Who” of golf teaching. It includes David Leadbetter, considered by many the world’s No. 1 instructor and coach of the winners of more than a dozen major championships and 100 worldwide tournaments; Mike Shannon, a top-50 instructor and putting guru to many PGA Tour players; and Dennis Walters, whose “Golf Lessons and Life Lessons” show with his co-host, “Super Dog Bucky,” has inspired millions of golfers and non-golfers.