After winning two races early on Friday’s card, jockey Danny Coa fell from his mount in the fifth race and sat out the sixth, as required by track rules. But Coa’s afternoon wasn’t finished.
The 30-year-old native of Venezuela returned to ride two more winners, raising his total for the meet to 36 and serving notice he will be a rider to watch closely over the final three-plus weeks of the season.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno also fell from his horse in the fifth-race incident. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for examination, then released with no major injuries.
“I waited a race to see if I had any headaches or felt dizzy,” said Coa, who was cleared by paramedics before returning to the saddle. “I felt good, had full range of motion and felt 100 percent to ride, so I did and it paid off.”
Coa started strong by capturing the third and fourth races. In the third, a six-furlong claiming event, he was aboard 4-year-old filly Promise Me Joy for owner Sturdy Boy Stables LLC and trainer Robert O’Connor II. Coa returned to the winner’s circle after the fourth, a mile-and-40-yard claiming contest, on Notta Boat for owner David Gilinsky and trainer Greg Griffith. Notta Boat paid $22.20 to win.
In the eighth race, a 1-mile claiming event on the turf, Coa piloted 5-year-old gelding Umbraggio to victory for owner Clarke Ohrstrom and trainer Jane Cibelli. Umbraggio was making his first start in 18 months. Coa then teamed with 5-year-old mare Glass Bottle, the 2-5 favorite, to win the six-furlong ninth race, a claiming affair, for owner Drake Smith and trainer Robert G. Smith (he was a replacement for Centeno in that race).
Coa’s scheduled mount in the sixth race, 4-year-old filly One Wild Fire, was ridden to victory by Scott Spieth. Coa previously had won five on a single card at Turfway Park and four at Churchill Downs.
Saturday’s Thoroughbred action includes an exciting 11-race live card and major simulcast action from around the country. Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Falling Sky; Davis runner-up Dynamic Sky; and Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Java’s War will try to strengthen their Triple Crown credentials Saturday in a pair of major Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands prep races that will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs.
Locally, the card that begins at 12:40 p.m. includes the featured 10th race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event for horses 4-years-old and up at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. The top contenders in the 10-horse field include a pair of 5-year-old geldings: Saintly Love, winner of two of three starts at the current meet, and Will Run for Beer, who has posted three victories and a second here since Jan. 9.
Also expected to be tough are Grade III winner Let It Rock, still dangerous at 8, and Lots of Love Mom, a 6-year-old gelding rounding into form after a seven-month layoff.
On the simulcast scene, Falling Sky, an upset winner of the Sam F. Davis on Feb. 2 and the third-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby, is part of a 10-horse field entered in the Grade I, $1-million Arkansas Derby at a mile-and-an-eighth at Oaklawn Park.
Falling Sky, who finished fourth in the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 1 as a 2-year-old, is owned by Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger and trained by John Terranova II. At 10-1 on the morning line, Falling Sky will be ridden by Martin Garcia.
Also entered in the Arkansas Derby is Divine Ambition, who was third in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 12 and sixth in the Davis. Owned by Silverton Hill LLC and trained by Darrin Miller, Divine Ambition will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr.
The Arkansas Derby is the 10th race on Oaklawn’s card and scheduled to start at 6:28 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Closer to the site of the May 4 Run for the Roses, Java’s War and Dynamic Sky are among 14 3-year-olds set to contest the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at a mile-and-an-eighth on Keeneland’s all-weather track. The race is the 10th on Keeneland’s card, with a probable post time of 5:40 p.m.
Java’s War, owned by Charles E. Fipke and trained by Kenneth McPeek, rallied from far back to finish second in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 at odds of 32-1, while never threatening the winner, Verrazano. Julien Leparoux will ride Java’s War, who is a 4-1 second choice on the morning line behind Uncaptured at 7-2.
Uncaptured is owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, who also campaign 10-1 shot Dynamic Sky. The latter, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario, finished fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby after a strong second in the Sam F. Davis on Feb. 2 and an earlier victory here Jan. 12 in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes.
Another Blue Grass entrant with Tampa Bay Downs experience is Barry Butzer and Wachtel Stable’s My Name Is Michael, who was third in the Davis before an eighth-place performance three weeks ago in the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. My Name Is Michael is trained by William Mott and will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.
Another Tampa Bay Downs connection to mention in the Blue Grass is jockey Jose Espinoza, named aboard the John Terranova II-trained West Hills Giant.
Bettors who consider strong Tampa Bay Downs form a precursor to graded-stakes success elsewhere have several other options to pursue Saturday, starting with Keeneland’s Grade I, $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. The Jenny Wiley is the ninth race.
Among its nine entrants is Stud TNT’s 5-year-old mare Old Tune, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Joel Rosario. The Brazilian-bred Old Tune won both the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes and the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the Tampa Bay Downs turf in her first two starts since being imported following her Brazilian Filly Triple Crown sweep, and she is riding a six-race winning streak.
Oaklawn’s eighth race, the Grade II, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at a mile-and-an-eighth, boasts as its favorite Janis R. Whitham’s 5-year-old Fort Larned, winner last fall of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., Fort Larned is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the 10-horse field.
Fort Larned competed at Tampa Bay Downs during the winter of 2012, finishing fourth in a handicap before winning the $60,000 Challenger Stakes on March 3 to commence his climb to glory. “The Challenger was a very important part of his program, to get him going,” Wilkes said later. “That really kicked off his year.”
Two horses that made their most recent starts at Tampa Bay Downs, 4-year-old filly Kune Kune and 5-year-old mare Last Full Measure, are part of the 10-horse field for Keeneland’s Grade I, $300,000 Madison Stakes at seven furlongs on the all-weather track. The Madison is the eighth race.
The English-bred Kune Kune, owned by Steve Ballou and Harriet Waldron and trained by Joan Scott, won an allowance/$62,500 optional claiming race going a mile on the turf locally on Feb. 20. She will be ridden by Corey Lanerie. Last Full Measure finished third in the Endeavour Stakes and ninth in the Hillsborough. She is owned by St. George Farm Racing, LLC and trained by Philip Oliver and will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.
Not to be overlooked among the Tampa Bay Downs products stepping up to the plate Saturday is 5-year-old mare Spectacular Sky, one of the favorites for the Grade II, $200,000 Distaff Handicap, a six-furlong fixture which is the eighth race at Aqueduct. Spectacular Sky won the $50,000 Manatee Stakes on Feb. 9 at Tampa Bay Downs. She is owned by Farnsworth Stables LLC and trained by Martin D. Wolfson and will be ridden by Luis Saez.
Jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., continues to recuperate in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa after Wednesday’s spill in which he suffered two broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver. His fiancée, trainer Maria Bowersock, said Ronnie was able to walk around his room Friday and is looking forward to his release, hopefully by early next week.
Forced to find a replacement jockey in Friday’s first race for her 3-year-old filly Ghost Flower, who won by seven lengths in her previous start under Ronnie last month, Bowersock turned to brother Mike Allen, who rode the Kentucky-bred to a neck victory from favorite Alinator. Ghost Flower is owned by Burkholder Stables.
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.
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.