Danny Coa and Ademar Santos solidified their positions in the top 10 of the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings on Saturday, riding three winners apiece, while trainers Chad Stewart and Jason DaCosta each saddled two winners.
Also highlighting the afternoon’s action was a driving, come-from-behind victory in the Lambholm South Race of the Week by 5-year-old gelding El Uno, who won for the third time in a row on the turf for owner Ups and Downs Racing and trainer Monte Thomas.
Coa, who is in fifth place with 43 victories, won three of the day’s last four races. He was aboard 3-year-old filly Tantaliza in the seventh race going a mile on the turf for owner Dennis Holman and trainer Kathleen O’Connell. In the next race, Coa rode first-time starter Dancin n’ Dealin, a 3-year-old Maryland-bred gelding, to an impressive six-furlong victory at odds of 12-1 for owner Horseshoe Farm and trainer James C. Kirk.
Coa wrapped up his topnotch afternoon by urging 3-year-old filly Pursteena to a maiden-breaking victory on the turf in the final race for owner E.J. Sukley and trainer Tom Proctor.
Santos, now in ninth place with 33 victories, got his big day rolling in the third race, piloting 4-year-old filly Roman Score to a gate-to-wire, three-length victory going seven furlongs for owner-trainer DaCosta. Santos and Chad Stewart teamed up for back-to-back victories in the fifth and sixth races. First, 3-year-old gelding Splittin’ Wood broke his maiden in the fifth going a mile on the turf for breeder-owner John Tucker, defeating favored Ballerino by a neck.
In the sixth, a seven-furlong contest, 4-year-old gelding Mighty Gideon and Santos rolled to a three-and-three-quarter length victory. Mighty Gideon is owned by Stewart and was bred by the trainer and his wife, Laurie Stewart.
Stewart is ninth in the trainer standings with 17 victories.
DaCosta won with both of his starters Saturday, giving him a 19-for-53 record in his inaugural Tampa Bay Downs meeting. A former assistant to his father, perennial Jamaican training champion Wayne DaCosta, Jason knew he was going to be a trainer from the first time he accompanied his father to Caymanas Park.
In the first race, DaCosta saddled 3-year-old filly It’s Not Nice to break her maiden going six furlongs under jockey Fernando De La Cruz in her third lifetime start. DaCosta owns It’s Not Nice in partnership with Amaty Racing Stables.
DaCosta returned to the winner’s circle after the third race with his 4-year-old filly Roman Score, who won for the second time in three outings under Santos. Roman Score had signaled her readiness for the seven-furlong claiming event with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.60 six days earlier.
DaCosta is seventh in the trainer standings in wins, while his 35.8-percent strike rate trails only Jorge Navarro (37.5) among trainers with at least 50 starts. DaCosta has posted in-the-money finishes with 62.3 percent of his starters, trailing only Jamie Ness (68.8) and Navarro (67) in that category.
Jockey Dean Butler climbed to seventh in the wins chase with 35 with his two tallies, capturing the second race on the turf on 3-year-old gelding Gentle as a Breeze for owner Leanne Robbins and trainer Bernell Rhone and the fourth on 4-year-old maiden filly Emily’s Sundance for owner Coast to Coast Stables, LLC and trainer Lynne Scace.
The Lambholm South Race of the Week was a 1-mile turf allowance for older horses. Antonio Gallardo rode El Uno, who has won five of 18 lifetime starts. The winner is a Florida-bred by Macho Uno out of Fierce Resistance, by Wild Again. El Uno wore down pace-setter and slight favorite Iloveyoubutimbored through the stretch for a length-and-a-quarter victory.
Greg Griffith was honored between races as the Zerillo’s Trainer of the Month; his son, stable assistant Dennis, accepted the award because the elder Griffith was at Calder in Miami watching his 6-year-old gelding El Commodore, owned by Kinsman Stable, run second in the Grade III, $100,000 Miami Mile on the turf to Summer Front.
Owner John C. Oxley, trainer Mark Casse and jockey Luis Contreras have become familiar faces on the Tampa Bay Downs stakes scene the past two seasons. During a ceremony Friday night at Woodbine in Toronto, they were honored with 2012 Sovereign Awards by the Jockey Club of Canada for their achievements in Canadian racing.
The trio combined to win $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 12 with Dynamic Sky, who went on to finish second in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes and fourth in the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. Last season, Oxley, Casse and Contreras won the Pasco and the Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective, while Oxley and Casse won the $150,000 Florida Oaks with Dixie Strike.
Casse has won five of the past seven Sovereigns for Outstanding Trainer; Roger Attfield is the record-holder with eight. Oxley won in the Outstanding Owner category for the first time and Contreras won as Outstanding Jockey for the second year in a row.
Uncaptured, who is owned by Oxley and trained by Casse, was named Canada’s Horse of the Year. He won six of seven starts last year, including the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and the Grade III Iroquois, and is the first 2-year-old to win the award since the filly Ruling Angel in 1986.
Race goers who can’t make it to the Bluegrass State for the 139th Kentucky Derby should plan to attend Tampa Bay Downs the weekend of May 4-5.
Undefeated 3-year-old colt Verrazano, the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby winner on March 9 from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, and more recently winner of the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, could be the third winner of the Run for the Roses to emerge from the Oldsmar showcase since 2007.
Such a result would set off a celebration unrivaled in the history of the track founded in 1926 as Tampa Downs – fittingly, with famed Churchill Downs President and Kentucky Derby promoter Matt Winn in charge of the inaugural 39-day meet.
But Tampa Bay Downs fans will also have the option of cheering for Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Java’s War, the Kenneth McPeek-trained 3-year-old whose stirring last-to-first comeback in the Grade I, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last week under jockey Julien Leparoux was the talk of the Twitter universe.
Numerous festivities and events are being planned for the big weekend, which will bring the 87th season of Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs to a close. Fans are encouraged to join the fun by participating in the traditions that help to make the Derby such a beloved spectacle, such as sipping on a refreshing mint julep or entering the hat contest under the tent in the Backyard Picnic Area.
May 5 is Fan Appreciation Day, with free admission and food and beverages at discounted prices. And of course, Tampa Bay Downs will present two quality-laden cards of exciting Thoroughbred action the final weekend.
The Gift Shop on the first floor of the grandstand has begun selling Kentucky Derby merchandise such as T-shirts, caps, shot glasses and souvenir glasses, which are inscribed with the name of each Derby winner from Aristides in 1875 through I’ll Have Another in 2012.
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.