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The Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf, which has seen two Eclipse Award winners prevail in its last six renewals, highlights a quality-laden 11-race card Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
Post time for the first race is 12:25. The Endeavour, which is run at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is slated as the eighth race. Also on the card are the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for older fillies and mares at five furlongs on the lawn and the $60,000 Pelican Stakes for older horses at six furlongs on the main dirt track.
The Pelican is the seventh race and the Lightning City is the 10th race.
The morning-line favorite for the Endeavour at 3-1 is trainer Tom Proctor’s 5-year-old mare Left a Message, who will break from the No. 11 post and be ridden by Quincy Hamilton. Second choice at 7-2 is 5-year-old Moment in Dixie, trained by James J. Toner. She will break from the No. 1 post and be ridden by Elvis Trujillo.
While it is impossible to predict what any of the 12 Endeavour entrants stand to accomplish, the race has evolved into an early-season proving grounds for turf distaffers in its previous 14 runnings.
And a look at some of the trainers who have saddled winners – Hall of Famer William Mott (2), Todd Pletcher (2), H. Graham Motion, Christophe Clement, Chad Brown, Edward Plesa, Jr., Wayne Catalano – bespeaks the regard in which the Endeavour, and the Tampa Bay Downs grass surface, are held by many of the sport’s best stables.
The Endeavour was elevated to Grade III status for the 2008 edition, attracting the 4-year-old Dreaming of Anna, a Catalano trainee who had won a 2006 Eclipse as Outstanding Juvenile Filly after a 4-for-4 season, including her victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Dreaming of Anna won the Endeavour by a nose and added the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs four weeks later. She retired with 10 victories from 17 starts and career earnings of more than $2-million for owner Frank Carl Calabrese.
Two years ago, the then-5-year-old French-bred mare Zagora arrived in Oldsmar with a Grade I victory in the Diana Stakes at Saratoga the previous year under her belt.
Under the crafty tutelage of trainer Chad Brown, Zagora cruised to victory in the Endeavour, then added the Hillsborough in stakes-record time. The Tampa turf stakes were a springboard to her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf triumph and subsequent Eclipse Award as Outstanding Turf Female for owner Martin S. Schwartz.
A full field of 12 fillies and mares is expected as well for the Lightning City. The 5-year-old Madame Giry is the 2-1 morning-line favorite and will break from the No. 9 post. Alan Garcia will ride for trainer Cam Gambolati.
Also well-regarded at 5-2 is 4-year-old Shrinking Violet, trained by Wesley Ward.
Eight horses are entered in the Pelican, including last year’s winner, Action Andy; 2010 Pelican winner Sneaking Uponyou; and Good Lord, who set the Tampa Bay Downs seven-furlong track record winning last year’s Super Stakes.
Carlos Lozada and Daniel Centeno each rode two winners today. Lozada captured the second race on 6-year-old Raven Train for owner Southwind Stables, Inc., and trainer Charles A. Carey and the fourth race on 6-year-old gelding Garcon for owners Rory Barron and James Georgeades and trainer Barron.
Centeno captured the sixth and seventh races back-to-back. He was aboard 4-year-old gelding Excellent Chance on the turf for owners Ron Magers and Bob Marcocchio and trainer Anthony Granitz, then returned to the winner’s circle on 5-year-old gelding Favorite Patriot for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and current leading trainer Jamie Ness.
Midwest and Ness added the eighth race on the turf on 6-year-old mare Lil Escape Artist, who was ridden by Antonio Gallardo. The team of Magers, Marcocchio and Granitz triumphed in the ninth race with 5-year-od gelding Banner Bill, who was ridden by Quincy Hamilton.
Veteran jockey Vernon Bush scored his first victory of the meeting in the fifth race on 9-year-old gelding Beijing House for owner Richard Murray and trainer Thomas McCooey, Jr. Bush, 52, began riding in 1978 – the year of Affirmed’s Triple Crown – and has ridden almost 3,200 winners.
Time is running out to register for the “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, an online competition beginning on Festival Preview Day, Feb. 1. The deadline is 10:30 a.m. on the first day of the contest.
Festival Preview Day is highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a traditional Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands stepping stone for 3-year-olds. Also on tap are the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses on the turf and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
The contest runs every day through Saturday, April 5. Players make a mythical $2 win-place-show wager on a single horse in one of each day’s two challenge races, and their bankroll accrues throughout based on official pari-mutuel payoffs. Strikes are assessed for an out-of-the-money finish; a player is eliminated once he/she gets three strikes.
The grand-prize winner receives $1,000 and a seat at the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (date and site to be determined). Second place receives $1,000, third place receives $500 and a $500 prize will be awarded to the handicapper selecting the most overall winners.
There is no fee for entering the contest. Complete rules are available at the online site. Registration may be accessed through a link on the track website at www.tampabaydowns.com or by visiting the contest website directly at www.liveitupchallenge.com
The fourth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar will be held the weekend of Feb. 8-9 at the Downs Golf Practice Facility. With the addition this year of the Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge to the lineup on Saturday, Feb. 8, golfers of all ability levels and ages can plan on a weekend of family fun and entertainment, along with a chance to sample the newest equipment and prepare for another season of enjoyment on the links.
Admission both days is $10 for adults, with children 14-and-under free.
The Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge will be contested from noon-2 p.m. on Feb. 8. Scheduled participants include pitchers David Price and Andy Sonnanstine from the Tampa Bay Rays; Daren Puppa and Pat Jablonski representing the Lightning; two members of the Buccaneers; Whit Watson and Win McMurry from The Golf Channel; rockers Nicko McBrain from the group Iron Maiden and Shawn Drover from Megadeth; and WDAE 620-AM radio personality Steve Duemig and 12-year-old IMG Academy prodigy Latanna Stone, who two years ago became the youngest qualifier ever, at 10, for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
As in past years, numerous big names within the industry – including the world’s leading trick-shot artist, Chuck “The Hit Man” Hiter – will perform exhibitions throughout the two-day extravaganza. A popular returning event is the TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.) $1,000,000 Hole-in-One Challenge, with entrants having a chance to win the top prize by making an ace in the finals on Feb. 9.
Golfest hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9. Golfest Presented by Valspar is the Tampa Bay area’s largest demo day and golf expo, and golfers will be able to hit new clubs from such manufacturing companies as TaylorMade, Nike, Adams, Cobra, Callaway, Ping, Wilson and Mizuno, among others.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility is located at 10327 Race Track Road, just south of Tampa Bay Downs racetrack. For details on the Golfest Presented by Valspar event, call (813) 854-4946.

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