Eight days after winning the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Falling Sky, 43-year-old jockey Jose Espinoza achieved a career first by riding three winners from three starters Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs.
“I’ve won three out of four before, but this is my first time going 3-for-3,” Espinoza said after rallying 4-year-old Abitya from far off the pace for a three-quarter length victory over Why Not More in the seventh race, a mile-and-a-sixteenth maiden special weight on the turf for older fillies and mares.
Abitya races for owner James H. Heyward and trainer Joan Scott. Espinoza also won the third race, a claiming sprint, on 4-year-old filly Inspeightofthegold for owners Michele Rosa and Lawrence E. Sargent and trainer Jane Cibelli, and the sixth race – a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race – on 4-year-old gelding Nicklaus Way for owner Lothenbach Stables, Inc. and trainer Ian Wilkes.
For the record, Inspeightofthegold was claimed for $10,000 by M. Anthony Ferraro.
Want more proof of Espinoza’s widening impact on the local riding colony? He is now 11-for-33 at the meet, and each of his winners Sunday paid less than their morning-line odds, a sign savvy bettors are catching on to the journeyman’s skills.
“I want more of these kind of days,” Espinoza said, smiling. “I definitely want to increase my business here. That’s my dream. I remember how I felt when I was 21, and that’s how I feel now.
“I love the company I’m with,” added Espinoza, referring to the chance to ride for such outstanding trainers as Wilkes, Scott and Cibelli. “And I love being here. Whether I win or not, I really enjoy this track. It’s a nice place with a lot of nice people.”
The long-time New York-based jockey’s victory aboard Nicklaus Way seemed especially appropriate given the success of Golfest Presented by Tampa Bay Championship, Tampa Bay’s largest two-day demo and golf expo, at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Record crowds attended the event both days, and Dunedin resident Roger Mulligan earned the opportunity to hit a shot potentially worth $1-million in the TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.) Hole-In-One Challenge.
Mulligan, a 65-year-old starter and ranger at Dunedin Country Club, was closest to the pin in the semifinals, hitting a 6-iron from 145 yards to 11 feet, 7 inches. The distance was lengthened to 167 yards for the final shot, and Mulligan selected a 3-iron to combat a strong headwind.
Inexplicably, the wind died as he hit his shot and it flew about 30 feet past the flagstick. Despite his surname, he was not allowed a second try. As a consolation prize, Mulligan won a round of golf for four people at Countryside Country Club.
“I’m happy, because I’ve never played there,” Mulligan said. “I was more nervous for the last shot, because I knew a lot more was riding on it.”
All told, 33 of the 97 participants in the TROT Hole-In-One Challenge advanced to the semifinals by hitting a qualifying shot within a 20-foot diameter circle. Proceeds from the event benefit TROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe retirement, rehabilitation and adoption of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds.
Eric Johnson of Tampa won the drawing for two tickets to the 2013 season’s first professional major tournament in Georgia.
Exporter, a 3-year-old colt owned by Kinsman Stable and trained by Gregory A. Griffith, won Sunday’s feature fifth race, a $21,400, 1-mile turf event for claiming horses valued at $32,000. The Florida-bred son of Grand Slam-Ricki S, by Prized, was ridden by Danny Coa.
Walk for Roz. The inaugural “Walk for Roz,” a fund-raising event benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s fight against breast cancer, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday on the racetrack at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 1-mile walk around the main track is in memory of the late Dr. Rosalyn Randall, the track’s Association Veterinarian for more than 30 years who died of breast cancer last spring.
Participants should plan on meeting at 10:45 a.m. under the tent in the Backyard Picnic Area of the track. Everyone is encouraged to wear pink. Donations are requested and will go to the Komen for the Cure organization. The event is open to the public.
In addition to working at Tampa Bay Downs, Randall was a practicing veterinarian at Scarborough Animal Hospital in Maine and at Lakeside Animal Hospital in Odessa. She was an accomplished athlete, competing in 25 Boston Marathons, the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii and as a member of a Senior Biathlon team that competed internationally.
Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, Randall continued running until her final year of life. A native of Maine who grew up on her family’s dairy farm, she had a lifetime love of animals and held Bachelor’s and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees as a cum laude graduate of Michigan State.
Tampa Bay Downs conducts live racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. The track 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.