When you have been around horses for as long as Holiday, Fla. resident Thomas Bosch, you learn not to look too far ahead. The upcoming race is really the only one that matters.
That is how Bosch and his wife Jean are approaching It’s Me Mom’s start Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs in a $30,000 handicap for older fillies and mares at six-and-a-half furlongs.
No matter that 4-year-old It’s Me Mom has won four races in a row, her last three by an average of almost eight lengths, including the Minaret Stakes here on New Year’s Eve and the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 28.
Or that jockey Willie Martinez has geared her down in the closing yards in her last three races with victory assured, probably costing her a track record for six furlongs at Gulfstream (her 1:08.85 clocking was .73 seconds off Big Drama’s mark).
And, no reason to dwell on the fact the Bosches have been offered $800,000 for their homebred daughter of Put It Back-She Too – who Ray Stifano, the assistant to trainer Lynne Scace, lovingly refers to as “a freak.”
Right now, all Thomas Bosch really cares about is that It’s Me Mom gets a chance to show how special she is in Saturday’s eighth race against six highly ambitious rivals, including graded-stakes placed White Merlot and multiple stakes winners My Pal Chrisy and Pay the Man.
The eighth race is a superb lead-in to Saturday’s feature, the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.
If It’s Me Mom’s last three races had been prize fights, they would have been stopped at the quarter-mile pole. Except for the first few steps of the Sunshine Millions race, she has led every step of the way each time while running each opening quarter in 22 and change and each half-mile in under 45 seconds. Her final Minaret time of 1:09.68 was less than a second off the track record.
Among the vanquished at Gulfstream were reigning Eclipse Award-winning distaff sprinter Musical Romance, who won on Breeders’ Cup Day 2011, and multiple-graded stakes winner Pomeroys Pistol.
“I’ve owned horses 65 years, and this is the first one I’ve had like this,” said the 85-year-old Bosch, who rode briefly as a jockey in New York and the mid-Atlantic more than 60 years ago before he got too big and turned to training. He and Jean have been married 58 years and keep the 9-year-old broodmare She Too at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, also the home of Grade II winner Put It Back.
It’s Me Mom, who is developing a significant fan following at Tampa Bay Downs, is a beautiful dark chestnut with a white blaze on her forehead that runs as good as she looks.
“It’s very hard to get a horse like this. Some people don’t get one like her in their lifetime,” Bosch said. “I won a lot of races as a trainer, but this is our first stakes winner, and she is something special. I think she can beat anything on the East Coast.”
Bosch says It’s Me Mom – who is 9-for-14 lifetime, with career earnings of $425,200 – is not available for any price.
“I would not consider selling her. She is the pet of the family,” Bosch said.
Her connections decided it was best to run her Saturday than keep her in the barn too long between races, because It’s Me Mom is a high-strung horse who lives to compete. Then, she’ll get several days of rest before training for her next dance, whenever and wherever it may be.
Scace also believes the six-and-a-half furlong distance will give her a better gauge of It’s Me Mom’s distance capabilities. She has never raced beyond six furlongs.
Although the It’s Me Mom camp is noncommittal about her next start, a solid performance Saturday could lead them to think about the Grade I, $300,000 Vinery Madison going seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 12.
“She is on top of her game right now,” said Martinez. “What makes her unique is her brilliant speed, and her size. You could look at her and not even tell she’s a sprinter. The race at Gulfstream spoke for itself – she dominated again. Any horse is beatable, but it is hard for the other horses to keep up with her.
“I just hope she stays healthy. It’s a long year, and it’s very hard for any horse as fast as she is to go back-to-back-to-back like she has. But she is at her peak, and any trainer can tell you when a horse reaches that level, you have to take advantage or you’ll never find out how good they are,” Martinez added.
And when you find out they’re better than you ever imagined, it’s a feeling you can’t put a price on.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Leandro Goncalves rode a winner for the 11th consecutive card Thursday, scoring aboard 4-5 favorite Pray for owner Carolyn Wilson and trainer Wayne Catalano in the eighth race. Juan N. Delgado rode two winners: Pumpidu in the sixth and Tri Power in the 10th.
Live racing resumes Friday at Tampa Bay Downs with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.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.