When his 6-year-old gelding Good Lord drew even with 3-2 favorite Action Andy at the top of the stretch in the $75,000 Super Stakes, trainer Forrest Kaelin’s confidence shot up another notch.
Since his previous start Dec. 2 at Gulfstream in the Sunshine State Stakes, the Thomas D. Shank and Stan Young-owned Good Lord had strung together a series of local bullet workouts. The most impressive was a six-furlong workout in 1:11 2/5 on Feb. 3, a move one veteran Tampa Bay Downs observer told Kaelin was the fastest they had ever seen here at the distance.
So yes, Kaelin thought Good Lord could get the job done, even against defending champion Action Andy.
“He’s a better horse this year than he was last year. He’s been training better,” Kaelin said after Good Lord’s ¾-length victory in track-record time of 1:22.03 for seven furlongs, eclipsing the 2011 mark set by Manicero in the Florida Cup Sophomore Colts & Geldings and the previous stakes mark of 1:22.28 in 2006 by Nick Zito-trainee and Grade II winner Sir Shackleton. “Any time a horse keeps prepping that way, you know he’s fit,” Kaelin added.
Good Lord, who was ridden Saturday by Fernando De La Cruz, needed every bit of fitness and toughness to stave off Action Andy, the 2012 Super Stakes winner who set a stakes record for six furlongs in winning the Pelican Stakes earlier this meet.
“I was hoping someone else would soften (Action Andy) up early, but I know my horse and he is always closing,” Kaelin said. “In the Gulfstream race (a fourth-place finish), he came back with a hole in his back ankle, so that’s why he didn’t close that day.”
After Good Lord ran second in last season’s Pelican and fourth in the Super Stakes, he was third in a Tampa Bay Downs handicap later in the meet. Before leaving Oldsmar, Kaelin’s blacksmith discovered a quarter-crack in his right front leg.
The Florida-bred son of Greatness-Dowager Lady began rounding into top form soon after the problem was found, and won four stakes at four different tracks from June 30 through Nov. 3. And Kaelin believes he would have won a fifth at Hoosier Park in October had he not had a troubled trip and finished second.
“He’s been a great horse for us,” Kaelin said after Good Lord’s ninth victory in 46 starts. "I'm tickled to death. I'd been sick all week, but this makes me feel a lot better." First-place money of $45,000 raised Good Lord's career earnings to $477,109.
Shank and Young are both residents of Bowling Green, Ky. Shank won the 1989 Pelican here with Intown for the Day, but Kaelin’s Tampa Bay Downs roots trace back much longer. The former jockey rode here in 1956 when it was Sunshine Park, and he trained a horse named Two Relics to a stakes victory here in the 1966 Florida Handicap when the track was called Florida Downs.
The 78-year-old Kaelin and his wife Betty have been married 57 years and live in Clearwater.
Both De La Cruz and runner-up jockey Danny Coa were delighted with their horses’ efforts.
“I work this horse in the mornings, so I knew how good he was,” said De La Cruz. “He warmed up perfectly and he broke just right, and I was able to let him settle right behind the leader. I thought something else might run at us, but I was confident we could run down (Action Andy). We hooked him, but he was game and we had to really work to put him away.”
It has been a marvelous February for De La Cruz, whose wife Rosa gave birth to a daughter earlier this month.
Action Andy, trained by Carlos Garcia, lost no luster in defeat. “He is such a game warrior,” Coa said. “He knows how to relax, but I would have preferred to have had something to run at early. But when you have the only speed, you use it. When we got the challenge, he fought back like a really good horse will. You have to be proud of a horse that gives that kind of effort.”
Good Lord paid $10.60 as the third wagering choice in the nine-horse field. Bellefire and Winslow Homer were impressive as well in finishing third and fourth, beaten less than a length-and-a-half for top honors.
Tampa Bay Downs staged five turf races Saturday, including two divisions of the Tampa Turf Test Starter Handicap Series for older horses which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2012-13. Both races were contested at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth.
In the Male Division (consisting of 11 geldings and one older horse), 6-year-old gelding Saffron Hall led from almost start to finish to post a ¾-length victory from Alajwad Dancer, with Rock in Bage third and Don’twait Toolong fourth. It was the second consecutive victory on the Tampa Bay Downs turf surface for Saffron Hall, who is owned by Kenneth Ramsey and trained by Kenneth Wirth. Ramsey claimed Saffron Hall for $25,000 from his previous start Jan. 20
Oriana Rossi ride the winner, an Ontario-bred son of Giant’s Causeway-Eden Lodge, by Numerous. Saffron Hall’s time was 1:48.79. Saffron Hall, who did not start until his 5-year-old season, is 4-for-10 lifetime.
Despite winning two of her three previous starts, 4-year-old filly Audington was ignored by a majority of bettors entering the Filly and Mare Division. But utilizing a patient ride from Augusto Marin and her own strong finishing kick, she rallied on the inside for a half-length victory from pace-setter Scorecard. Lets Go Donna was a nose back in third and Kings Tuesday finished fourth in the 11-horse field.
It was the second victory on the card for Marin, who won the third race on the turf aboard 4-year-old filly Ubu for owner Big Lick Farm and trainer Reid Nagle. Audington’s time was 1:50.45. She is 4-for-19 lifetime.
Audington is owned and trained by Cathy Cole-Rivera, who claimed the Kentucky-bred daughter of Eddington-Aud, by Wild Again, for $8,000 from a mile-and-40-yard victory on Jan. 4. Audington paid $83 to win as the second-longest shot in the race. The 1-10 exacta paid $658, the 1-10-11 trifecta paid $5,712.60 and the $1 1-10-11-3 superfecta paid $25,678.80.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning about 12:30 p.m. Sunday is also Kids and Family Day, with track mascot Mouse the Miniature Horse and all kinds of fun and games for families in the Picnic Area adjacent to the grandstand.
The track conducts racing Wednesday through Sunday next week, then goes to a four-days-a-week schedule through April (Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays), with the exception of Easter Sunday, March 31, when Tampa Bay Downs is closed.
The track is open throughout the week for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
“Hearts Reaching Out.” There is still time to enter the “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament four-person scramble as an individual or a team. The event, conducted by the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, Tampa Bay Downs Division, is Monday, March 4 at 11 a.m. at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater.
The event will be held prior to the RTCA-Tampa Bay Downs Division’s Charity Auction and Dinner at 5:30 p.m. under the tent in the track’s Picnic Area. The tournament awards banquet will be held at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the auction.
Cost is $100 for the tournament, dinner and auction, and $20 for the dinner and auction. Tickets are available at the Chaplain’s Office. For details or to reserve a spot, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 298-1576.
Items to be auctioned include racing and sports memorabilia, signed items, photographs and paintings.
Proceeds benefit the RTCA, a certified 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization which provides spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational services to racetrack workers. The RTCA, Tampa Bay Downs Division, also receives financial support from Tampa Bay Downs, the Horsemen’s Benevolence and Protective Association and individual donors. Information is available at the web site www.rtcatbd.org
Car Giveaway. Poker players, circle Friday, March 8 on your calendars. That is when The Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs will be giving away a 2013 Toyota Camry SE to one lucky player, as well as $599 cash prizes to nine other players.
To win a drawing ticket for March 8, poker players must get an aces-full or higher hand in a game between now and March 7 using at least one card in their hand. To be eligible to win the car or a cash prize, ticket-holders must be playing or on the waiting list to play on March 8. Ten tickets will be drawn, nine for $599 and one for the car.