The quality of the field for Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course is illustrated by the following:
- Among the 13 entrants are a pair of Grade II winners: 6-year-old Doubles Partner (also the 2011 Tampa Bay Stakes winner) from the barn of Todd Pletcher and 5-year-old Big Blue Kitten, trained by Chad Brown. At 5-2 and 9-2, respectively, they are the morning-line favorites and are assigned top weight of 124 pounds.
- The race has attracted the first four finishers from last year’s thrilling Tampa Bay Stakes: 8-year-old gelding Roman Tiger, 6-year-old gelding El Commodore, 5-year-old Swift Warrior and 7-year-old gelding Allie’s Event.
- Among those top-four 2012 finishers, the lowest morning-line odds belong to Swift Warrior (6-1), who won the Jan. 26 Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes at Sam Houston in Texas.
The 27th edition of the Tampa Bay Stakes is the ninth race on a 10-race card. If it resembles the last three runnings, horsemen, fans and bettors will be treated to a rousing battle certain to leave them limp, hoarse and eager for more.
In 2012, Roman Tiger, a 28-1 shot that day, rallied along the rail under jockey Angel Serpa to nip 33-1 pace setter El Commodore by a nose, with Swift Warrior and Allie’s Event thundering from the back of the pack to finish a half-length and a length from a trip to the winner’s circle.
In an ironic twist, trainer Greg Griffith has elected to use Serpa aboard El Commodore. Serpa rode the son of El Prado-Fancy Clancy, by Rahy, in his most recent start, a second-place finish to Tampa Bay Stakes entrant Alley Oop Oop in a 1-mile turf allowance here Jan. 19. El Commodore is owned by Kinsman Stable.
Roman Tiger, who is owned and trained by Dennis J. Manning, will be ridden by Scott Spieth, who was aboard Allie’s Event in last year’s Tampa Bay Stakes. In addition to last year’s victory, Manning trained 2009 Tampa Bay Stakes winner Victory Alleged for owner Mac Fehsenfeld.
Allie’s Event will be ridden by Fernando De La Cruz on Saturday and Swift Warrior has the services of Jose Espinoza. Those jockeys are the two most recent winners of the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Jockey of the Month award.
Big Blue Kitten, owned by Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey, will be ridden by Jesus Castanon, Tampa Bay Downs’ leading jockey during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. Castanon won consecutive Tampa Bay Stakes in 2003 and 2004 on Burning Roma.
Christopher DeCarlo will ride Doubles Partner, who had Julien Leparoux in the irons in the 2011 Tampa Bay Stakes. DeCarlo won the 2001 Tampa Bay Stakes on Delay of Game.
Doubles Partner won the 2011 Tampa Bay Stakes by a neck from Rahystrada in an amazing blanket finish, with the top five finishers separated by about a length. And in 2010, Karelian, under jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., beat reigning Eclipse Award male turf champion Gio Ponti and jockey Ramon Dominguez by a nose in a hoof-to-hoof duel that brought the crowd to its feet in admiration for both runners.
Alley Oop Oop and Argentine Tango are both owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold and will run as a coupled entry for wagering purposes.
Here is the full field in post position order, followed by trainer and jockey:
1. Big Blue Kitten, Chad Brown, Jesus Castanon; 2. Allie’s Event, Lori Smock, Fernando De La Cruz; 3. Swift Warrior, John Terranova II, Jose Espinoza; 4. Tiz Sardonic Joe, Eddie Kenneally, Ryan Curatolo; 5. Hollinger, Roger Attfield, Patrick Husbands; 6. Argentine Tango, Stanley Gold, Willie Martinez; 7. El Commodore, Greg Griffith, Angel Serpa; 8. Doubles Partner, Todd Pletcher, Christopher DeCarlo; 9. Roman Tiger, Dennis Manning, Scott Spieth; 10. Za Approval, Christophe Clement, Joe Bravo; 11. Alley Oop Oop, Stanley Gold, Fernando Jara; 12. Cash Rules, David Fawkes, to be named; 13. (also eligible) San Antone, George Arnold II, to be named.
Friday’s 10-race card begins at 12:35 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.
Rainy weather Thursday forced the removal of three races from the turf course, but horses, jockeys and trainers still provided an eventful 10-race program.
Jockey Fernando De La Cruz rode three winners, moving him into third place in the standings with 30 victories. He began the day by winning the first race, a six-furlong starter allowance, aboard the 7-year-old gelding See I A for owner Neal Allread and trainer Barbara McBride in a swift 1:10.60. It was See I A’s first start since being claimed by McBride last month for $5,000.
In the third race, De La Cruz piloted 3-year-old filly Antia to victory at seven furlongs for trainer Jason DaCosta and his father, owner Wayne DaCosta. It was Antia’s third straight victory this meeting at the $12,500 claiming level. She changed hands after the race, being claimed by trainer Dennis Ward for new owner Ridenjac Racing.
De La Cruz also captured the eighth race, a $16,000 claiming event taken off the turf, on 4-year-old colt Cactus Cognac for owner Jack Matia and trainer Forrest Kaelin.
Trainer Kathleen O’Connell continues her advance on the coveted 1,500-victory mark, moving to 1,493 after a pair of victories Thursday – one at Tampa Bay Downs and one at Gulfstream.
O’Connell won the second race locally, a seven-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies, with Woodford Thoroughbreds-owned K.O.’s Touch, ridden by Scott Spieth. John Sykes, the owner of Woodford Thoroughbreds, named the daughter of Repent-Crowning Touch for O’Connell. The second and third-place finishers in the race were trained by a couple of guys you may have heard of: H. Graham Motion and William Mott.
Exclusive Sarah also won her third in a row, taking the ninth race in a driving finish for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Jorge Navarro. The jockey was Jose Angel Garcia. Navarro returned to the winner’s circle in the 10th with 6-year-old mare Cavallo Murano, owned by Blue Top Holdings Stable and ridden by Angel Serpa.
And on Feb. 14, it seemed fitting 4-year-old colt Cactus Cognac won the eighth race for trainer Forrest Kaelin. He and wife Betty have been married 57 years. “He’s taking me to dinner for Valentine’s Day, but he didn’t bet and I did, so I’m treating him to dinner,” Betty said.
Padarath Lutchman scored a training exacta in the sixth race, saddling 1-2 finishers Hyarima and Lion Prince. Carlos Villasana rode the winner, who is owned by Neal K. Maharaj.
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 asked 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.
Hearts Reaching Out. The Race Track Chaplaincy of America, Tampa Bay Downs Division “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament and Charity Auction and Dinner will be held March 4. The RTCA provides spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational services to the workers at the race track.
The tournament will be a four-person scramble at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater beginning with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. The top three teams will receive prizes. The dinner is at 5:30 p.m. under the tent in the Tampa Bay Downs Picnic Area, followed by the auction and an awards banquet at 7 p.m.
Cost is $100 for golf, dinner and auction, $20 for 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. 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