OLDSMAR, FL. – It’s too early to know if 6-year-old Great Attack will compete in a third consecutive Breeders’ Cup in November.
But based on his powerful effort in the ninth running of the $75,000 Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, it’s a virtual certainty trainer Wesley Ward will point the Florida-bred in the direction of Santa Anita.
Biding his time until the turn of the five-furlong event, jockey Angel Serpa summoned Great Attack’s kick in plenty of time to score a convincing one-and-three-quarters length victory from 5-year-old gelding Silver Cloud before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,669.
Great Attack’s time of 56.13 on a turf course labeled good was .85 seconds off Bridgetown’s 2011 stakes record, a race in which Great Attack finished second by a neck.
It was the second consecutive Turf Dash Stakes victory for Great Attack, who posted a winning time of 55.93 seconds in 2012 on a similar good surface. Great Attack paid $3.80 today as the heavy favorite in the seven-horse field.
Hold On Smokey finished third and Duty Blues rallied for fourth.
Great Attack, who is owned by the Houyhnhnm Stable syndicate headed by Jeffrey Seder, finished fourth in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs and fifth in last fall’s Grade I race at Santa Anita.
Tampa Bay Downs trainer Dennis Ward, Wesley’s father, accepted the trophy in the winner’s circle along with his assistant trainer, Jeanne Shand, and Serpa.
“He (Great Attack) seems to really like Tampa Bay Downs,” the elder Ward said. “As soon as he broke into the turn and I saw (early leader Hold On Smokey) back off, I knew he was going to go, if he had to go on the inside or down the middle or wherever.
“Wesley told Angel Serpa what to do, and I think he did it to perfection. He told him when he got in the clear, just hang on and steer – that’s all you have to do. If I was a little lighter, I could have rode him myself today.
“But Angel rode him perfect. Nobody could ride him any better,” Ward said.
Wesley Ward had named Joel Rosario, Great Attack’s Breeders’ Cup jockey at Santa Anita, to ride him in the Turf Dash. But Rosario elected to ride a full slate at Gulfstream, and the Wards were happy to snap up the calm and collected Serpa.
“When we saw Angel was available, it wasn’t a hard choice,” Dennis Ward said.
“It really set up well for us with the speed in the race,” Serpa said. “Mr. Ward told me to just let him settle, that I had the best horse in the race, and to be confident that when I asked him, he would be there with a big run.
“I was able to wait until mid-turn, and then he showed me how good he is. He was much the best in there today.”
Great Attack, a son of Greatness-Cat Attack, by Storm Cat, was bred by Edward Seltzer and Murray Durst. He is now 7-for-19 in his career, and first-place money of $45,000 raised his lifetime earnings to $453,010.
Last year’s Turf Dash score was Great Attack’s first stakes victory. He had been working out at Palm Meadows on Florida’s east coast prior to the 2013 Turf Dash, which marked his first start since the Breeders’ Cup.
In the Lambholm South Race of the Week, Font – a 5-year-old Kentucky homebred from the Lael Stables of Mr. & Mrs. M. Roy Jackson – staged a determined stretch rally to defeat 20-1 shot Lavallee Twist by a length-and-a-quarter in the allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.
Luis Garcia rode the lightly-raced mare, a daughter of Pulpit out of the Quiet American mare Quies. It was Font’s third victory in nine career starts, but her first triumph since October of 2011 at Keeneland in a race that was taken off the turf.
The Lambholm South Race of the Week was the seventh on the card. Leigh Delacour trains Font, who collected $10,092 from the $20,400 purse. Font paid $13.80 as the second choice in a wide-open betting race.
Lavallee Twist, a gray Florida-bred daughter of Mongoose, held on for second after setting the pace, finishing a length-and-three-quarters ahead of Spielzeit. The 5-2 favorite, Ski Holiday, finished sixth.
Serpa and Jose Angel Garcia rode two winners apiece. Serpa also won the sixth race on 4-year-old filly Romantic Juliet for owner Vicente Stella Stables LLC and trainer Antonio Sano.
Garcia won the third on 5-year-old mare Ridge Kitten for owner Jacks or Better Farm and trainer Stanley Gold and the eighth on 4-year-old gelding Chiptease for owner Maestre Racing Stable and trainer Pedro Maestre.
Tampa Bay Downs has a 10-race Thoroughbred card Sunday and 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.
The track currently conducts live Thoroughbred racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and will add Thursdays to the mix beginning Jan. 24.