Rallying from the middle of the pack under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, 5-year-old Great Attack powered through the stretch Saturday to score a ¾-length victory from fellow Florida-bred Western Prospector in the $75,000 Turf Dash Stakes on the Tampa Bay Downs grass course.
Argentine-bred Private Jet, the 2-1 favorite, finished a length farther back in third, with Florida-bred Little Nick another head back in the eight-horse field. The winner’s time for the five furlongs was 55.93 seconds on a course labeled good.
Great Attack paid $6.80 as the second betting choice. The 9-1 exacta paid $36.20. The son of Greatness-Cat Attack, by Storm Cat, is owned by Houyhnhnm Stable – a syndicate headed by Jeffrey Seder – and trained by Wesley Ward, whose father, Tampa Bay Downs trainer Dennis Ward, handled the saddling duties and accepted the Turf Dash trophy with his sister, Dove.
Great Attack was bred by Edward Seltzer and Murray Durst. He is now 5-for-15 in his career. Although he is graded-stakes placed and finished fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, the Turf Dash score was Great Attack’s first stakes victory and his first victory since a Nov. 25, 2010 allowance triumph on a sloppy dirt surface at Churchill Downs.
“We were farther back than I hoped to be early, and he seemed to be uncomfortable with the ground – maybe it was too soft for him,” Sanchez said. “But he seemed to get more confident as we got into the turn, and by the time we got to the stretch he was really firing.”
Great Attack arrived at the elder Ward’s barn at 9 a.m. Saturday, and the trainer said he looked to be in superb shape. He was confident Great Attack was primed to improve on his narrow defeat by Bridgetown in last year’s Turf Dash.
Wesley Ward is preparing several dozen 2-year-olds for an upcoming sale, according to his father.
“I think (Great Attack) is better than last year. He is a little more seasoned,” Dennis Ward said. “He hasn’t run that many times. Wesley picks his spots with his good ones. And this was no easy spot, believe me. This is as tough as any place in the country.”
Although Western Prospector closed with plenty of energy along the rail, Ward thought he was a winner about a furlong from the finish. “I thought the ‘1’ (Western Prospector) was the toughest horse in the race, but you could see everything else was slowing down. Jeffrey switched his left hand and motored on by.”
Wesley Ward also entered Madman Diaries, a 4-year-old gelding he owns in parternship with Robert Teel, but scratched him the morning of the race. “(Madman Diaries) has a little more speed than Great Attack, and we thought there was enough speed in this race.
“I don’t like running first and second in any race; what good does that do you? Just win, and save the other horse for another race,” Dennis Ward said.
Dennis Ward had elected not to nominate his own 6-year-old gelding Daverick – who finished third in a turf allowance Jan. 29 at Tampa Bay Downs behind Turf Dash pace setter Gibson and Western Prospector – when he learned Great Attack was coming. “I’ve got another race for him in five days and those two won’t be there,” he said. Gibson finished seventh.
Leandro Goncalves, the jockey on Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.’s Western Prospector, thought he might be the winner in deep stretch until Great Attack roared past. “When I asked him to run, he came away really nicely. I thought we had won it,” Goncalves said.
Jockey Angel Serpa rode three winners on Saturday’s card, moving him into third place in the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings with 30 victories.
Serpa won the second race, a $5,000, mile-and-40-yard claiming event, aboard 4-year-old gelding Wildcat Prince for owner Sharon B. Simms and trainer John Simms. He rode Cold Cast, a 3-year-old, to a come-from-behind victory in the third for owner Darley Stable and trainer Thomas Albertrani. Serpa also won the fifth, a six-furlong maiden claiming race, on 4-year-old gelding Bandman for Fred and William Bradley, the latter training the horse.
A trio of exceptionally-bred 3-year-olds staged an exciting duel in the third race Saturday, with first-time starter Cold Cast from the barn of Albertrani rallying in the final strides for a half-length victory from the Christophe Clement-trained Platform. Awaited, trained by James Chapman, was another length back. All were bred in Kentucky.
Cold Cast, bred and owned by Darley Stable, completed the mile-and-40-yards distance in 1:42.87. Serpa was the winning jockey. Cold Cast paid $13.20.
Cold Cast was sired by Bernardini, whose six-race winning streak in 2006 included the Preakness, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup en route to earning the Eclipse Award as Champion 3-Year-Old. He already has sired several Grade I winners. Cold Cast’s dam Shadow Cast, by Smart Strike, was a multiple-graded stakes winner who capped her career by winning the Grade I Personal Ensign in 2005.
Platform, who is owned by Cheyenne Stables LLC, is by Pulpit, who like Bernardini is a son of the great champion and breed influence A.P. Indy. Out of Abba Gold, Platform is a half-brother to Grade II winner Kathmanblu. Awaited improved over his previous start Feb. 5 at Gulfstream, and based on his pedigree would seem to have an opportunity to develop into something special. By Unbridled’s Song, Awaited, who is owned by Sonia Chapman and James K. Chapman, is out of 2000 Kentucky Oaks and Florida Oaks winner Secret Status, herself a daughter of A.P. Indy.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. There is a Pick-5 carryover of $14,457. Sunday is Family Fiesta Day, with pony rides and games in the Picnic Area. Golfweek’s Golfest Presented by Transitions Championship is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.