Consider the No. 8 batter in a baseball lineup who slugs a grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give his team a 4-3 victory. Or the second-string basketball player who sinks a winning three-point shot at the buzzer.
The beauty of sports often resides in their unpredictability, which explains why Augusto A. Marin capturing the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Jockey of the Month Award is such a feel-good story. It’s a tale of an underdog who emerges from the pack, a guy few people were really aware of until he enjoyed one of the best weeks of any rider throughout the entire 2012-13 meet.
“Things are a lot better after last week,” the 37-year-old Panamanian journeyman said when informed of the honor. “I know people are talking about me now.”
Over the past couple of months, Marin has been riding without an agent, limiting his opportunities to acquire mounts. He started getting more notice Feb. 23, when he rode 40-1 shot Audington to victory in the Filly and Mare Division of the Tampa Turf Test, but Marin had no idea on the morning of April 3 he was about to embark on one of the finest weeks of his career.
After all, riding a 5-year-old mare making her first lifetime start; a filly stepping up in class from $16,000 to the $25,000 claiming level; and a horse listed at 30-1 in the program, with a 1-for-29 lifetime record, is hardly cause for optimism.
But Marin has been a jockey long enough to expect the unexpected. Horse racing has taken him on countless excellent adventures, including an eight-month stay in 2001 in Saudi Arabia, where he rode 47 winners. So he brought the same mindset to Tampa Bay Downs a week ago that he always carries to the track: “I was thinking I wanted to win,” Marin said.
Marin entered the zone last Wednesday from the first race, bringing first-time starter Formal Gown from behind to the tune of a $28.80 payoff. In the fifth race on the turf, again for trainer Joyce Kielty, Marin escaped trouble on the far turn to post a victory aboard My Precious Secret, who paid $45.60 to win. Two races later on the turf, Marin rode the longest shot in the race, Stack the Deck, to a gate-to-wire triumph; the 6-year-old gelding paid $41.20.
Those were Marin’s only mounts on the card. A $2 parlay wager on the three long shots
would have returned about $13,000. But Marin didn’t rest on his laurels.
He rode another winner April 5 and three on April 7, giving him seven over four racing days, to jump to 15th in the meet standings with 19 victories.
“In Panama, when I was a ‘bug boy,’ I rode seven winners in a week once,” he said. “I was 19 or 20, I don’t remember. That was a lot of years ago.”
For a journeyman jockey who doesn’t get many chances at basking in the spotlight, it’s the moments and memories that matter, not specific dates or statistics.
“I didn’t pay much attention to him until he picked one up for me on Friday (4-year-old gelding Kingofthehighcees, after scheduled rider Danny Coa became ill) and he won,” said trainer Greg Griffith. “Then I used him Sunday (on 6-year-old Dream of Atlantis) and he won again.
“I don’t think (Marin) gets what he deserves. He is a hard worker who wants to succeed,” Griffith said. “He’s patient, but he is aggressive when he needs to be and he listens to my instructions. You’re always looking for the hot jockey, and he looks good doing it.”
Marin was 7-for-18 for the week; anyone wagering $2 to win on each of his mounts would have profited $115.40. The run of success was just what he needed as he prepares to move his tack to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., after the conclusion of the Tampa Bay Downs meet.
At Presque Isle, Marin will have the added benefit of having an agent, John Moran, who is the son of former Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey and established agent Mike Moran.
“Augusto is a real good rider, and I already have two jockeys lined up for Presque Isle in Pablo Morales and Jose Angel Garcia,” Mike Moran said. “So this is a good situation for John and Augusto. He has been shining on the track and everyone is getting to notice him. It’s a matter of time before everyone else sees what we’ve been seeing – how he puts horses in the right spots and they run for him.”
He’s not yet moved up to the cleanup hitter spot, but Augusto Marin is showing he belongs in the lineup.
Trainer Bernell Rhone saddled two winners Wednesday, moving him into a tie for fifth in the meet standings with Jane Cibelli with 20 victories apiece. Rhone won the first race, a six-and-a-half furlong sophomore maiden claiming sprint, with Florida-bred colt Putitbackbillyjo, owned by Arboritanza Racing LLC and Lotts Creek Farm LLC and ridden by Nik Goodwin.
Rhone returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh, a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf claiming contest, with 4-year-old filly Thrice Nice, who got through on the rail for victory under jockey Dean Butler. Thrice Nice is owned by Rhone’s wife, Cindy J. Rhone, in partnership with Anthony Hanson.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes on Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. There is a Super High-5 carryover pool of $4,022.56.
The track 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.
From now through May 4, players in The Silks Poker Room have the opportunity to qualify for a drawing to win a Toyota 4Runner from Wesley Chapel Toyota Honda. In any of the cash games, a hand of aces-full or better with one card earns one drawing ticket; four-of-a-kind or better with both cards earns two tickets; a straight flush earns three tickets; and a royal flush earns five tickets.
Sundays and Thursdays are double-ticket days. The drawing for the 4Runner will be held May 5; the winner must be present to attend. In addition, nine tickets will be drawn that day for $599 cash prizes. The Silks Poker Room is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 a.m.