Turf or dirt, it doesn’t seem to matter to Jr’s Exchange.
Less than 10 months after setting the Tampa Bay Downs five-furlong main track record of 56.57 seconds, the 6-year-old gelding added the five-furlong turf track record to his ledger in Thursday’s ninth race.
Under a flawless ride by Angel Serpa, Jr’s Exchange stopped the timer in 54.92 seconds, .10 seconds faster than the previous mark set by Atticus Kristy in 2006. Jr’s Exchange won the $16,000 conditional allowance/optional claiming race by 2 ¾ lengths from runner-up Conecuh.
Jr’s Exchange is owned by former General Motors supervisor Patrick J. Scanlon and trained by Gerald Bennett. Serpa was a late replacement for Ronnie Allen, Jr., who was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after being thrown from his mount in an earlier race.
Jr’s Exchange, a Florida-bred by Exchange Rate out of Pyrite Majesty, paid $5 as the favorite in the seven-horse field. It was his ninth career victory in 18 starts and his fifth at Tampa Bay Downs, where he was 4-for-5 last season. He is now 4-for-7 lifetime on turf.
“He just needed his first race here (a fifth-place finish on the turf Jan. 13),” Bennett said. “The rail was all the way in today, and that helps, but he likes this turf course. I am going to point him toward the Turf Dash (Feb. 18).”
Bennett admitted he was taking a chance entering Jr’s Exchange in a race where another trainer could have claimed him for $16,000. But “he doesn’t have any other conditions. He has three-other-than and I put him in that for $32,000, but it didn’t go. You can’t keep them in the barn and not run,” Bennett said.
Serpa expressed regret Allen did not get to ride Jr’s Exchange, but was grateful for his opportunity and determined to make the most of it. “I got him to break and when we made the lead, I was never fighting with him. He was relaxed and comfortable the whole way, and when I asked him he responded real well,” Serpa said.
Bennett thought about scratching Jr’s Exchange when Allen got hurt, but opted to give Serpa the call. “Ronnie is the guy who has been on him in the mornings, and this horse is so fast he can leave the rider in the gate,” Bennett said. “They have to make sure they get hold of some mane at the break, and (Serpa) got him out good.”
Jockey Oriana Rossi recorded her first victory of the meeting Thursday, rallying 13-1 shot Buzz My Bell in the eighth race, a six-furlong claiming race. The 6-year-old mare is owned by Robert Radcliffe, Jr.
Live Thoroughbred racing resumes Friday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast racing, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.