After Jr’s Exchange strained his left front tendon Jan. 26 while setting a five-furlong turf record at Tampa Bay Downs, Mary Bennett did everything to assist in his recovery except move into his stall.
The wife of trainer Gerald Bennett began a daily regimen of Laser therapy to return the 6-year-old gelding to the races. After he breezed four furlongs April 11 in 49 seconds, the Bennetts knew Jr’s Exchange was back to his old self.
Jr’s Exchange, who holds both the turf (54.92 seconds) and dirt (56.57) five-furlong records at Tampa Bay Downs, dominated six rivals Saturday in the Lambholm South Race of the Week, leading from start to finish on a sloppy surface after the allowance optional claiming race for older horses was taken off the turf.
Under jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., Jr’s Exchange powered home a length-and-three-quarters ahead of Dream of Atlantis, with Exchange the Limit third. The winner’s fractions were 22.16 seconds for the quarter-mile and 45.05 for the half. The Lambholm South Race of the Week was one of two taken off the turf due to rain.
Jr’s Exchange is owned by former General Motors supervisor Patrick J. Scanlon.
“I’m just grateful he came back, because he’s a nice horse,” Mary Bennett said. “I’ve been Lasering him every single day. I swear by it. I also use a Centurion Equine Transpirator before he runs, because he’s had throat surgery and it kills any kind of infection.
“It’s fun when you put so much work into a horse and it pays off like this,” she added.
The victory was the 10th in 19 lifetime starts for Jr’s Exchange, a son of Exchange Rate-Pyrite Majesty, by Slew City Slew, bred in Florida by Leslie Michelle LaLande. He is 6-for-9 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs. He set the Tampa Bay Downs dirt track record for the distance in April of 2011 in another race taken off the turf.
“I was happy they took it off the turf today, because he’s been off a while and the turf is a little bit soft, so he might have gotten tired,” Allen said. “He does most of it on his own. I took a peek back (entering the stretch) and those other guys were already riding and I was kind of just sitting, so I wasn’t too concerned.
“I had to keep him going a little bit, but he tries hard. I thought he might get a little tired because he’s been off, but his heart carried him,” Allen said.
Allen is the gelding’s regular rider but missed his record-setting effort in January after being thrown from a mount earlier on that card (Angel Serpa handled him that day). It sure felt right to be reunited.
“Ronnie loves him. He lets the horse run,” Mary Bennett said. “You have to be very quiet on him. He is a very nervous horse and Ronnie gets along well with him.”
Gerald Bennett said Jr’s Exchange may run next in a turf stakes at Calder in Miami.
Despite three scratches that reduced the field to four horses, Saturday’s second race was one of the most exciting of the season. Inside the eighth pole of the mile-and-a-sixteenth starter allowance on the turf, the field was four abreast, but Gold Brew and Stumbling Block separated themselves for a stirring duel to the finish.
Gold Brew – an 8-year-old gelding owned by Wayne D. Scanlan and trained by Bernell Rhone – got his nose to the wire first, edging 9-year-old gelding Stumbling Block from the team of Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. and trainer Jamie Ness.
Ridden by Dean Butler, Gold Brew paid $4.20 as the slight wagering favorite. His time for the distance was 1:42.79. The victory was his ninth in 27 lifetime starts (Stumbling Block is 20-for-73 lifetime).
The result has added significance beyond the purse money, since it gave Gold Brew – a Kentucky-bred son of 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, out of Rare Beauty – five consecutive victories during the meeting. Gold Brew, Stumbling Block and 7-year-old mare Kitty City, also from the Midwest-Ness team, are tied for most wins at Tampa Bay Downs this season.
Additionally, Gold Brew is one of seven horses in the nation with five victories in 2012 (Stumbling Block and Kitty City gained their first victories at Tampa Bay Downs in December).
Switching to Glide finished third and Slew City Storm, who beat Stumbling Block by a nose March 10 – preventing him from carrying a six-race winning streak into Saturday – was fourth after setting the pace.
Gold Brew ran for claiming tags of $5,000 on Jan. 26 and $8,000 on Feb. 18, a pair of two-turn main track victories that started his current winning streak. Rhone claimed Gold Brew last June at Canterbury Park in Minnesota for $5,000 out of his second start following a layoff of almost two years spent recuperating from injury.
Gold Brew trailed the leaders by more than 10 lengths in the early going but commenced his rally with about three furlongs left. When he engaged Stumbling Block in the latter stages, it clearly became a take-no-prisoners battle.
“These old class horses get good like that,” Butler said. “They get to feeling good, their class kicks in, they’re doing good and they run good. I kept my eye on Stumbling Block early, because I figured he was the one to beat. Danny (Centeno) was having to ride him pretty good down the backside to keep him involved, and around the turn I eased my horse out, because he likes to be on the outside, and he came running.
“Both horses know how to win, and they’re going to fight,” Butler said. “I knew we would have to work to get past Stumbling Block, but I got lucky and got the head bob and beat him right at the wire.”
Pablo Morales rode two winners on Saturday’s card, giving him five in the past two days. Morales won the first race on 3-year-old maiden claiming filly Outbreak for owner Glockenburg LLC and trainer Olga Nowak. In the ninth, an allowance optional claiming event, Morales won on 4-year-old gelding Peb Hughes for owner Mary Adkins and trainer Robert G. Smith.
Angel Serpa also rode two winners. Serpa captured the fourth on the turf on 4-year-old filly Casco Bay for owner Frank D’Amato and trainer William Downing and the 11th on 4-year-old colt Escort for Midwest Thoroughbreds and Jamie Ness.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs with a post time of 12:40 p.m. for the first race. There are eight days left in the 2011-12 meeting. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.