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To the outside world, today’s eighth at Tampa Bay Downs appeared to be just another horse race.
But don’t tell that to co-owner and trainer David Nunn, who gave his 5-year-old gelding Native Wave a standing ovation on the track after his gritty neck victory from pace setter It Takes Heart in the Male Division of the second round of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series before a crowd of 6,915 on Cap Giveaway Day.
Willie Martinez rode Native Wave, who won the first leg of the Tampa Turf Test on Dec. 28. The winner’s time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:42.67. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Rahy-Danzig Point, by Point Given, paid $8.60 as the second wagering choice in the 10-horse field.
The victory by Native Wave was the 100th in the training career of Nunn, a former jockey who was riding at Finger Lakes almost a quarter-century ago when Martinez was just starting his career and hot walking horses on the side. Nunn owns Native Wave with Theresa Salerno.
In the Female Division of the Tampa Turf Test, 5-year-old mare Here’s d’Bride, a recent $7,000 purchase by trainer Carlos Garcia for owner Robert Gerczak, rallied from mid-pack under Antonio Gallardo to defeat Wild Swava and Martinez by three-quarters of a length in 1:43.08.
Native Wave, who has won three races in a row and four of his last five starts, overcame being steadied on the far turn to wear down It Takes Heart. “This is one of the toughest little horses I’ve been on in a long time,” Martinez said. “When he grabs the bridle, you better hang on. He just wants to be a racehorse. I’m so proud of David for what he’s done with him.”
“He had a rough trip today, but he fires every time,” said Nunn, who plans to bring Native Wave back for the third leg of the Tampa Turf Test series at a mile-and-an-eighth on Feb. 15. “What a horse – I’m speechless.” Nunn’s applause spoke volumes.
Here’s d’Bride won for the second time in three starts at the meeting to win the distaff division, with Wild Swava five lengths clear of Slander for second. Here’s d’Bride was the third wagering choice and paid $8.
“We bought her at Laurel for these (turf) races,” Garcia said. “He (Gallardo) let the speed go early, like we had talked about, and rode her perfect.”
Also on today’s card, 28-year-old trainer Nathan Hyland earned his first career victory when his 6-year-old gelding Eight Riders, a 40-1 shot, rolled to a four-and-a-half length victory in the fifth race, a $5,000 claiming event at a mile-and-40 yards under jockey Carlos Lozada.
Hyland, a resident of nearby Safety Harbor, trains Eight Riders for his mother, owner Maureen Hyland. He is the son of long-time Tampa Bay Downs trainer Angel Hyland, who retired following the 2013 season.
The elder Hyland was the trainer of Eight Riders when the horse won a $5,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs going a mile on Sept. 8 as a 3-2 favorite. He had failed to hit the board in three previous Tampa Bay Downs starts sprinting, so young Nathan rolled the dice he would improve going two turns. Did he ever.
It was also the first victory of the meeting for Lozada.
“When something doesn’t work, you’ve got to fix it,” Nathan said. “He was doing so well at Churchill, I expected him to run better here his first few races. My father is a big part of this. He comes to my barn every morning, and he and my mom and I all work together.”
In the 10th race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week – an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event for fillies and mares going five furlongs on the turf – 4-year-old filly Queen Negwer sped home under Dean Butler to defeat One Wild Fire in 56.84 seconds. Queen Negwer is owned by Saddleback Stables Thoroughbreds, LLC and Tim Fogerty and trained by Tim ice.
Sunday’s 10-race card begins at 12:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs 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.    
Serious handicappers and casual horseplayers across the country are registering for the “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, an online competition beginning on Festival Preview Day, Saturday, Feb. 1.
The registration deadline is 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, which is the first day of the contest and also Festival Preview Day, highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a traditional Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands stepping stone.
The grand-prize winner receives $1,000 and a seat at the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (date and site to be determined). Second place receives $1,000, third place receives $500 and a $500 prize will be awarded to the handicapper selecting the most overall winners.
There is no fee for entering the contest. Complete rules are available at the online site. Registration may be accessed through a link on the track website at www.tampabaydowns.com or by visiting the contest website directly at www.liveitupchallenge.com

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