Trainer Ian Wilkes plans to take a while and savor Magic Hour’s victory in Saturday’s $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. But like many Thoroughbred fans with a sense of history, he couldn’t resist looking ahead.
“I’ll look for some little stakes for her down the road,” Wilkes said, before quickly adding: “Could lightning strike twice? I win a stakes at Tampa and go on. …”
Wilkes was referring to his now-5-year-old Fort Larned, who used last year’s Challenger Stakes victory at Tampa Bay Downs as a springboard to a storybook season that saw him win the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Like Fort Larned, the 4-year-old filly Magic Hour is a homebred racing for Janis R. Whitham. And just like Fort Larned in the 2012 Challenger, Magic Hour was ridden in the Wayward Lass by Ronnie Allen, Jr.
The four-time Tampa Bay Downs riding champion rode four winners Saturday, giving him 47 for the meet, in fourth place. Magic Hour, who won for the third time in nine starts, paid $14.60 to win as the fourth betting choice after staving off a spirited rally along the inside by long shot Fire Assay by a length. I Like It finished third and Action Lady was fourth.
The winner’s time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:45.48.
“This is one game filly, for sure,” an exultant Allen said of Magic Hour after the race. “We broke on top, but I didn’t want to use her too soon. When (Sister Earth) pushed past us in the first turn, I was able to get my horse to relax. The pace seemed slow, but I was in no hurry to use her speed. I felt like I had a lot of horse and should wait.”
Allen’s reading of his mount was spot-on, and by the time the field reached the top of the stretch, she looked like the winner. But Fire Assay on the inside, under Angel Serpa, and I Like It, under Scott Spieth, made her work for the victory.
“We were clear, but she had to prove how good she is in the stretch,” Allen said. “They were coming at us from both sides but she wasn’t going to let them by.”
Wilkes said Magic Hour is still green and ran like it after she got the lead. “She’s still learning. When they got to the stretch, she sort of put her head up and got a little lost on me. But when (Fire Assay) came to her, she saw her and came on again,” Wilkes said. “She is still figuring the game out.”
Magic Hour is an unbelievably well-bred filly, by 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again out of Whitham’s multiple-Grade I winner Affluent, who herself is by 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed.
Magic Hour was 10th and last in her previous start, the Manatee Stakes on Feb. 9, but Wilkes said she returned after that race fine and he expected her to show much improvement Saturday. “She doesn’t want to be behind too many horses, doesn’t like dirt in her face,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to draw a line through a race. Ronnie did a good job getting her near the lead early, and the fractions were slow enough that she was able to have something in reserve.”
Allen’s huge day started in the second race, a mile-and-an-eighth claiming contest, when 4-year-old colt Santonio d’Oro rallied from mid-pack to defeat Holy Mo by a length-and-three-quarters. Santonio d’Oro, who was owned by Doug Terry Racing, LLC and trained by Wayne Minnock, was claimed by Charles Harvatt.
Allen scored again in the third on 3-year-old gelding Inkster, who defeated Jeb’s Brew by two-and-a-quarter lengths in the mile-and-40-yard maiden claiming event. Inkster is a homebred racing for EMO Stables and trained by Robert Jeffries.
Allen’s skills were on display again in the seventh when he coaxed 6-year-old mare Forever Vow to a length-and-a-half victory from Starship Ballerina going a mile on the turf for owner Lothenbach Stables, Inc., and trainer Ian Wilkes. Forever Vow has won four of her last five starts, including three in a row at Tampa Bay Downs.
For the record, the mare was claimed for $16,000 by trainer Ron Potts for new owner The Elkstone Group LLC.
Trainer Bernell Rhone displayed his touch with the ladies Saturday, winning the first race with 3-year-old filly Holy Macho Mattie and the fifth race on the turf with 4-year-old filly West Pointer.
Holy Macho Mattie, bred and owned by Lotts Creek Farm, LLC, tallied for the second time in three lifetime starts in a six-and-a-half furlong allowance/optional claiming race. The winning margin was seven-and-a-quarter lengths under Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno.
West Pointer, bred by Bailey Bolen and Saarland Syndicate and owned by Bailey Bolen, went gate-to-wire under jockey Dean Butler over a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the lawn to break her maiden by ¾-length from Beverly’s Charm. Both Rhone winners paid $10.40. The veteran conditioner has 16 winners at the meet, tied for sixth in the standings.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno won both the first and last races. In addition to winning aboard Holy Macho Mattie, he won the 11th on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Oak Harbor for owner Swifty Farms Inc. and trainer Thomas Proctor.
Plans are underway for the 11th annual Florida Cup Day, Tampa Bay Downs’ annual celebration of the state’s excellence in breeding and raising Thoroughbreds. Featuring six stakes worth $75,000 each for registered Florida-breds, this year’s event is Saturday, April 6.
The action-packed card includes the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies at seven furlongs; the Journeyman Stud Distaff at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on turf; the Sophomore Turf at a mile-and-a-sixteenth; the Besilu Stables Turf Classic at a mile-and-an-eighth; the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore at seven furlongs; and the Hilton Garden Inn Sprint at six furlongs.
Sunday is Family Fiesta Day Presented by Univision, with free admission for families and children in the Backyard Picnic Area north of the grandstand. Events include free pony rides, arcade games and inflatables, as well as an appearance by Mouse, the Miniature Horse and Tampa Bay Downs track mascot. There will be a full card of 10 races beginning at 12:40 p.m.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter Sunday for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.