OLDSMAR, FL. – A deep, accomplished field of fillies and mares, including seven stakes winners, will contest Saturday’s $50,000 Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Minaret is the eighth race on a 10-race program that begins at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday also marks the debut of the 2012-13 Morning Glory Club, hosted by track announcer Richard Grunder. Tampa Bay Downs Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube is the featured guest speaker.
The event begins at 10 a.m. There is no admission fee, and patrons receive free coffee, donuts and grandstand admission for the day’s races. The Morning Glory Club will be a Saturday-morning staple through Festival Day, March 9.
The slight morning-line favorite for the Minaret at 3-1 is 4-year-old Nakano, who finished third in her most recent start, the Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes at Gulfstream Park at the six-furlong Minaret distance Dec. 8. That effort earned Nakano an exceptional Beyer Speed Figure of 90 from the Daily Racing Form.
Nakano, who is owned by Thoroughbred Futures Racing and trained by Martin Wolfson, also finished third in the Grade I Princess Rooney at Calder in Miami on July 7, a race won by 2011 Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Musical Romance.
Nakano’s two 2012 victories include the Connie Ann Stakes at Calder on Sept. 3.
Second choice at 7-2 is the lone entrant not to have won a stakes, Cindy Nassal’s 4-year-old Florida-bred Appealing Stella. Her last race, a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event at Gulfstream on Dec. 7, resulted in a ¾-length victory and a Beyer of 91.
Jane Cibelli trains Appealing Stella, who will be ridden by Angel Serpa and carry top weight of 122 pounds under the conditions.
Bettors with an affinity for horses that have raced over the course will also pay close attention to Redbud Road, Becausei’mworthit and Taylors Irish.
Redbud Road, a 3-year-old owned by Jacks or Better Farm, Inc., and trained by Stanley Gold, and Becausei’mworthit, owned by Ups and Downs Racing and trained by Monte Thomas, finished 1-2 in the $30,000 Minaret Prep going six furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 5. Jockeys Daniel Centeno on Redbud Road and Antonio Gallardo on Becausei’mworthit have return engagements.
The 6-year-old mare Taylors Irish hasn’t shown much lately, but she won last season’s Manatee Stakes at seven furlongs and has posted all of her six career wins at Tampa Bay Downs. Owned by Michael Newman and trained by Charles Harvatt, she will be ridden by Danny Coa.
Trainers Jamie Ness and Leigh Delacour won two races apiece on Friday’s card. Ness, who leads North America in 2012 with 396 winners, captured the first race with first-time starter Wild About Chrome for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. The 3-year-old gelding was ridden by Centeno.
Ness, Centeno and Midwest scored in the fourth race with Stumbling Block, a 9-year-old gelding returning from a six-month layoff.
Stumbling Block, whose career earnings are approaching $400,000, has won 21 of 76 starts and is 12-for-19 at Tampa Bay Downs with five seconds.
Ness also claimed Late Developer, a 4-year-old gelding who finished third in the third race.
Delacour visited the winner’s circle after the seventh and eighth races. In the seventh, she sent out 3-year-old filly Tuscarora Mill, a first-time starter, to win for owners Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone. Ryan Curatolo rode the winner.
Delacour’s 3-year-old gelding N.B.A. Money won the eighth at a mile on the turf for Dixiana Stables, Inc., with Luis Garcia aboard.
Jockey Fernando De La Cruz joined Centeno in making two trips to the winner’s circle. De La Cruz won the fifth race on 5-year-old gelding Mr. Green for owner-trainer Anthony Granitz and the 10th on 4-year-old filly Bellamy’s Rose for owner Edward C. Sexton and trainer Forrest Kaelin.
In addition to Saturday’s live racing program, Tampa Bay Downs will offer a full slate of simulcast action. Included on the schedule is the Grade III, $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes from Gulfstream Park, in which Tampa Bay Downs fan favorite Action Andy is the probable favorite.
The 5-year-old gelding owns three stakes victories at Tampa Bay Downs, including the Dec. 8 Pelican Stakes in his most recent start. Owned by Robert Gerczak and trained by Carlos Garcia, Action Andy has career earnings of $560,430.
The Maryland-bred has won three consecutive starts, including the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel on Oct. 27.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee John Velazquez will ride Action Andy. Also in the six-horse field is Indiano, a solid second to Action Andy in the Pelican.
The Mr. Prospector is the fifth race on the Gulfstream card, with an approximate post time of 2:37 p.m.
Tampa Bay Downs also will continue its Free Calendar Giveaway on Saturday and Sunday, while supplies last.
The track 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. Live racing will be held Sunday, then resume Weds., Jan. 2, 2013.