Past Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Willie Martinez rode his first two winners of the meeting today, including a perfectly timed effort aboard 4-year-old gelding Native Wave in the Colts and Geldings Division of the 1-mile Tampa Turf Test for horses which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2012-13.
Native Wave held off a belated charge by heavy favorite El Uno to win by a half-length in 1:35.46, with Boltin’ Out another half-length back in third. The winner, a Kentucky-bred owned by Theresa Salerno and trained by David Nunn, paid $12.20 to win.
Martinez was a replacement on Native Wave for current leading jockey Fernando De La Cruz, who suffered a broken right arm in a spill Friday. Both Martinez and De La Cruz are represented by agent Don Cespedes.
“I was just a passenger today. He (Native Wave) was his own pilot,” Martinez said of the Rahy-Danzig Point runner’s fifth victory in 16 starts. “When you are 10 lengths much the best and win by a (half-length), you still look good.”
Nunn credited Martinez with following his instructions to the letter, but expected a big effort from his horse. “It’s been almost two months since he ran. He has been on the also-eligible list for races here, at Gulfstream and at Calder, and I knew he was ready today,” Nunn said.
After sitting third early behind Boltin’ Out and Binks Forest, Martinez received an immediate response when he asked Native Wave for his best on the turn, and he had plenty in reserve to keep El Uno at bay.
The Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, meanwhile, had a distinct international flair. Kentucky-bred 4-year-old Stoptalkingmaria rolled past pace-setter Aquinnah in the stretch to win for owner Maria Sol Aller of Argentina, trainer Murat Sancal of Turkey and jockey Antonio Gallardo of Spain.
The victory was the second in a row for the daughter of Whywhywhy-Pharma, by Theatrical, who paid $12.20. Precious Paula rallied late for second, with Aquinnah a clear third. Stoptalkingmaria’s time for the mile on a firm turf course was 1:35.18.
Stoptalkingmaria was named after her owner, who was her usual talkative self after the exciting victory. “She was feeling really good and training well coming into the race, and she has been improving the past couple of months,” Sol Aller said. “So we were really confident.”
Sol Aller and Sancal had named De La Cruz (of Peru) to ride Stoptalkingmaria, but they suspected Gallardo would be a more-than-suitable replacement and were rewarded for their judgment. “We trusted Antonio fully,” Sol Aller said. “But we want Fernando back soon. One of the first things I thought of after the race was to wish (De La Cruz) a speedy recovery.”
Sancal is a newcomer to Tampa Bay Downs and said he has some promising 2-year-olds in his barn, including youngsters by A.P. Indy and Kitten’s Joy. But Saturday was time to toast Sol Aller’s $6,000 Keeneland September 2010 purchase.
Martinez’s other victory today came in the second race on 3-year-old filly Karaoke Rose for breeder-owner Marablue Farm, LLC and trainer Rick Slomkowski.
Trainer James K. Chapman saddled two winners on the card. His 3-year-old filly Bwana Go Fast won the fifth race for Chapman and owner Rodney Rowles, with Octavio Bernal in the irons. In the 10th race, 4-year-old filly Despite Her Form won on the turf for Chapman, owner Marilyn Rattray and jockey Nik Goodwin.
Sunday’s nine-race card begins at 12:30 p.m. The co-features are the seventh and ninth races, a pair of $34,000 allowance/optional claiming races on the turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward.
The seventh race is the Endeavour Prep at a mile-and-a-sixteenth and is intended as a sharpener for the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf on Jan. 25. The ninth race is the five-furlong Lightning City Prep, a prelude to the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for older turf fillies and mares, also Jan. 25.
The 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Endeavour Prep is 4-year-old Final Escrow, trained by Arnaud Delacour and to be ridden by Antonio Gallardo. Final Escrow won the George Rosenberger Memorial Stakes in September at Delaware Park.
Trainer Wesley Ward’s entry of 3-year-olds Shrinking Violet and Lignite is regarded at 9-5 in the Lightning City Prep. Kent Desormeaux is named on both fillies, with Lignite on the also-eligible list. Shrinking Violet has won three of her past four starts at different tracks, with a second-place finish as well in the Grade III Ontario Fashion Stakes in November at Woodbine.
Following Sunday’s program, Thoroughbred racing then returns to the Oldsmar oval Wednesday, with all horses officially becoming a year older on that day as 2014 arrives.
Weather permitting, the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales will appear Sunday in the Backyard Picnic Area. Anheuser-Busch owns about 250 Clydesdales, which were first introduced to the public in 1933 to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. A fully mature Clydesdale horse stands at least 18 hands (roughly six feet) and weighs between 1,800-2,300 pounds.
The aforementioned Fernando De La Cruz is resting comfortably in St. Joseph’s Hospital after breaking his right arm upon landing when he was tossed from his mount in deep stretch in Friday’s ninth race. The 27-year-old De La Cruz has 23 victories, eight more than current runner-up Ronnie Allen, Jr., and has finished in the money on a staggering 63 percent of his mounts. De La Cruz’s agent, Don Cespedes, anticipates he will miss six weeks of action.
The horse, the Tom Proctor-trained 3-year-old filly Poster Girl, cut the coronet band on her left front leg, according to Proctor assistant Lindsay Schultz. The wound required stitches, but Schultz said Poster Girl walked “OK” this morning and expects a smooth recovery.