Top turf sprinters will be spotlighted Saturday in the 10th edition of the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Turf Dash, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of five furlongs, has drawn 11 entrants and will be contested as the eighth race on an 11-race card that begins at 12:25 p.m.
Tampa Bay Downs leading trainer Jamie Ness – who won four consecutive runnings of the Turf Dash from 2007-10 – has his sights set on five with Cactus Son, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Rich and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. Midwest has been runner-up each of the last three years for the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Owner.
Speaking of Ness and Midwest, their popular 9-year-old mare Kitty City improved to 8-for-8 at Tampa Bay Downs (3-for-3 this season), rallying through the stretch of the six-furlong fourth race for a two-and-a-quarter length victory from Flo’s Strawberry in the $12,500-$10,000 claiming event.
Antonio Gallardo rode Kitty City, an Illinois-bred who is 15-for-47 lifetime, with nine seconds. Her career earnings are $192,257. “I don’t know if she’s getting better, but she’s holding her form well, that’s for sure,” Ness said. “As long as she wants to run, I’ll enter her.”
Ness claimed Flo’s Strawberry from the race for Midwest for $12,500 from Pink Flamingo Racing Stables and trainer James McMullen.
Back to the Turf Dash, in which Cactus Son is coming off a neck victory on Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park in a starter allowance/optional claiming race at five furlongs on the turf in an impressive 55.46 seconds. Ness claimed Cactus Son for Midwest for $20,000 from a one-mile turf runner-up effort on Sept. 26 at Delaware, and the Kentucky-bred followed up with two more seconds, at Laurel and Tampa Bay Downs, before his Gulfstream score.
Fernando De La Cruz is scheduled to ride Cactus Son, whose resume includes a third-place finish in the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day 2012.
Cactus Son may have his hands full against venerable Tampa Bay Downs favorite Hold On Smokey, a 9-year-old horse owned and trained by Joyce Kielty. He finished third in last year’s Turf Dash and has finished first or second in his five most recent starts, including a neck victory from Cactus Son here on Dec. 14. Hold On Smokey, who is 17-for-52 lifetime, will be ridden by Augusto A. Marin.
More recently at Tampa Bay Downs, on Feb. 5, Hold On Smokey just missed holding on against Pyrite Stables’ Pyrite Green, a 4-year-old Ohio-bred who has won six times from 18 starts. Pyrite Green will try to duplicate that effort for trainer Miguel Feliciano and his nephew, jockey Ricardo Feliciano.
The morning-line Turf Dash favorites are a pair of 5-year-olds, the Bruce Brown-trained Spring to the Sky and the Joan Scott-conditioned Ancil. Spring to the Sky will be ridden by Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., while Daniel Centeno has the assignment on Ancil.
Spring to the Sky has raced from New York to Santa Anita and other stops in between, with his top performances a victory in the 2012 Groovy Stakes at Belmont and a third in last fall’s Grade III Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select at Keeneland. Ancil also competed in that race and was laid up afterward, returning to training here last month. The gelding is 4-for-18 lifetime, including a third in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash in September.
Not to be overlooked is 6-year-old Brazilian-bred Berlino Di Tiger, trained by Eduardo Caramori and to be ridden by Victor Lebron. After going 7-for-9 in his homeland, he began competing in the United States last year and shocked bettors by winning the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill in May.
Jockey Antonio Gallardo rode three winners today, moving him within two (63-61) of Allen for the top spot in the track standings. Gallardo won the first race on 4-year-old gelding Time Thief Too for owner Big Lick Farm and trainer Reid Nagle and the fourth on the aforementioned Kitty City.
In the eighth race, Gallardo and 6-year-old mare Vital Victory, owned and trained by Gary Jackson, held on for a dead-heat with onrushing 5-year-old mare Katie It’s Fine and jockey Gary Boulanger. Katie It’s Fine is owned by Debmar Stables and trained by Ricky Griffith.
Also today, trainer Chad Stewart and jockey Quincy Hamilton combined for two victories. They won the fifth race with Yonah, a 4-year-old filly owned by Riley L. Mangum, and the seventh on the turf with Rerun, a 5-year-old gelding bred and owned by World Thoroughbreds Racing, Inc.
Daniel Centeno rode two winners, booting home 7-year-old gelding Run Fat Boy Run in the second race for owner Winning Stables, Inc., and trainer Gerald Bennett and capturing the ninth on 3-year-old filly Cor Blimey for owner Alifyfe Racing and trainer Joan Scott.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The feature race is the third, a $34,000 allowance/optional claiming event for older horses at a mile-and-40-yards. Lothenbach Stables’ 5-year-old gelding Nicklaus Way is the 9-5 morning-line favorite.
Sunday is Kids & Family Day in the Backyard Picnic Area, with rides, games and activities for children. Admission is free. 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.
Hearts Reaching Out dinner, auction tickets available. The 22nd annual Hearts Reaching Out golf tournament, dinner and auction to benefit the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, Tampa Bay Downs Division are scheduled Monday.
The four-person scramble golf tournament begins at 11 a.m. at Cheval Golf and Country Club in Lutz. The dinner is at 5:30 p.m. under the tent just north of the grandstand, followed by live and silent auctions of various sports and racing memorabilia, paintings, prints and a beach-resort vacation.
As an added bonus, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, best-known for training 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and Horse of the Year Alysheba, will be the guest auctioneer.
Van Berg – the son of a Hall of Fame trainer, Marion Van Berg – will also be at the track Sunday on the first floor of the grandstand to sign copies of his book JACK, From Grit To Glory: A Lifetime of Mentoring, Dedication and Perseverance, written by Chris Kotulak.
The cost for the tournament, dinner and auctions is $100, while the cost of the dinner and auctions only is $20. Tickets and details are available by calling Kathy at (813) 854-1313 or Sharyn at (813) 494-1870.