After Friday’s Thoroughbred racing card, Tampa Bay Downs trainers find themselves in a familiar position – looking up at rival Jamie Ness.
The nation’s second-leading trainer in victories for 2011 with 330, behind only Steven Asmussen, swept his three races Friday, giving him a five-race winning streak going back to Wednesday’s 2-for-2 effort. Ness sits atop the TBD standings with nine victories, five seconds and three thirds from 22 starters.
His five latest victories have been for Ness’ major client, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. Friday’s victories came in the fifth race with 8-year-old gelding Stumbling Block; in the seventh with 6-year-old mare Kitty City; and in the ninth with 4-year-old gelding College Grad. Leandro Goncalves, who rode three winners on the card, was in the irons for the first two Ness victories and Ricardo Feliciano rode College Grad.
Ness has won five consecutive training titles at Tampa Bay Downs, tying Kathleen O’Connell in the 2009-10 season and Gerald Bennett last year. Midwest leads the TBD owners standings with nine victories and has a substantial lead in the national standings in wins (418) and money won ($6.2 million).
Tampa Bay Downs’ 2011-12 stakes schedule swings into high gear Saturday when 10 fillies and mares contest the 31st edition of the $50,000-guaranteed, six-furlong Minaret Stakes. The Minaret is the eighth race on an 11-race card that begins at 12:27 p.m.
Prior to racing, Thoroughbred fans are invited to attend the seasonal debut of the Morning Glory Club hosted by track announcer Richard Grunder at 10 a.m. Early arrivals can enjoy morning workouts and free coffee and donuts, and each attendee will receive a free grandstand pass for the day’s racing. Grunder’s opening guest is track Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube.
The Lynne Scace-trained 3-year-old It’s Me Mom is the morning-line favorite for the Minaret, based on her eye-popping, 8 ¼-length victory Dec. 7 at Tampa Bay Downs in the Minaret Prep. The sprint specialist will break from the No. 5 post under jockey Willie Martinez.
Expected to be among It’s Me Mom’s top challengers are 3-year-old Beso Grande, a two-time stakes winner at Calder last spring, and 3-year-old Moon Buzz, 3-for-4 lifetime including a determined half-length score in her previous outing Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Luis Jurado has the assignment on Beso Grande and Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Leandro Goncalves rides Moon Buzz. True Religion, a 4-year-old, was in good form at Woodbine in Toronto before shipping south and will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister, Jr., who won the Opening Day Lightning City Stakes on Jenny’s So Great.
Following Saturday’s card, live racing at Tampa Bay Downs will resume Weds., Jan. 4. The track will remain open each and 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.