Trainer Phil Bauer says he and owners Richard and Tammy Rigney are dreamers.
After Our Double Play’s exceptional performance in today’s $100,000 Super Stakes, it appears they have a right to dream big.
“He (Our Double Play) exceeded my expectations today,” Bauer said after the 4-year-old colt drew off to a three-and-three-quarter length victory from 15-1 shot Sneaking Uponyou in 1:22.09, .06 seconds off the seven-furlong Tampa Bay Downs track record set by Good Lord in last year’s Super Stakes. “He gave us a good idea he liked this track in the mornings (with three consecutive five-furlong bullet workouts), but it doesn’t work like that all the time.
“Sometimes they’ll fool you, but the way he got across the ground in his workouts and how he was coming home, the way he was acting off the track, how we were feeling – we felt he was ready.”
Victor Lebron rode the winner, who paid $4.40 as the wagering favorite. The 8-year-old gelding Sneaking Uponyou, a multiple-stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs, had a length on 2012 Super Stakes winner Action Andy, with Good Lord fourth and Pelican Stakes winner Palace Barista fifth in the seven-horse field.
Our Double Play’s $30,000 share of the purse (as a Kentucky-bred, he was eligible for half the money) raised his career earnings to $198,329. Now 5-for-14 lifetime, he won the Prairie Mile Stakes at Prairie Meadows in Iowa last June.
“This colt has really changed,” said winning jockey Lebron, who rode Our Double Play three times as a 3-year-old, including his maiden victory at Oaklawn Park. “Like many young horses, he needed to be encouraged and coaxed along to win last year. When I saw him nominated for today, my agent contacted Mr. Bauer to remind him I had won on him, and it was a terrific reunion.
“He is much more aggressive now. If I had asked him we could have opened up earlier, but I wanted to wait on him and keep tracking on the leader (Sneaking Uponyou). When no one came on us from the outside, I just gave him his cue and he took off,” Lebron added.
The Rigneys, who race horses under Rigney Racing, purchased Our Double Play as a Keeneland September yearling for $90,000. He was picked out by his former trainer, Ken McPeek. The 28-year-old Bauer worked as a McPeek assistant until going out on his own last July. He is married to Ashley, and the Bauers had a son, Philip Wyatt, on Oct. 31 when Our Double Play won an allowance/optional claiming race at Churchill Downs – a race in which he ran a 103 Beyer Speed Figure and defeated Grade II winner Bourbon Courage.
Our Double Play’s victory was the first stakes triumph for Bauer on his own. “I guess this is a day I’ll never forget,” he said. “Kenny gave me a tremendous opportunity to grow some roots and I’ll always be grateful for that, but (training for the Rigneys) is a dream opportunity and it was really a no-brainer.”
Our Double Play is a son of Grand Slam. In keeping with the baseball theme, and to honor their twin daughters, Claire and Madison, the Rigneys – Louisville residents who also have a home in Tampa – named the colt.
“We name most of our horses after our children,” said Richard Rigney, who has seven Thoroughbreds in training with Bauer.
The Rigneys and Bauer have been extremely ambitious with Our Double Play, entering him in November’s Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November and the Grade I Malibu at Santa Anita in December. He was an early pace factor in both before fading, but showed a new dimension today, finishing under wraps.
“He has really taken to this track and the surroundings,” Bauer said. “We were originally pointing toward the Pelican Stakes (on Jan. 25), but he just needed a little more time. We like Louisville, so we might point toward something there in the spring, but at this point we’re glad he transferred his 3-year-old form and hopefully we have a long year ahead of us.”
Jamie Ness, the co-owner of Sneaking Uponyou with wife Mandy, the horse’s trainer, under their Jagger, Inc., banner, was delighted with his horse’s effort after a lackluster performance in the Pelican. “I’m ecstatic. He ran his race and just got outrun,” Ness said. “For an old guy, he fired a big race today.” The runner-up share of $20,000 for the Florida-bred raised his career earnings to $424,959.
Gallardo wins three. Jockey Antonio Gallardo was victorious with his first three mounts of the day, raising his runner-up meeting total to 57. The Spaniard won the first race with 4-year-old filly Sister Kathy for owner Blazing Meadows Farm, LLC and trainer Timothy Hamm, and completed the early daily double on 3-year-old colt Joni’s Wildcat for owner Sunrise Holdings, Inc., and trainer Kathleen O’Connell (Joni’s Wildcat was claimed by trainer Brenda McCarthy for owner Glorious Uncertainty Stable).
Gallardo added the fourth race on 4-year-old gelding Feel My Thunder for owners Dynamic Equine Racing and Wonderland Syndicate and trainer Monte Thomas.
Huber Villa-Gomez rode his first winner since returning from an early-season injury, piloting 42-1 shot Caiman’s Secret to a come-from-behind victory in the seventh race. The 3-year-old gelding, a first-time starter, is owned by Cindy Patrick and trained by R.G. Patrick.
Trainer Tom Proctor saddled two winners, both on the turf. In the ninth race, 4-year-old filly Lori’s Store won for owner Glen Hill Farm, with Brian Pedroza aboard. Proctor added the 11th with 3-year-old filly V V Goodnight for owner Lucky Seven Stable. Leading jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., was the rider.
Sunday’s 10-race card begins at 12:25 p.m. 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, March 3.
Track chaplain Eli Hernandez conducts weekly non-denominational church services and offers counseling, English classes and computer training inside the double-wide trailer that serves as an office, chapel and classroom on the track’s backstretch.
Bible studies are held weekly and the chaplaincy provides a free on-site health care program. “My mission is to serve any way I can,” Hernandez, who visits grooms, hot walkers, trainer and jockeys during and after training hours, said earlier in the meeting. “Striving to work together in unity and harmony – what an opportunity that is for all of us.”
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, March 2 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 Hearts Reaching Out festivities begin with the annual scramble golf tournament at 11 a.m. at Cheval Golf and Country Club in Lutz. 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.