Ribo Bobo, a former lower-level claiming horse who has won 11 of his past 12 starts, including four stakes; recent Pelican Stakes winner Palace Barista; and the 1-2 finishers in last year’s Super Stakes, Good Lord and Action Andy, headline a group of 28 older horses nominated to the 25th anniversary renewal of the $100,000, seven-furlong Super Stakes to be run on Feb. 22.
On today’s card, perennial leading trainer Jamie Ness saddled three winners to extend his lead over current runner-up Kathleen O’Connell to 25-15. Ness is bidding for an unprecedented eighth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training crown.
The list of past Super Stakes winners includes such notable Thoroughbreds as 1994 winner Not Surprising, who won the Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter the following year; 2006 winner Sir Shackleton, a multiple-graded stakes winner and $1-million-plus career earner; 2010 victor Musket Man, who the previous year won the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby and Grade II Illinois Derby and was third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; and 2011 winner Capt. Candyman Can, a multiple-graded stakes and Grade I winner.
The past two Super Stakes have also produced top-quality winners.
In 2012, trainer Carlos Garcia’s Action Andy, now 7, used the Super Stakes and a previous victory in the Pelican as a springboard to a banner season that concluded with victories in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and the Pelican, which was run that December at the outset of the 2012-13 Tampa Bay Downs meeting.
Action Andy’s bid for a Super Stakes repeat was foiled by fellow 7-year-old Forrest Kaelin-trained gelding Good Lord, but it took a track-record time of 1:22.03 to achieve the feat. Also nominated to this year’s Super Stakes is 5-year-old Bellefire, the 2013 third-place finisher from the barn of Leo Azpurua, Jr.
Both Action Andy and Good Lord finished behind Palace Barista in the Pelican, but may benefit from the addition of an added furlong should they enter. The 4-year-old Palace Barista’s Pelican victory in a snappy 1:09.94 came in only his third career start for breeder-owner-trainer Lynne Scace.
Ribo Bobo, the richest of the Super Stakes nominees with career earnings of $659,655, has been dominant of late at six furlongs, his most recent victory in the Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 18. He is owned by Mr. Amore Stable and trained by Jason Servis.
Next Saturday’s action features the third legs of the Tampa Turf Test Starter Handicap Series, with races for older colts and geldings and fillies and mares, and the always-popular Mystery Mutuel Voucher Giveaway. Everyone receives a voucher worth between $2-$1,000 with paid admission.
All of the Ness winners today are owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. The South Dakota native won the third race with 5-year-old mare Hey Soul Sister with Antonio Gallardo aboard; the fifth with 5-year-old mare Only Exception, ridden by Fernando De La Cruz; and the 10th on the turf with 9-year-old gelding My Sonny Boy, ridden by Gallardo.
On the riding front, Gallardo and Daniel Centeno each posted two victories. Centeno won the seventh race on 3-year-old gelding Fly Private for owner Six SandBaggers Stables and trainer Baltazar Galvan and the eighth on the turf on 3-year-old gelding Two Jacks Wild for owner-trainer Dennis Manning.
On the second day of Golfest Presented by Valspar event at The Downs Golf Practice Facility, 17 participants qualified for the semifinals of the TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.) $1,000,000 Hole-in-One Challenge, with Bill Bigelow of Tampa getting closest to the pin to advance to the finals.
Bigelow’s shot for the $1-million was off-line, but he won $150 in range balls and a clubhouse table for four for an afternoon at the races. Proceeds from the event benefited TROT, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe retirement, rehabilitation and adoption of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds.
Video of Bigelow’s $1-million attempt is available on the track’s Facebook page.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track conducts racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, in February.
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.