Saratoga Springs, N.Y., resident Sanford Bacon wears a bracelet on his left wrist made of hair from his champion homebred mare, Dancin Renee.
So when Dancin Renee died Friday night on the eve of her daughter Risky Rachel’s return to action following a layoff of almost 15 months in the $50,000 Minaret Stakes, an emotional Bacon believed the stars were aligned for success.
“She’s been off a long time, but we knew it was just a question of when he (jockey Daniel Centeno) asked, would she answer,” the 85-year-old breeder-owner said in the winner’s circle after Risky Rachel’s three-and-a-quarter length victory from 3-2 favorite Cor Cor in 1:10.95 for six furlongs. “And you saw the answer.”
Risky Rachel paid $5.60 to win as second choice. She is trained by Juan Coronel, whose assistant, Freddy Buscail, handled the saddling duties.
The winner’s share of $30,000 boosted 7-year-old mare Risky Rachel’s career earnings to $412,250 after her eighth victory from 18 starts. The New York-homebred daughter of 2004 Tampa Bay Derby winner Limehouse, out of the graded-stakes winning Dancin Renee – who herself won 14 races, including her final seven starts – has won five stakes, the first four at Belmont, Aqueduct or Saratoga.
The Minaret triumph also vindicated Bacon’s decision to bring Risky Rachel back to the racetrack after she injured a tendon training in December of 2012, and it made the death of her 22-year-old dam at Old Friends Equine Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, Ky., less than 24 hours earlier easier to accept.
“After Rachel got hurt, everybody said ‘She is a broodmare now,’ and I was offered $400,000 for her,” said Bacon, who was joined in the winner’s circle by his wife, Nikki; Lisa McGreevy, who raised Risky Rachel at her Abbie Road Farm in the Ocala area; and Steve Venosa, whose SGV Thoroughbreds crew prepared her in the weeks leading to the Minaret, leading to a pair of bullet workouts last month at Gulfstream Park.
“I decided she was going to get stem-cell therapy, and people said ‘You’re crazy. Stem cell doesn’t work, and it’s going to cost you $30,000 or $40,000. You’re throwing your money away.’
“I said ‘It’s not my money, it’s her money.’ She made it on the track, and she wants to be a racehorse,” added Bacon, who may bring her back next for a stakes at Gulfstream and hopes to win a stakes with her next summer at Saratoga.
Centeno was delighted, and somewhat surprised, at how powerfully Risky Rachel rolled to the lead after the multiple stakes-winner Cor Cor set fairly relaxed fractions of 22.13 seconds for the quarter-mile and 44.93 for the half.
“She was super sharp today, like her people said she would be,” Centeno said. “The setup couldn’t have been better, and I was able to get her to relax behind (Cor Cor). I asked her for run going into the turn and from the 3/8-mile pole on, she was just eating up ground on the leader. We hit the front in the stretch and she was going on her own to the wire. She is a special lady and I would love to ride her back.”
Scott Spieth, jockey on 4-year-old Cor Cor, offered no excuses. “Joan (Scott, the trainer) added blinkers today and she was perfect through the turn,” Spieth said. “When the mare came up to us, she dug in and fought back.”
Ambusher was third in the six-horse field, almost five lengths behind Cor Cor.
Bacon said Dancin Renee will be buried at Old Friends. “Please tell people to put money in places where horses need it, so they can go to a place where good friends will take care of them after they’re finished racing,” he said.
Centeno and Spieth each rode two winners on the card, as did fellow veteran Harry Vega.
In today’s ninth race, an allowance/$62,500 optional claiming race going five furlongs on the turf, 6-year-old gelding Silver Cloud powered through the stretch under jockey Antonio Gallardo to post a two-and-a-quarter length victory from Hold On Smokey. Pyrite Green finished third.
Silver Cloud, who is owned and trained by Jason DaCosta, won for the eighth time in 27 starts and has finished first or second in six consecutive races. His time was a snappy 55.98 seconds.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. The card includes three turf races. Next Saturday, Jan. 18, is Cap Giveaway Day (while supplies last), as well as the second legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series.
Serious handicappers and casual horseplayers across the country are registering for the “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, an online competition beginning on Festival Preview Day, Saturday, Feb. 1.
The grand-prize winner receives $1,000 and a seat at the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (date and site to be determined). Second place receives $1,000, third place receives $500 and a $500 prize will be awarded to the handicapper selecting the most overall winners.
There is no fee for entering the contest. Complete rules are available at the online site. Registration may be accessed through a link on the track website at www.tampabaydowns.com
or by visiting the contest website directly at www.liveitupchallenge.com
The registration deadline is 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, which is the first day of the contest and also Festival Preview Day, highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a traditional Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands stepping stone.
The contest runs every day through Saturday, April 5. Players make a mythical $2 win-place-show wager on a single horse in one of each day’s two challenge races, and their bankroll accrues throughout based on official pari-mutuel payoffs, with strikes being assessed for an out-of-the-money finish. Three strikes terminates a player’s participation, but they remain eligible for the $500 bonus for picking the most winners.
The Sam F. Davis Stakes also marks the start of the Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus. The owners of the winning Davis horse (or horses, in case of a dead heat) become eligible to win a $1-million bonus, payable if that horse also wins the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 8 and the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
Additionally, fans will be eligible for a $100,000 award by picking the Davis winner. The name of one individual will be drawn from a corresponding bin by the winning jockey after the race, and that person will collect the grand prize if their horse goes on to fulfill the bonus requirements.
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.