There was nothing clandestine or undercover about veteran campaigner See I A’s six-and-three-quarter length victory today in the fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 8-year-old gelding cruised home under leading jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., in 1:09.66, the fastest six-furlong time of the meeting.
“When you get those class horses right, they come back running,” trainer Gerald Bennett said of the 8-year-old gelding, who is now 3-for-3 since being claimed from his previous connections for $6,250. “We freshened him for this race and he’s been working very well.”
The Florida-bred’s impressive triumph was one of the major highlights of today’s card, kicking off a banner weekend of Thoroughbred racing and excitement at the Oldsmar oval.
Saturday’s 11-race card includes two divisions of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series and the second local appearance of Triple Crown nominee Giancarlo, the St. George Stable LLC-owned colt who finished third in the Pasco Stakes on Jan. 4.
Saturday is also Mystery Mutuel Voucher Giveaway Day, with each paid fan receiving a voucher worth between $2-$1,000. Sunday marks the return of Kids & Family Day in the Backyard Picnic Area, with games, slides, face-painting and pony rides.
Back to See I A, who is owned by Averill Racing, LLC, headed by Bradenton resident Rich Averill. The 17-10 second choice in the starter/$12,500 optional claiming event, See I A paid $5.40. Creative Art was second and favored Favorite Patriot, who set swift fractions of 22.07 for the quarter-mile and 44.73 for the half, was third.
The class Bennett referred to is evident in See I A’s record – 20-for-49 with six seconds – and career earnings of $275,583. A son of Safe in the U S A-Beautiful Spy bred by Roy S. Lerman and Jayeff, See I A, who won the 2011 Pelican Stakes in 1:10.18, is 11-for-20 lifetime at the six-furlong distance.
Bennett said he likely will consider See I A for the $75,000 Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint on April 5, part of Tampa Bay Downs’ $450,000-plus Florida Cup Day extravaganza.
In Saturday’s Male Division of the Tampa Turf Test at a mile-and-an-eighth, slated as the 10th race, 5-year-old gelding Native Wave will look to go 3-for-3 in the series. His top challengers appear to be Professor Palmer and Liquidity Trap, who finished 1-2 in a turf allowance here at the nine-furlong distance on Jan. 25.
The Fillies and Mares Division, which is the sixth race, appears wide-open. Precious Paula is the 5-2 morning-line favorite, but Thecushmaker was impressive winning a mile turf race here Jan. 10 and Lil Escape Artist and Who Is Lady have been in outstanding recent form.
The third race, a seven-furlong allowance/$75,000 optional claiming event for 3-year-olds, appears far from an easy spot for Giancarlo. Larry A. Bell’s Pachanga Party won the $80,000 Birdonthewire Stakes at Calder as a 2-year-old, while Tommy Roberts Racing Stable LLC’s Early Entry was second locally in the Inaugural Stakes and fourth in the Pasco.
In today’s action, trainer Gerald Bennett and track leading jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., teamed for back-to-back victories in the fourth and fifth races. Prior to See I A’s victory in the fifth, they won the fourth race with 7-year-old gelding Black Belt, owned by Fast Break Racing Stable.
Angel Serpa also rode two winners. He was aboard 4-year-old gelding O T B Bob in the sixth for owner Doubledown Stables, Inc., and trainer James DiVito, ending that horse’s streak of five consecutive seconds. Serpa returned to the winner’s circle after the eighth on 5-year-old Half Wed for owners George Ditola and John N. Erickson and trainer Anthony Granitz.
Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing five days a week in February, Wednesday through Sunday. The track 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.