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STAKES WINNERS GALORE FOR FLORIDA CUP; SPIETH ON VERGE OF 4,000

Roman Tiger, who won the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25, and sprint sensation It’s Me Mom highlight the entries for Saturday’s 10th annual Florida Cup Day at Tampa Bay Downs.
The slate of six Florida Cup Day stakes for registered Florida-breds includes three on dirt and three on the turf course, with three races for 3-year-olds and three for horses 4-and-up. Each race offers purse money of $75,000. Tampa Bay Downs will distribute more than $500,000 in purses over the 12-race card.
Roman Tiger, a 7-year-old gelding owned and trained by Dennis J. Manning, headlines a 10-horse field for the $75,000 Turf Classic, to be contested as the eighth race at about a mile-and-an-eighth on the grass. His victory in the Tampa Bay Stakes came at odds of 28-1 under jockey Angel Serpa, who has been named to ride Saturday.
The quality field includes 2011 Turf Classic winner Slews Answer, from the barn of trainer Graham Motion. The 5-year-old gelding, owned by Live Oak Plantation, finished second in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start Jan. 28. Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Leandro Goncalves has the riding assignment.
It’s Me Mom, a 4-year-old filly who won the Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 31 and the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 28 by a combined 15 lengths, will take on eight males in the $75,000 Hilton Garden Inn Sprint at six furlongs. It is the ninth race.
The field includes four other stakes winners, including the Grade II-placed Little Drama, a 4-year-old gelding from the barn of David Fawkes. It’s Me Mom has gained a wide following among Tampa Bay Downs fans and looks to improve on her record of nine victories from 15 starts for breeder-owners Thomas and Jean Bosch of Holiday, Fla.
The Florida Cup festivities begin with the third race on the card, the $75,000 First Dude Turf Distaff for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass. The favorite’s role could go to Unbridled Humor, a Graham Motion trainee who finished third in the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10.
The fifth race on the card, the $75,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes, will be contested at seven furlongs. Grade II-placed Tarpy’s Goal, trained by Dale Romans, and stakes winners Hello Prince from the barn of Daniel Pita and Midnight Serenade from the barn of Stephen DiMauro highlight the eight-horse field.
The $75,000 Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass, which will be the sixth race, brings together 10 state-bred colts and geldings.
Inaugural Stakes winner Angelofdistinction and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Championship winner Crafty Unicorn face a stiff challenge from Star Channel, a Todd Pletcher-trained son of English Channel who has won twice on the Gulfstream Park turf course.
The seventh race is the $75,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes at seven furlongs on the main track. Pletcher is represented by Polish Tune, but the bettors may award the favorite’s role to Citizen Advocate, whose four career victories include stakes at Calder, Presque Isle Downs and Delta Downs. She is trained by David Vivian.
Post time for the first race is 12:25 p.m.
Veteran jockey Scott Spieth moved closer to a career milestone Wednesday at Tampa Bay Downs, winning three of the first four races on the card to climb to 3,998 victories.
The 45-year-old Michigan native – who is 26th among active jockeys in victories – won the first race, a five-furlong maiden claiming event, on 3-1 shot King Kafwain by a neck from favorite Isolation Road. King Kafwain is a 4-year-old gelding owned by Thomas Gibbs and trained by Frances Gogas.
Spieth teamed with 3-year-old gelding Ten Past Ten to win the third race, a seven-furlong claiming affair. The 7-10 favorite is owned by Gilbert G. Campbell and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. The winner’s time of 1:22.37 was .24 seconds off the track record. Trainer Jamie Ness claimed Ten Past Ten for $25,000 for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.
In the fourth race, a maiden claiming race at a mile-and-40-yards, Spieth rode favorite Rubadub Chub to a 7 ½-length victory for owner Blaine Bennetch and trainer Rory Barron. Spieth finished second in the eighth race on Queen of England to Boldy and jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr.
Spieth is named on seven horses on Friday’s 11-race card. He is tied for eighth in wins at the current meeting with Huber Villa-Gomez with 27.
After a slow start in his return to Tampa Bay Downs from south Florida last month, four-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno has been on fire.
Centeno has won at a 16.5-percent clip since breaking the ice March 9 on 5-year-old gelding Dark Vision for owner-trainer Kathleen O’Connell. He won four races on March 24 and again on April 1, and his victory Sunday on 6-year-old gelding Tapis Magique gave trainer Jamie Ness a meet record of 69 victories.
Centeno – who set the Tampa Bay Downs single-season record of 144 victories during the 2007-08 meeting – is a clear-cut choice as the track’s Hilton Garden Inn Jockey of the Month. He plans to go to Delaware Park after the current meeting with his current agent, retired jockey Herson Sanchez.
“Riding at Gulfstream was a great experience,” said the Venezuelan rider, who has 1,560 career victories in the United States. “Every rider has a goal of being at a track like that and riding with the big guys.
“But when you’re not making much money, it’s hard. I thought, you know what? Let’s go with Herson and ride the next two months where we’re going to make money and it’s comfortable.
“I love Tampa, that’s the main thing,” said Centeno, who lives here with his fiancée, Ashley George, and their 3 ½-year-old daughter Jazmyn. “I’m happy to be back here. I love the racetrack, and I love the people.”
Centeno won 13 races at Gulfstream. He was on track to a possible fifth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs riding title last season when he broke his pelvis, dislocated his left shoulder and fractured his right foot in a spill that sidelined him almost three months. He has 16 victories at the current meeting.
Nicanor, the 6-year-old full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro owned by the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, is entered on opening day at Keeneland on Friday in the eighth race, an allowance optional claiming event worth $65,000. The distance is about seven furlongs on the synthetic all-weather track.
Nicanor – who last raced May 12 at Belmont Park in the Island Sun Stakes, finishing fourth – has been working out regularly under trainer Leigh Delacour at Tampa Bay Downs in preparation for his 2012 debut. His last workout here was a four-furlong breeze Friday in 48 4/5 seconds. Rajiv Maragh has the riding assignment.
Also at Keeneland on Friday, the Thomas Proctor-trained 3-year-old gelding Monastic is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Grade III, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.
Monastic, who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, most recently competed March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing third in a one-mile turf allowance. Also entered is the Graham Motion-trained State of Play, who finished seventh in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs before rebounding with a victory last month in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park.
The entire Keeneland card will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. There is a Super High 5 carryover of $7,548.40 and a Pick 5 carryover of $16,013.80.
The track is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 8 for simulcasting, poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.
 

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