Action Andy and Capt. Candyman Can, the past two winners of the Super Stakes, square off Saturday in the 23rd renewal of the $75,000, seven-furlong event for horses 4-and-upward at Tampa Bay Downs. The Super Stakes, which has attracted a field of nine horses, will be the ninth race on an 11-race card.
The 6-year-old gelding Action Andy, a Maryland-bred owned by Robert Gerczak and trained by Carlos Garcia, used his Jan. 2012 Pelican and 2012 Super Stakes victories at Tampa Bay Downs as a springboard in his development into one of the top older sprint horses on the East Coast.
After a third-place finish last May in the Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico, Action Andy won the Da Hoss Stakes and finished second in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, both on the turf at Colonial Downs in Virginia. He returned to sprinting on dirt at Laurel, capturing the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap and the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash in October.
Action Andy then returned to action at Tampa Bay Downs in December, winning the six-furlong Pelican for the second consecutive season in stakes-record time of 1:09.14 despite being geared down late by jockey Danny Coa. Action Andy’s most recent start resulted in a third-place finish in the Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 29.
With a record of 11 victories and eight seconds from 31 starts and career earnings of $570,430, Action Andy will again be ridden by Coa while breaking from the No. 3 post position. He is assigned co-high weight of 122 pounds.
Action Andy will be bidding to become the second horse to win back-to-back Super Stakes. Michigan-bred Above the Wind won the race three years in a row, from 2003-05.
The 7-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding Capt. Candyman Can, owned by David Zell and Stephen Zell and trained by Ian Wilkes, was a highly accomplished runner at 2 and 3, winning the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs as a juvenile and the Grade II Hutcheson at Gulfstream and the Grade III Bay Shore at Aqueduct early in his 3-year-old season.
Taken off the Kentucky Derby trail to concentrate on sprinting, Capt. Candyman Can won the seven-furlong Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill and finished second in the Grade II Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga before annexing his biggest victory, the Grade I, $300,000 NetJets King’s Bishop at Saratoga at seven furlongs (via disqualification).
Capt. Candyman Can, who finished eighth in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint that fall, has not raced since a fifth-place performance last April at Keeneland. But his 2011 Super Stakes triumph came after a 15-month layoff, and his four-furlong breeze from the gate Wednesday of 48.54 seconds at Palm Meadows Training Center was his eighth solid workout since Jan. 5 at the Boynton Beach facility.
Capt. Candyman Can has forged a record of eight victories from 20 starts while amassing earnings of $792,097. He will be ridden Saturday by Ronnie Allen, Jr., and carry 118 pounds. He will break from the inside No. 1 post.
Others likely to take a major slice of the Super Stakes wagering action include 4-year-old colt Bellefire, trained by Leo Azpurua, Jr., and ridden by former Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Manoel Cruz; 6-year-old gelding Good Lord, trained by Forrest Kaelin and ridden by Fernando De La Cruz; and 6-year-old horse Winslow Homer, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Daniel Centeno.
Bellefire closed 2012 in impressive fashion, winning a seven-furlong allowance/$50,000 optional claiming race at Calder by six lengths and finishing second in the $125,000 City of Laurel Stakes, also at seven furlongs, on Dec. 8 to multiple-stakes winner Brigand.
Good Lord, who finished fourth in last year’s Super Stakes and second to Action Andy in the Jan. 2012 Pelican, started heating up last summer when he won the Wild and Wonderful Stakes at Charles Town for his first victory in more than a year.
He followed with stakes triumphs at Ellis Park, Kentucky Downs and Mountaineer, along with a second-place effort in a Hoosier Park Stakes. Good Lord last competed Dec. 2 at Gulfstream in the Sunshine State Stakes, finishing fourth.
Winslow Homer is a lightly-raced but regally bred gray son of Unbridled’s Song-Summer Raven, by Summer Squall. As a 3-year-old, he won the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream and finished third in the Grade III Iowa Derby. The Super Stakes represents his first outing since October of 2011 and his first start for Brown, who breezed him five furlongs in 1:01.60 Sunday at Palm Meadows.
The Super Stakes long shots are Gourmet Dinner, trained by Bruce R. Brown and ridden by Sebastian Madrid; Angelofdistinction, trained by Jorge Navarro and ridden by Angel Serpa; Duty Blues, trained by Robert G. Smith and ridden by Antonio Gallardo; and Why Pretend, trained by Angel Hyland and ridden by Willie Martinez.
Saturday’s card also features the third leg of the Tampa Turf Test Starter Handicap Series, with the fillies and mares division to be run as the fifth race and the colts and geldings division slated as the seventh race. Both will be run at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth.
Friday’s 10-race card begins at 12:38 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs. There is a Super High-5 carryover of $71,914 for the fourth race.
The track will conduct Thoroughbred racing five days a week, Wednesday-through-Sunday, through March 3, then scale back to four days a week (Wednesdays and Friday-through-Sunday) through the duration of April, with the exception of Easter Sunday, March 31, when the track is closed.
Ryan Curatolo rode back-to-back winners Thursday, moving him into a tie for seventh in the track standings with 17 victories. In the fifth race, a 1-mile turf allowance, the 20-year-old French jockey rallied 4-year-old filly Composition from off the pace for a neck victory from Empire Desire for trainer Christophe Clement, a fellow Frenchman. Cheyenne Stables LLC owns Composition.
Curatolo returned to the winner’s circle after the sixth, riding 4-year-old gelding Brady to victory in the six-furlong claiming event for owners Vic Carlson and Lucky Man Racing LLC and trainer Dennis Ward.
Veteran Ronnie Allen, Jr., also rode two winners, giving him 33 for the meet, ensconced in fourth place. Allen won the second race, a seven-furlong claiming event, on 5-year-old horse Grande Shores for owner Jacks or Better Farm, Inc., and trainer Stanley Gold. The winner paid $13. In the eighth, a mile-and-a-sixteenth claiming race on the turf, Allen spirited Awake At T Wire to a come-from-behind triumph for owner Bruno Schickedanz and trainer Yvon Belsoeur to the tune of $31 to win.
Another two-race winner was current meet leader Angel Serpa, now with 51. Serpa took the late double, winning the eighth, a $5,000 claiming route, with 9-year-old Dinner in Odem for owners Sharyn and Peter Wasiluk, Jr., and trainer Peter Wasiluk, Jr., and the ninth at a mile on the turf for maiden claimers with 3-year-old filly Be Wise Get Even for owner Daniel Hawkins and trainer William Bradley.
“Hearts Reaching Out.” There is still time to enter the “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament four-person scramble as an individual or a team. The event, conducted by the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, Tampa Bay Downs Division, is Monday, March 4 at 11 a.m. at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater.
The event will be held prior to the RTCA-Tampa Bay Downs Division’s Charity Auction and Dinner at 5:30 p.m. under the tent in the track’s Picnic Area. The tournament awards banquet will be held at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the auction.
Cost is $100 for the tournament, dinner and auction, and $20 for the dinner and auction. Tickets are available at the Chaplain’s Office. For details or to reserve a spot, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 298-1576.
Items to be auctioned include racing and sports memorabilia, signed items, photographs and paintings.
Proceeds benefit the RTCA, a certified 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization which provides spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational services to racetrack workers. The RTCA, Tampa Bay Downs Division, also receives financial support from Tampa Bay Downs, the Horsemen’s Benevolence and Protective Association and individual donors. Information is available at the web site www.rtcatbd.org
Car Giveaway. Poker players, circle Friday, March 8 on your calendars. That is when The Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs will be giving away a 2013 Toyota Camry SE to one lucky player, as well as $599 cash prizes to nine other players.
To win a drawing ticket for March 8, poker players must get an aces-full or higher hand in a game between now and March 7 using at least one card in their hand. To be eligible to win the car or a cash prize, ticket-holders must be playing or on the waiting list to play on March 8. Ten tickets will be drawn, nine for $599 and one for the car.