Thoroughbred trainer Baltazar Galvan learned quickly there are no shortcuts to success in horse racing.
A year ago, Galvan saddled then-6-year-old gelding Five Star Prince for his apparent first career victory at Tampa Bay Downs, only to have the celebration delayed when Five Star Prince was disqualified to second for interference.
Galvan’s first official victory came 11 days later when Five Star Prince romped, but that was his only victory at the 2012-13 meeting from 24 starters.
But that was last year. The 34-year-old native of Silao, a city in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, has saddled four winners in April alone, giving him nine for the meeting from 52 starters. His hot streak has earned him the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month Award.
For Galvan, who has loved horses since he was a young boy and rode in bush races while dreaming of becoming a Quarter Horse jockey, his climb up the ladder is the byproduct of devoting himself to the sport.
“I don’t consider myself a newcomer to the racetrack, because I’ve been around horses all my life,” said Galvan, who ships his horses to Tampa Bay Downs from The Williston Mile training center near Ocala, where he partners with owner David Posey. “I ride them, shoe them and break all the young horses, so I think I have a little advantage over some trainers.
“I just like horses,” he added, smiling. “I like figuring out problems.”
In today’s sixth race, Galvan sent out 7-year-old gelding Sweet Alexander for his second consecutive victory at the meeting in a $16,000, 1-mile claiming event on the turf. Owned by his breeder, Randle L. Glosson, Sweet Alexander was again ridden by Olaf Hernandez.
Galvan broke Sweet Alexander, but did not take over his training until the current meeting. In six starts locally, Sweet Alexander has two victories, two seconds and a third.
“He’s a big horse, 17 hands, and I think moving him to the grass was a key,” Galvan said.
Galvan also pulled off one of the biggest surprises in recent weeks on April 9. He sent out 3-year-old gelding Unlocked, a first-time starter, to win a five-furlong maiden special weight turf race under jockey Gary Wales in a speedy 56.37 seconds for owner Six SandBaggers Stables. Unlocked paid $51.80 to win.
Galvan, who lives with his wife, their 17-year-old daughter and two sons, 8 and 5, currently plans to race primarily at Gulfstream Park this summer. With 23 horses in training, more at the farm and an expanding roster of owners, he expects his struggles of last year to soon be a distant memory.
“I have good owners who are giving me good chances,” he said. “They say you always find what you like in life, and I like training racehorses.”
Odds and ends. In today’s seventh race, a five-and-a-half furlong starter allowance for older horses, veteran campaigner See I A ran down Haywired by a neck to post his meeting-high fifth victory for owner Averill Racing, LLC and trainer Gerald Bennett.
Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode See I A, an 8-year-old gelding now 22-for-53 lifetime. His time was 1:03.32, .53 seconds off the track record.
See I A won the 2011 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Today’s winner’s purse raised the Florida-bred’s career earnings to $300,748.
See I A’s victory was one of two on the card for Allen, who moved to within 105-103 of leading jockey Antonio Gallardo in their battle for the top spot. Allen also rode fourth-race winner Graffitist for owner Burkholder Stables and trainer Maria Bowersock.
Trainer Kathleen O’Connell moved into a tie for second place in the meeting standings with Gerald Bennett, saddling back-to-back winners in the second and third races to boost her victory total to 32.
The two-time track champion (1998-99 and 2009-10, tied with Jamie Ness) visited the winner’s circle after the second race on the turf with Dannhauser, a 6-year-old multiple-stakes winning, graded-stakes placed horse owned by Chester Prince and ridden by Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Antonio Gallardo.
O’Connell accounted for both halves of the exacta in the third race for 3-year-old fillies, with 3-5 favorite Legal Laura holding off Crown Ready by a head. Legal Laura is a Florida homebred racing for Gilbert G. Campbell and was ridden by Eduardo Nunez.
Ness leads the standings with 52 victories.
Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby Party. Area horse racing fans who can’t make it to Louisville for the 140th renewal of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands can experience the next-best thing at The Trackside Pavilion adjacent to the walking ring on Saturday, May 3.
The annual Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby Party brings together fun-loving souls, serious handicappers and anyone intrigued by the majesty, mystery and strength of the Thoroughbred, providing a full day to savor the excitement and tradition of the most exciting two minutes in sports.
And if the Derby winner happens to be Grade II Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend, Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Vinceremos or another 3-year-old that competed here, expect the tremors to reverberate throughout the Tampa Bay area.
By finishing first and second, respectively, in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8, Ring Weekend and Vinceremos earned enough points to be eligible for the mile-and-a-quarter Run for the Roses under the Twin Spires.
Ring Weekend – who is trained by H. Graham Motion, the conditioner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom – is scheduled to work Friday at Motion’s Fair Hill Training Center base in Maryland. Co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds has tweeted that Alan Garcia will have the mount on the chestnut gelding. Daniel Centeno rode Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Vinceremos, who earned 20 qualifying points with his runner-up finish in the Tampa Bay Derby after winning the Sam F. Davis, was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs today from nearby WinStar Farm. Todd Pletcher trains the 3-year-old colt.
The Derby party begins with the simulcast of the first race from Churchill Downs that morning and lasts until a blanket of 554 red roses are draped across the winner’s withers. Adding to the fervor, Tampa Bay Downs will conduct a full card of racing as its 2013-14 meeting winds down to a precious few days.
Tampa Bay Downs has produced two of the last seven Kentucky Derby winners: 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense and 2010 Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher Super Saver.
The gates open at 10:30 a.m. The buffet will be served from noon-2 p.m., with a deluxe menu featuring sliced roast beef with Kentucky bourbon and mushroom sauce, grilled chicken breast with Chive Mornay sauce, honey-glazed ham with pineapple mustard sauce and a selection of desserts including Kentucky Derby pie.
Fans will also have the opportunity to enjoy the entire simulcast programs from Churchill Downs and other major tracks across the country.
The cost to attend the Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby Party is $45.95, which includes reserved seating; a full buffet luncheon; a Tampa Bay Downs racing program; a mint julep in a commemorative souvenir Kentucky Derby glass, with the names of all 139 winners; and entry into the Derby hat contest.
Simply put, the Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby party is an annual highlight you won’t regret attending. For more details, call the Tampa Bay Downs Group Sales Department at (813) 855-4401, extension 1386.