Maybe the explanation is as elementary as the fact that modern Thoroughbred horses have been bred for speed for more than three centuries and speed thrills.
Or it could be the combination of distance and surface, in which speed horses, stalkers and closers are equally capable of winning and just as vulnerable, depending on the pace.
Whatever the reason, five-furlong turf races might be the most popular contests among fans and bettors.
Particularly so at Tampa Bay Downs, where a dedicated maintenance crew, led by Vice President of Facilities and Track Surfaces Tom McLaughlin, strives to maintain the grass in a fair and consistent condition, often challenging in the face of the vagaries of west-central Florida’s winter climate.
Well, enough pseudo-expert analysis of why everyone loves turf sprints. It’s a whole lot easier to enjoy Saturday’s featured 10th race, a $25,000 conditional allowance, five-panel dash for older fillies and mares, than writing a thesis no one is going to read.
Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:42 p.m.
The morning-line favorite in the nine-horse field at 3-2 is St. George Stable, LLC’s 4-year-old filly Fascinante, trained by Efren Loza, Jr., and to be ridden by Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Antonio Gallardo. In her previous start at the same distance on the turf, she blitzed a field of maidens by six lengths in gate-to-wire fashion.
Also well-regarded at 5-2 is Shantharaj Samuel’s 4-year-old Great Red Beauty, trained by Anthony Granitz and to be ridden by Daniel Centeno. Great Red Beauty is one half of an uncoupled entry in the race for Granitz, who begins the day with 968 career victories. Her last victory was at Arlington in Illinois last September in a five-and-a-half furlong turf race; she has posted three thirds and a fourth at the current meeting.
Granitz’s other entry is 5-year-old mare Take What You Can, owned by Captain Jack Racing Stable, LLC and to be ridden by apprentice Silvia Zapico. Both Take What You Can and Pass Me a Bottle – owned by Saronda Smith, trained by Robert G. Smith and to be ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr. – are 6-1 on the morning line.
Several of this season’s most memorable races have taken place at the five-furlong distance on the turf. On Jan. 25 in the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes, 4-year-old filly Shrinking Violet, from the barn of owner-trainer Wesley Ward, staged a whirlwind rally from mid-pack under jockey Quincy Hamilton to top 28-1 shot Allwewantforxmas.
Five weeks later, Ancil, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Kathy Thompson and Scott Farmer and trained by Joan Scott, turned on the jets to win the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes under Daniel Centeno in a track-record time of 54.88 seconds.
On the basis of that performance, Ancil was invited to compete at the prestigious Royal Ascot race meeting at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England, the week of June 17-21. Royal Ascot brings together top horses from England, the United States, Ireland, France, Dubai, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
When it comes to sprinting five furlongs on the turf, few horses are as reliable – or popular – as owner-trainer Joyce Kielty’s 9-year-old horse Hold On Smokey. After missing the break in the Turf Dash and finishing unplaced, he returned two weeks later to capture an allowance/optional claiming event in 55.20 seconds for his 18th career triumph.
So the advice here is to hold on, yourself – it might be the finale on the card, but Saturday’s 10th race is likely to leave you breathless.
Odds and ends. Brian Pedroza rode three winners on today’s card to raise his meeting total to 32 victories, seventh-best at the meeting.
Antonio Gallardo, Carlos Lozada and Daniel Centeno each rode two winners on today’s card. Gallardo extended his lead over Ronnie Allen, Jr., in the jockey standings to 107-103 with seven racing days left in the meeting.
Pedroza won the second race on 4-year-old gelding Tattaglia for owner Joseph Pennington and trainer David Hinsley. He added the fourth on the turf on 9-year-old gelding Babo for owner Julie Luhr and trainer Margaret McVey, her first victory of the meeting.
Pedroza capped his big day in the 10th race on the turf, winning aboard 8-year-old mare Back for Dinner for owner-trainer Owen McQuade.
Gallardo won the first race with 4-year-old colt Seeking a Babe for owners Sharyn and Peter Wasiluk, Jr., who is the trainer. Gallardo also won the seventh on 3-year-old filly My Memories, a first-time starter, for owners Kathleen O’Connell, Lynne M. Boutte and Steve Tucker; O’Connell is the trainer.
Lozada captured the third race on 6-year-old horse Raven Train for owner Southwind Stables, Inc., and trainer Charles A. Carey. He also won the fifth on 8-year-old gelding Awesome Rhythm for owner May May Stable and trainer Maylene Conkey.
Centeno won the sixth and eighth races to climb to 70 victories. He urged 7-year-old mare Summer Interlude to victory in the sixth on the turf for owner Nita P. Williams and trainer Kelly D. Jones and won the eighth on 4-year-old gelding Ephram S for owner-trainer Robert R. O’Connor, II.
In today’s ninth race, 5-year-old mare Godiva’s Queen undressed her competition, winning by seven-and-a-quarter lengths from runner-up With Prejudice. Godiva’s Queen is owned in partnership by her breeder Marco Castaneda and Aaron E. Latino and trained by Lynne Scace. She was ridden by Ademar Santos.
Following Saturday’s action, a 10-race card is slated for Sunday. Next week, Tampa Bay Downs will race Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2013-14 meeting concludes on June 30, the first day of the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing. The July 1 card will kick off the 2014-15 meeting.
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.
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 be ridden by Alan Garcia. Daniel Centeno rode Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby.
According to published reports, Motion and Terry Finley, President of co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds, decided to go ahead with Ring Weekend after a six-furlong workout in 1:12 4/5 today at Motion’s Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. St. Elias Stable is the other owner.
Vinceremos, who earned 20 qualifying points with his runner-up finish in the Tampa Bay Derby after winning the Sam F. Davis, galloped over the Churchill Downs surface today in company with three other likely Kentucky Derby starters from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Tampa Bay Downs 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.