Great Attack, who finished fourth in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, and Grade III winner Madman Diaries form a potent one-two duo from the south Florida barn of trainer Wesley Ward for Saturday’s $75,000, five-furlong Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Turf Dash is the eighth race on an 11-race card that begins with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Great Attack – who is 4-for-14 lifetime with four seconds, but has yet to win a stakes – was the runner-up in last year’s Turf Dash Stakes, won by Bridgetown from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher.
Saturday’s renewal has attracted a field of 10, including 3-year-old colt Musical Flair.
Great Attack, a 5-year-old horse owned by Houyhnhnm Stable, will be ridden by Jeffrey Sanchez. Ward has yet to name a rider for Madman Diaries, a 4-year-old gelding he co-owns with Robert Teel. Madman Diaries won the Grade III Sapling at Monmouth in 2010 as a 2-year-old and finished fourth in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
The Turf Dash has attracted the top three finishers from the Jan. 15 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes: the 7-year-old gelding Private Jet, Great Attack and the 7-year-old gelding Little Nick.
Owned by Joseph Brocklebank and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Private Jet won the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint at odds of 9-1. It was the first start in the United States for the Argentine-bred, who was 5-for-10 previously in South Africa at Turffontein Race Course, Vaal Turf Club and Clairwood Park.
Angel Serpa will be the jockey aboard Private Jet.
Little Nick, owned by Charles Palombini and trained by Anthony Quartarolo, is 9-for-34 lifetime with career earnings of $473,493. The multiple-stakes winner captured the Champali Stakes at Calder last spring at the Turf Dash distance and will be ridden Saturday by Juan Leyva.
Other likely contenders include 4-year-old gelding Gibson, from the barn of Gerald Bennett, and 6-year-old gelding Western Prospector, trained by Tampa Bay Downs leading conditioner Jamie Ness. Gibson, owned by Sundance Thoroughbreds, will be ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr. and Western Prospector, owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., will be handled by Leandro Goncalves.
The two rivals, both stakes winners, finished 1-2 in a Jan. 29 five-furlong turf allowance at Tampa Bay Downs, Gibson prevailing by a nose in 55.35 seconds.
Not to be overlooked is the James McMullen-trained 8-year-old Yankee Injunuity, who has won almost $400,000 in his career and will be dangerous if he can recapture the form that saw him win the 2009 Arlington Sprint Handicap.
On Thursday’s card, former Tampa Bay Downs record-holder Riversrunrylee nearly reclaimed the mile-and-40-yards mark in the third race, winning the $32,000 allowance/optional claiming race by three lengths from favorite Edgewater in 1:39.61.
Riversrunrylee set the record for the distance on Feb. 7, 2008, winning in 1:39.48, but the mark lasted all of eight days before 3-year-old Vaulcluse established the current record of 1:39.36 in the 2008 Suncoast Stakes. Riversrunrylee set all the fractions Thursday under jockey Luis Gonzalez.
Riversrunrylee is an 8-year-old gelding owned by Larry Vaughn’s L & D Farm of Odessa, Fla., and trained by Juan Camilo. The son of Outflanker-Ponderway, by Prized, was bred by L & D in partnership with Anise Pendleton. The horse has won 16 of 70 lifetime starts and earned $336,585.
A winner of the 2009 Rudy Baez Classic Stakes at Suffolk in Massachusetts and the 2010 Joey Blueeyes Stakes at Calder in Miami, Riversrunrylee has won four of his last six starts, with one second. He is 8-for-31 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs.
“He’s just an old warrior. He’s been a very productive horse, and he’s made a lot of money against some of the best horses in the country,” said Vaughn, the CEO of Trinity Services Group, which provides food services to correctional facilities.
Vaughn said Ponderway is currently in foal to Repent. Riversrunrylee’s half-sister, the 6-year-old mare Markswayornoway, is entered in Friday’s fourth race at Tampa Bay Downs.
Camilo, who has trained the horse since he started racing, has already won twice with Riversrunrylee at the current meeting. “He’s got it in his heart,” Camilo said. “Sometimes horses are like human beings. Give them love, and they give you what they’ve got.”
Riversrunrylee won his first career start at Tampa Bay Downs as a 3-year-old in 2007 at odds of 24-1. Interestingly, he has been eligible to be claimed more than 20 times, but Vaughn and Camilo have never had to bid him goodbye. He ran for a $32,000 tag Thursday. As a 3-year-old, he could have been haltered for $12,500 at Suffolk; as a 5-year-old, he could have been claimed for $100,000 at Saratoga.
“The only time I was scared (about losing him) was last fall at Calder, where we dropped him to $25,000,” Vaughn said. “But I think most people don’t want to claim an 8-year-old. You have to run them where they can be competitive. We want him to have fun. A horse doesn’t enjoy running if it can’t win, so we put him where we think he can win.”
Live racing resumes Friday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcasting, no-limits poker action in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.