The old saying “I’d rather be lucky than smart” fails to address the outcome when an individual displays both characteristics on a consistent basis.
Given the luck required to win a majority of Thoroughbred races, O’Connell keeps proving her skill in having her horses prepared to compete, while entering them in the optimum spots during the first five weeks of the 2023-2024 meet.
O’Connell posted two victories today, giving her 14 for the meet, eight more than runners-up Juan Arriagada, Jose Francisco D’Angelo and Jamie Ness. The two-time Oldsmar training champion is winning at a 33-percent clip.
Spanish Noble got the O’Connell Express into gear in the third race on the turf, breaking his maiden by 1 length under jockey Jose Ferrer. The 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding is owned by James M. Chicklo.
Another O’Connell grass triumph came in the fifth, with 5-year-old mare Saratoga Gaze and jockey Antonio Gallardo running down pace-setter Cloudy Bay in the stretch and striding to a 4 ¼-length victory from closer Mille Dreams. Saratoga Gaze is owned by Windylea Farm.
That triumph was one of two today for Gallardo, who won the fourth race on the Mary Lightner-owned and trained 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Dreamster.
Leading jockey Samy Camacho, who also rode two winners, said he got lucky to capture the seventh race on the turf on Hall of Fame trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey’s 3-year-old colt Conversing, the 1-2 favorite. The early pace was slower than Camacho expected, and when the field turned for home in the 1-mile race, 76-1 shot The Skipster and Rockingham Joe showed no signs of yielding.
Meanwhile, Ready to Fly appeared to be closing faster than Conversing, creating a possibility of boxcar mutuel payoffs.
But when Camacho pointed Conversing between Rockingham Joe and Ready to Fly and showed him his baton, the son of Into Mischief responded with alacrity, as if he’d been waiting all day for the chance. Conversing beat The Skipster by three-quarters of a length, with Ready to Fly settling for third and Rockingham Joe fourth.
Conversing, who is owned by Sarah Sharp Farish, paid $3 to win as the wagering favorite. The $53,000 allowance contest for horses 3-years-old-and-upward was the Lambholm South Race of the Week.
Conversing, whose final time was 1:36.07, is 2-for-5 with three seconds. He broke his maiden in his previous start on Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs.
Camacho also won the sixth race on Copper Bound, a 2-year-old filly owned and trained by Gregg Sacco.
Sirius Light won the ninth and final race on the turf by a nose from Jordi’s Dream, giving jockey Daniel Centeno victory No. 100 in 2023. Centeno, a six-time Oldsmar riding champion, has ridden at least 100 winners in 19 of the last 20 years.
Sirius Light is a 3-year-old filly owned by Graywood, LLC and trained by Dennis Manning.
Racing continues Sunday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:24 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is closed on Christmas Day, then re-opens Tuesday for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Tampa Bay Downs will conduct a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday, which is also Calendar Giveaway Day. Racegoers will receive the 2024 version of the track’s calendar at no charge, while supplies last.