As best as jockey Kevin Gomez can tell, 5-year-old mare Paper Mansion enjoys leading the pack, the wind serenading through her mane as she displays her natural ability.
It’s when she is challenged that Paper Mansion’s attitude transforms from carefree to serious.
“She likes the competition. She likes other horses chasing her, but if she has someone next to her she will fight for it,” Gomez said after Paper Mansion won today’s third race, the second leg of the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test series at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the Tampa Bay Downs grass.
“She didn’t get tired today. When I let her loose in the stretch, she kept on going.”
In the second leg of the Males Division, also contested at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, Gratia Prince unleashed a powerful rally on the turn for home and maintained his momentum for a 1 ¾-length victory from The Peninsula. Daniel Centeno rode the winner, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding who is owned and trained by Ron G. Potts. More on Gratia Prince shortly.
Paper Mansion, who won the first leg of the four-race starter handicap series on Dec. 30 at a mile, broke a step slowly today from the No. 4 post position, but quickly took her customary spot on the lead in the 10-horse field as Gomez persuaded her to relax. Milliondolarmonkey, a 44-1 shot, was in striking distance throughout, but lacked the needed late kick to cut into the winner’s lead.
Paper Mansion posted a 2 ½-length victory in a time of 1:43.30 on a firm turf course. Inanna’s Quest rallied to be third, with Cloud Storage fourth in the 10-horse field.
Owned by Jagger Inc. and Long Ball Stables and trained by Jagger boss Jamie Ness, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tu Brutus has won four races in a row and five of her last six. She improved to 9-for-21 lifetime, and the winner’s share of $13,920 leaves her $155 shy of $200,000 in career earnings.
“She must like Florida,” said assistant trainer Cory Jensen. “She has really blossomed here.”
Bettors who couldn’t ignore Paper Mansion’s strong recent form were rewarded with $3.40 on a $2 bet, with the exotic wagers proving much more profitable. The $1 exacta combination of 4-3 paid $64.90 and the $1 4-3-8 trifecta paid $579.80.
Gratia Prince’s victory in the seventh was a welcome tonic for Potts, who was under the weather and unable to attend. He had claimed the son of Connect for $16,000 from his previous start, a neck defeat in a mile-and-an-eighth grass contest on Dec. 22. Centeno had been aboard that day, too.
“He drew the No. 1 hole that race and got stuck down inside the entire way, and when he finally got to run he was just a little late,” Centeno said. “Today, he got the perfect trip. The leaders went fast in the beginning, and I was able to keep him off the pace the first part of the race.
“As soon as we turned for home, I put him in the clear and he opened up. I think that’s where he wanted to be, outside of horses, and he really responded.
“I want to thank Ron for the opportunity to ride him back.”
Gratia Prince paid $14.40 to win as the third betting choice in the nine-horse field. His time was 1:43.06. He is 4-for-12 lifetime with two seconds and two thirds. The Peninsula repeated his runner-up performance in the first leg, while American Unity, the betting favorite, finished third and first-leg winner Cannon’s Roar was fourth.
The third legs of the Tampa Turf Test will be contested on Feb. 24 at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth.
Morales expects to return on Jan. 31. Pablo Morales, who has been sidelined since Nov. 26 with a broken left wrist incurred in a training accident, tweeted on social media Friday that he expects to return to action on Jan. 31.
“Returning to ride on the 31st, was a long recovery but I’m excited to go back to what I am good at,” the message read.
Morales originally had expected to be back sooner, but he was sidelined an additional month after an MRI revealed two additional bone fractures and ligament damage. He has kept in riding shape by riding a stationary bicycle and swimming.
The 35-year-old product of Lima, Peru won on three of his 11 mounts during the opening week of the meet. He has 2,626 career victories and has won nine riding titles at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., including the last four in a row.
Morales finished third in last year’s Oldsmar standings with 53 winners.
Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho won today’s first and ninth races. He was aboard 4-year-old filly Beer Bali in the first for owners Louis F. Stevens and James M. Gulick, with Gulick the trainer. Camacho added the ninth race on the turf on Watchtower, a 3-year-old filly owned by Peter M. Brant and trained by Chad Brown.
Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. Fans are urged to bundle up, as the temperatures are not expected to rise above 50 degrees throughout the day.
Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.