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December 08, 2017


by Mike Henry
Outstanding Florida-breds could reprise their Grade III Carry Back thriller in FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes a week from Saturday; trainer Gerald Bennett has R Angel Katelyn on verge of peak performance.

A pair of accomplished Florida-bred 3-year-olds, Three Rules and Mo Cash, are likely to strut their stuff on Dec. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs in the $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes.

The multiple stakes winners staged a thrilling duel on July 1 in the Grade III, 7-furlong Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park, with Three Rules reeling in the pace-setting gelding Mo Cash in the final strides to post a neck victory.

The 7-furlong Marion County FSS will be the first race since then for Three Rules, a winner of five stakes who has earned more than $900,000.

“He needed a rest after his last race, so we sent him back to the farm (Shade Tree Thoroughbreds near Ocala) for 60 days before he came back to the track,” said Jose Pinchin, who trains Three Rules at Gulfstream.

“He’s a good work horse, and he’s been doing well in his training. He is probably better than he was before the layoff,” Pinchin said of his Gone Astray-Joy Rules, by Full Mandate, colt.

That isn’t what Ronald Spatz, the trainer of Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes winner Mo Cash, wanted to hear.

“If you can talk (Pinchin) out of running, I’ll be beholden to you,” Spatz said, tongue in cheek. “I would actually feel a lot better if he wasn’t in there.”

That’s understandable. Three Rules began his 2-year-old campaign with five consecutive victories, including a sweep of the three-race Florida Sire Stakes series for juveniles (the Dr. Fager, Affirmed and In Reality) at Gulfstream Park by a combined 22 ½ lengths.

Following a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, Three Rules began 2017 by finishing second in the Grade II Swale Stakes, followed by a third in the Grade II Fountain of Youth behind Gunnevera and Practical Joke. Four weeks later, Three Rules finished fifth in the Grade I Florida Derby – won by eventual Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming – after leading until the top of the stretch of the mile-and-an-eighth race.

“Any distance up to and including a mile should be his best journey,” Pinchin said. “He has plenty of speed, and we’re hoping this race at Tampa will move him forward for something else after the first of the year.”

Spatz’s disclaimer aside, Mo Cash – a gelded son of Adios Charlie-Mo’s Prize, by Eltish – might be at his best at the 7-furlong Marion County FSS distance. Both of his stakes victories were 7-furlong races, and he won the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore here on April 2 in 1:22.40, a mere .27 seconds off the stakes record.

“We gave him a vacation (after a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga on July 29) and got a race into him at Gulfstream Park West (on Nov. 26), and hopefully that will be enough to springboard him into a successful trip at Tampa,” Spatz said.

The Marion County FSS is one of four stakes races scheduled on a card that traditionally has been called Cotillion Festival Day and featured a full slate of races for 2-year-olds. It has been enhanced by the addition of the Marion County FSS and its 3-year-old filly equivalent, the $125,000, 7-furlong FTBOA City of Ocala FSS, which is expected to feature the return to Oldsmar of three-time 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Downs season stakes winner R Angel Katelyn.

Both races are being sponsored by the FTBOA.

The afternoon of competitive stakes excitement will also include two traditional Oldsmar favorites: the 33rd running of the $100,000, 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-old males and the 39th edition of the $100,000, 6-furlong Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

The Cotillion Festival Day celebration kicks off a 2017-2018 Tampa Bay Downs schedule that includes 28 stakes races offering a track-record $3.65-million in purse money.

The Dec. 16 festivities kick off with the “Welcome Back” EG Vodka Brunch at the Downs Presented by PDQ from 10:30 a.m.-noon. For $8, patrons will receive scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, fresh fruit, beverages and pastries, along with Grandstand admission and a Tampa Bay Downs racing program.

Tickets are available in the Tampa Bay Downs General Office.

Based on her performances here last season, trainer Gerald Bennett’s R Angel Katelyn is worth the price of admission. She won the Sandpiper, Gasparilla and Florida Cup Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies here last season and finished third in the Suncoast Stakes, behind Tapa Tapa Tapa and subsequent Grade I winner Elate.

Bennett was delighted with R Angel Katelyn’s 5-furlong workout from the gate on Nov. 29 in 59 seconds, the fastest of 17 recorded workouts that day at the distance. “She is doing really well and should be tough in (the City of Ocala FSS),” Bennett said. “That was a really good workout with a strong gallop-out. Coming off the track, she is cleaning up all her feed.

“She just needs a little bit better than a two-minute lick between now and the race to be ready, that’s all,” he added.

This space will take a detailed look at the contenders for the Inaugural and Sandpiper and subsequent developments for the FTBOA races next week in the days preceding.

Around the oval. Trainer Michael Stidham and jockey Brian Pedroza combined to win two races today. They captured the second race on the turf with 3-year-old gelding Birdsnest Party, who broke his maiden in a photo finish for owner Mark D. Breen.

Stidham and Pedroza also teamed to win the fifth race with 2-year-old filly Hay Baby Girl, who was claimed from the race for $25,000 by trainer Keith Nations for new owner Vince Campanella.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Saturday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. The feature is the fifth race, a $23,500 allowance/optional claiming event for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.

The 9-5 morning-line favorite is Vagabond, a 4-year-old who is trained by National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame member Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III and will be ridden by Pablo Morales.

Tampa Bay Downs is currently racing on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with Sundays added to the mix on Dec. 31. The track is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25 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.