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December 16, 2017


by Mike Henry
Mo Cash scores second Tampa Bay Downs stakes triumph; Surprise Wedding dashes to the altar; Almond Roca sets stakes record in Sandpiper; Inaugural winner Tricks to Doo one to keep eye on.

After Mo Cash made a bold move to split horses on the far turn of the $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) Marion County Florida Sire Stakes, jockey Antonio Gallardo and trainer Ronald Spatz knew the work wasn’t done.

But Gallardo felt confident in his horse’s ability to continue to victory, even while being pursued by Grade III stakes winner Three Rules.

mo cash

Mo Cash, Antonio Gallardo up, holds off Three Rules in FTBOA Marion County FSS (Image courtesy of SV Photography)

“I kept feeling I had a lot of horse, and all the time (Three Rules) kept getting closer to me, my horse gave me more,” Gallardo said after Mo Cash’s ¾-length victory from his determined rival in 1:22.84 for the 7-furlong contest.

“This horse is a fighter, and I had a good feeling about him in the post parade and during the (warm-up). When I saw the hole, I knew I had to go through it, and he kept fighting all the way to the wire,” Gallardo said.

The victory was the fourth for Mo Cash in eight lifetime starts.

The victory by the 3-year-old gelding, a Florida-bred son of Adios Charlie-Mo’s Prize, by Eltish who is owned by Marco Bommarito’s Marco Thoroughbred Corp., was one of the highlights on Tampa Bay Downs’ annual Cotillion Festival Day, which featured the addition to the Oldsmar schedule of a pair of FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes for FTBOA-registered, sophomore Florida-breds sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion.

In the other FTBOA stakes, the City of Ocala FSS for 3-year-old fillies, Mr. & Mrs. William A.T. Rainbow’s homebred Surprise Wedding made a powerful move on the far turn and rolled to a two-and-a-quarter length victory from Stormy Embrace. Jesus Rios was the winning rider. David Fawkes trains the daughter of High Cotton-Happy Honeymoon, by Honour and Glory.

surprise wedding

Surprise Wedding and Jesus Rios are home-free in FTBOA City of Ocala FSS (Image courtesy of SV Photography)

Surprise Wedding improved to 3-for-9 lifetime.

A pair of traditional Tampa Bay Downs 2-year-old stakes also produced standout winners. The H. Graham Motion-trained filly Almond Roca was much the best in the 39th edition of the $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes, cruising to a nine-and-a-quarter-length victory in stakes-record time of 1:10.01 for the 6-furlong distance. The previous record was 1:10.02, set in 2012 by Cor Cor.

Pablo Morales rode Almond Roca, a daughter of Speightstown-Styler, by Holy Bull who is owned by Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable. She won from the far outside No. 8 post position.

“I thought she won very impressively,” Motion said from his base in Fair Hill, Md., where he watched the race. “She had a very tough trip in her previous race (a fifth-place finish at Laurel in the Smart Halo Stakes), so I more or less threw out that race. We thought today was a good chance to get her some black type, but I was surprised how easily she won.”

almond roca

Almond Roca earns her just desserts, sets Sandpiper stakes record under Pablo Morales (Image courtesy of SV Photography)

Almond Roca won for the second time in four starts. Toni Ann’s Miracle was a distant second.

“It feels like she is still learning a couple of things, but she responds well about everything,” Morales said. “I could feel she was moving her legs pretty fast. I was hoping we could drop in a little from the outside, but I just had so much horse all the way around and on the turn I was just sitting easy.

“When it was time to go, I just tapped her a little bit and we were gone,” he added.

Motion said a return engagement here on Jan. 20 in the $125,000, 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes is a possibility.

As if those early stakes weren’t impressive enough, Tricks to Doo, a $600,000 purchase in March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, turned the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes into his own personal playground, drawing off under leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno to win by seven-and-a-quarter lengths from Arazi Like Move.

tricks to doo

Inaugural winner Tricks to Doo, Daniel Centeno aboard, might have been day's most impressive winner (Image courtesy of SV Photography)

Tricks to Doo, a juvenile colt trained by Arnaud Delacour, sprinted the 6 furlongs in 1:09.58, .26 seconds off Catalina Red’s 2014 stakes record.

Back briefly to Mo Cash, who lost by a neck to Three Rules in the Grade III Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park on July 1. The FTBOA Marion County FSS was Three Rules’ first start since then, and a gracious Spatz acknowledged that could have been a factor in today’s outcome.

Mo Cash was coming into the race off a fourth-place finish in a starter/optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 26.

“I thought he would win that day, but the race did him some good. He got a little tired, then he came back and worked a bullet (4 furlongs in 47.53 seconds at Gulfstream on Dec. 9) and we felt pretty confident about things.

“He was a little farther back early pn than normal, but he runs from anywhere,” Spatz said. “I wasn’t worried down the backside, but I was worried when he went through that little hole,” he said with a chuckle. “But he made it and looked good doing it.”

The victory was the second in two Tampa Bay Downs stakes starts for Mo Cash, who won the 7-furlong Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes in April.

As for Surprise Wedding, she traces back seven generations to Gino, a European sire imported to the United States by Lyn Rainbow’s late grandfather, Samuel H. Rogers.

“We’re thrilled,” Lyn Rainbow said. “She had never run at Tampa, so we really had no clue whether she would run well or not.”

Her resounding triumph, accomplished in 1:22.40 for the 7 furlongs, also excited her trainer and jockey.

“Going into the turn, he (jockey Rios) actually had her head cocked out because he had so much horse,” Fawkes said. “Going down the backside, I was like ‘Whoa, baby, slow down.’ ”

Rios echoed Fawkes’ observation. “From the quarter-mile pole to the wire, she flew,” he said.

Surprise Wedding is a half-sister to Starship Bonita, a 2-year-old filly bred by the Rainbows and owned by Starship Stables. Starship Bonita won the FTBOA Susan’s Girl Florida Sire Stakes and the FTBOA My Dear Girl Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream in September.

Arnaud Delacour, who was in transit from his Fair Hill, Md., base to Oldsmar, managed to watch the Inaugural and was delighted with Tricks to Doo’s performance. The 2-year-old son of Into Mischief-Doolittle, by Polish Numbers, took the lead on the backside and was never threatened.

Tricks to Doo improved to 2-for-3 lifetime.

“We have always liked this horse and knew he has tons of speed, and he did not disappoint us,” Delacour said. “I told Danny it would be great if he could sit off the pace and teach him something, but he was so aggressive and has so much natural speed. It was very impressive.”

Delacour said the $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes on Jan. 20 is a likely target for Tricks to Doo’s next start. “I think that would be a great stepping stone, if he is ready,” Delacour said.

Such results are never as easy as they appear, of course, but Centeno certainly had an enjoyable time.

“The plan was to try to sit off the speed a little, but he was dragging me to the lead on the backside and I didn’t want to start fighting with him,” Centeno said. “I got him to relax a little bit, and when he felt a little pressure on the outside at the 3/8s pole (from eventual third-place finisher Twin Farms), I asked him and he took off.

“After that, he did everything on his own,” Centeno said.

Around the oval. Trainers H. Graham Motion and Anthony Granitz each sent out two winners today. In addition to Almond Roca, Motion won the fourth race on the turf with 25-1 shot Peach of a Gal, a 2-year-old filly bred and owned by Glenangus Farm. Scott Spieth was the jockey.

Granitz teamed with owner Calvin L. Johnston for two victories. They took the fifth race with 2-year-old Florida-bred colt Mister Bister, ridden by Edwin Gonzalez, and added the eighth race – the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on the turf – with 2-year-old Florida-bred filly Passion Plus, ridden by Fernando De La Cruz.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day 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.