Already celebrating an Ohio state football title engineered by his son, trainer Tim Hamm welcomes back Tapa Tapa Tapa with outstanding performance; fields for Turf Dash, Lightning City on Dec. 30 taking shape.
Thanks to his 15-year-old “hoss” back home and his 3-year-old filly on the Tampa Bay Downs backside, trainer Tim Hamm has felt nearly invincible recently.
Three weeks ago, his son, freshman quarterback Shane Hamm of Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban High, threw four touchdown passes to lead the school to a 42-14 victory against Cincinnati Winton Woods and its third consecutive state championship.
In today’s third race, an allowance/optional claiming event at a mile-and-40-yards for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, Hamm’s sophomore filly Tapa Tapa Tapa made a super-successful return to competition after a seven-month layoff, drawing off to win by 12 ½ lengths from Folk Magic and four others in 1:39.70, .63 seconds off the track record.
Pablo Morales rode Tapa Tapa Tapa, who is owned by the Beau Ravine, LLC concern of her breeder Patricia Pavlish and husband Ed Pavlish. Tapa Tapa Tapa had won the Suncoast Stakes here in February by three lengths from subsequent Grade I winner and Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff participant Elate.
The third race was the Wayward Lass Prep, as well as the Lambholm South Race of the Week, and Hamm said he plans to point Tapa Tapa Tapa to the Wayward Lass Stakes here on Jan. 20. Shane has already been directed back to the books.
“After a seven-month layoff, there is always a little apprehension,” Hamm said after the victory by the gray Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit-Kickin’ the Clouds, by Dixieland Band. “She’d been training so well that we were confident, but you still have to go out there and see it and then you believe it.”
Hamm took off the blinkers for today’s race, thinking it would help Tapa Tapa Tapa relax, and that is how she ran, free and easy. “We had a horse with stretch-out speed in front of us (Renee’s Cat) and got a perfect stalking trip,” Hamm said. “Pablo said he asked her a little bit on the turn, and she had plenty left to go.
“We have a lot of confidence in this filly. We want to let her earn her way back, get her legs underneath her and get her confidence back. She beat Elate, and we all know what Elate went on to do. We think (Tapa Tapa Tapa) is good enough to run with anybody.”
Morales, who rode Tapa Tapa Tapa in her first four starts as a 2-year-old – all at Woodbine in Toronto, with two victories – was grateful for the chance to be reunited. He had ridden her in two recent 5-furlong workouts and was always confident today.
“I knew if she showed the class that she has, she could throw a big race,” Morales said. “I had the luck of drawing the outside post, where I could pretty much do whatever. She is the type of filly where you can’t really tell if she is going fast or slow because her stride is so long. It actually feels like she is going slow, but she covers a lot of ground.”
Morales tapped her twice with the whip to get her to change leads at the top of the stretch, and Tapa Tapa Tapa’s natural instincts took over. “The last eighth of a mile, I pretty much took a long cross and just held her together.
“She just did it cruising.”
Now 4-for-9 in her career, Tapa Tapa Tapa finished fourth in the Grade III Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn in March and sixth in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in May, then developed a small chip in her right front knee after a workout, leading the Pavlishes and Hamm to opt for minor surgery and time off.
“The owners are fabulous. If you tell them you need something, it’s not an issue,” Hamm said. “That helps – otherwise, the horse wouldn’t be here today doing this.”
10 Days of Festivus Challenge winners emerge. Ken Hamilton of El Dorado, Ark., won the annual “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” Handicapping Contest with a final bankroll figure of $151.70. Hamilton took a big lead on Dec. 2, the first day of the contest, when he selected 38-1 winner Go Cristian Go, accumulating $112.60 on the win-place-show payoffs.
Hamilton earns first-prize money of $1,000.
Finishing second and earning $500 was Richard Loftus of Clifton, N.J., with a final bankroll of $117.
A total of 895 players participated.
Turf Dash, Lightning City Stakes highlight Dec. 30 card. Conquest Enforcer, who won a 2016 Sovereign Award as Canada’s Champion Grass Horse, is among the likely participants in the 14th edition of the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes on Dec. 30 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Also on tap will be the 14th running of the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares. Both races are slated at 5 furlongs on the Oldsmar turf course.
The Dec. 30 program will segue into the first Sunday card of the 2017-2018 Tampa Bay Downs meeting on Jan. 31, a New Year’s Eve extravaganza to help fans and bettors ring in a new year with exciting Thoroughbred competition.
Trained by Breeders’ Cup-winning conditioner Mark Casse, the 4-year-old colt Conquest Enforcer would be making his first appearance since June 10. His four stakes victories in 2016 included the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes at Santa Anita.
Conquest Enforcer has built a 5-for-12 career mark with earnings in excess of $500,000 while racing primarily against graded-stakes competition.
Another possible Turf Dash contender from the Casse barn is the stakes-placed 5-year-old gelding Flashaway, who has compiled a 3-for-10 mark while racing mostly at Woodbine in Toronto.
Meanwhile, trainer Kathleen DeMasi is expected to have runners in both turf sprint stakes, including possible Lightning City favorite Everything Lovely, a 5-year-old mare who won an allowance/optional claiming prep on the turf here on Nov. 25.
DeMasi also has a likely starter for the Turf Dash in 4-year-old gelding Dubini, who finished second in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship in New York on Nov. 25.
The Turf Dash closed last week with 31 nominations, while the Lightning City closed with 28 nominations.
Everything Lovely’s victory four weeks ago in the Lightning City Prep was the seventh of her career, including a triumph in May in The Very One Stakes at Pimlico. She was ridden last time by leading Oldsmar jockey Daniel Centeno.
Likely top challengers include the Arnaud Delacour-trained 3-year-old filly Smiling Causeway, who has finished first or second in each of her six races; the Grade III-placed 5-year-old Kasuga, trained by Hall of Famer William Mott; and 3-year-old Girls Know Best, an Eddie Kenneally trainee who is 6-for-10 in her career.
Other accomplished nominees include the Jason Servis-trained 4-year-old filly Blue Bahia, who won the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash at Gulfstream on Dec. 2, and My Sweet Dove, a 6-year-old trained by Ralph Ziadie who finished second to Blue Bahia and is remembered locally for her victory here in the 2013 Sandpiper Stakes.
The Turf Dash for males (although fillies and mares are eligible, none were nominated) could feature the second Oldsmar appearance of turf sprint specialist Pay Any Price, a 7-year-old gelding who has forged a 5-for-7 record, with one second, in 2017.
The Florida-bred from the barn of Ziadie has three stakes victories this year sprinting 5 furlongs on the turf at Gulfstream, including the Claiming Crown Canterbury on Dec. 2.
Also expected to compete are the top three finishers from the Dec. 2 Turf Dash Prep: 3-year-old gelding Go Cristian Go, 12-year-old Hold On Smokey and 5-year-old gelding American Sailor.
Another intriguing nominee is Vici, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Ben Colebrook.
Around the oval. Edwin Gonzalez and Jose L. Alvarez each rode two long-shot winners today. Gonzalez captured the first race on 9-1 shot Super Beau, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Roberto Baez and trained by Olivo I. Inirio. Gonzalez added the fifth on 19-1 outsider Srta. Keyden, a 2-year-old filly owned by Yenise Rosario-Colon and trained by Edwin Texidor, Jr.
Alvarez took the second race on 16-1 shot Call Me Handsome, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Del Sol Farm and trained by Karen C. Yanez. Alvarez notched the ninth on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Trismen, a 12-1 shot owned by Larry Gourneau, Jr., and trained by Dennis Ward.
Trainer H. Graham Motion sent out two winners. His 4-year-old gelding Scholar Athlete won the fourth race on the turf in a thrilling three-horse photo finish under jockey Daniel Centeno. West Point Thoroughbreds is the owner.
Motion then took the seventh, also on the turf, with 3-year-old filly Hawana. Ashley Castrenze rode the daughter of War Front for owner Rabbah Bloodstock.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is moving to a four-days-a-week schedule, with Thoroughbred competition on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The track begins it 2018 calendar giveaway Wednesday, with patrons receiving a free calendar throughout the weekend, while supplies last.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas 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. On Christmas Eve, The Downs Golf Practice Facility will close at 4:30 p.m., and The Silks Poker Room will be open from 10 a.m.-1 a.m.