Trainer Kathleen DeMasi has good shots with Everything Lovely in Lightning City, Dubini in Turf Dash; Antonio Gallardo to be honored as Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month, rides three winners; Sunday racing to return on New Year's Eve.
Back troubles have prevented owner-trainer Kathleen DeMasi from flying from her Parx Racing base in Pennsylvania to Oldsmar for Saturday’s $100,000 Lightning City Stakes and $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes.
But DeMasi believes her entrants, the 5-year-old mare Everything Lovely in the Lightning City and 4-year-old gelding Dubini in the Turf Dash, can handle their big-money, 5-furlong turf assignments at Tampa Bay Downs capably with her watching via simulcast.
“My assistant, Mike Pearson, is on top of everything, and both horses are doing very well,” DeMasi said Thursday.
Everything Lovely, who won the Lightning City Prep at the same distance on Nov. 25, is the 3-1 third choice on the morning line in the field of nine. Owned by DeMasi’s Pewter Stable in partnership with Armand Delaperriere, Everything Lovely will be ridden by Jose Ferrer.
The morning-line, 9-5 favorite is 3-year-old filly Smiling Causeway, who is owned by Audley Farm Stable and trained by Arnaud Delacour. Daniel Centeno will be the jockey.
The second choice at 5-2 is 6-year-old mare My Sweet Dove, owned by Stars Racing, LLC and trained by Ralph Ziadie. Edgard Zayas has the riding assignment.
The Lightning City Stakes is the sixth race on a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The day’s activity kicks off with the first edition of the Morning Glory Club, hosted by track announcer Richard Grunder, at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the grandstand. Free coffee and donuts will be served.
Everything Lovely will attempt to better her third-place finish in last year’s Lightning City. “I think she is coming up to the race as well as I can ask,” DeMasi said. “She’s a horse that puts a lot into her training, and she is coming up to it happy and sound.”
Everything Lovely will break from the No. 8 post under Ferrer. “He has been riding for me a long time and we have a good record together,” DeMasi said. “He’s always been a good speed rider, so he fits her well.”
Dubini, wholly owned by Pewter Stable, also has a quality pilot for the Turf Dash in leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Centeno, who has won six of the last 11 editions of the race and three of the last four.
The Turf Dash is slated as the eighth race.
Unraced until this year, Dubini broke his maiden in his career debut here on March 18 in a 5-furlong turf race and extended his winning streak to four before an unplaced effort in the Grade III Turf Monster at Parx on Sept. 4.
He finished second in his most recent start, the 6-furlong Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship on Nov. 25.
At 5-1, Dubini is the second choice on the morning-line in a 12-horse field (following the scratch of 4-1 shot Extravagant Kid) and will break from the No. 1 post.
DeMasi said Dubini showed more early speed earlier in the year, but appears more comfortable now making one big run from mid-pack or beyond. “When you lead him over there, he is going to give you 110 percent,” said DeMasi. “I think he suits Danny’s style, too, because he is a patient rider who is so strong in the stretch.”
The morning-line, 8-5 favorite is 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding Pay Any Price, trained by Ziadie, with Zayas to ride. Another horse certain to gain attention, despite his 20-1 morning-line odds, is 3-year-old gelding Go Cristian Go, who won the Turf Dash Prep on Dec. 2. Ronnie Allen, Jr., will again ride for trainer Luis Dominguez.
Gallardo is Señor Tequila Jockey of the Month. Two seasons ago, Antonio Gallardo rode a 3-year-old first-time starter named Imperial Hint to an eye-opening victory in a 7-furlong Tampa Bay Downs allowance in a sizzling time of 1:22.39. The Luis Carvajal, Jr.-trained Florida-bred colt lowered that time to 1:22.15 in his next start with Gallardo in the irons, the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes.
“That is the dream of every jockey every year, to have a nice horse like that,” said Gallardo, who watched Imperial Hint race to a second-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint last month under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. “In this game, you stay positive because you can find a good horse anywhere.”
The 30-year-old Spaniard, whose meteoric rise upon moving to the United States resulted in three consecutive riding titles at both Tampa Bay Downs and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., has shown a knack for winning all kinds of races, including five graded stakes the last two years.
But while Gallardo’s quest to secure another “big horse” continues at full speed, he’s a devoted family man who strives for the right balance between his professional and personal lives.
Gallardo’s early-meeting Oldsmar performance, with 17 victories, has earned him the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.
When the 2017 season at Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania ended in early October, Gallardo, his wife Polliana and their two children, Carlos, 9, and Christa, almost 4, traveled to his hometown of Jerez in Cadiz, Spain for about a month to visit his relatives.
Gallardo’s ambition to be known as one of the world’s best jockeys hasn’t changed. But the pull of home, both in Spain and Tampa, helps charge his batteries to succeed on the track.
“That (traveling to Spain) helped me a lot. My family is real close, and I was able to have fun with them and forget about the horses for a while,” said Gallardo, who got to visit his parents, his sister, his grandmother and other relatives. “If one of us is crying, everybody is crying, and if one of us is happy, everybody is happy.
“It was good for me mentally and good for my muscles and my bones. If I have a chance to go next year, I’m going again,” he added.
After riding in New York last season, where he finished seventh in the 2017 winter meeting standings at Aqueduct with 19 victories, Gallardo has returned to his home away from Spain on Florida’s west coast.
Gallardo, who finished second in North America in victories in both 2015 and 2016, riding 652 winners during that two-year period, recently bought a home on a farm a few miles from Tampa Bay Downs. The property includes a seven-stall barn, several paddocks and a riding arena.
Gallardo said the reasons he has returned to Tampa Bay Downs are “simple. It’s my home, my family is here and the weather is good. I was making more money in New York, but I wasn’t as happy.
“As a jockey, you risk your life every day. Yes, you have to make money, but you have to have fun and enjoy your family. Money comes and goes, but when time leaves, it never comes back to you.”
Gallardo finished third in the Monmouth Park standings this year with 50 victories. On Dec. 16, he won the inaugural $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on 3-year-old gelding Mo Cash with a bold move between rivals on the turn.
Among his five graded-stakes victories is the 2016 Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct on Hemsworth. He also won the $400,000 (ungraded) Poseidon Handicap last winter at Gulfstream on Imperative on the Pegasus World Cup Invitational card and finished fifth on War Story in the $12-million Pegasus.
It appears Gallardo’s next major assignment is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Whoever it happens to be with, the connections can rest assured their jockey will know the way home.
Around the oval. Gallardo rode three winners today, all in maiden events. He won the fourth race on Gotta Go Go Go, a 2-year-old filly owned by Ca Sal Stables and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. He added the fifth on the turf aboard Contador, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Ben Colebrook.
Gallardo then captured the 10th race on the turf on Nice Ride, a 2-year-old filly owned by Xavier Rivera and trained by Penny Hulme.
Daniel Centeno and Ronnie Allen, Jr., each rode two winners. Centeno won the first race on Candy War, a 5-year-old mare owned by K.A.P. Stable Stud and trained by Edwin Texidor, Jr. Centeno added the eighth race on the turf with Guess What, a 3-year-old filly owned by Bonne Chance Farm and trained by Arnaud Delacour.
Allen captured the second race on Moment in the Wind, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by RedBob Farm and trained by Dale Bennett. Allen teamed with Bennett’s father, trainer Gerald Bennett, to win the seventh race with Dog Soldier, a 5-year-old horse owned by Averill Racing.
In today’s third race, a 5 ½-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, 6-year-old Ontario-bred mare Chella turned on the afterburners to defeat Catsadiva by four-and-three-quarter lengths. The winner’s time for the distance was 1:04.64.
Chella, who is owned and trained by Elliot Sullivan, won for the 24th time in 39 starts. She was ridden by Samy Camacho. Chella has won 10 of her last 12 races, with two thirds, and her career earnings are $290,398.
Tampa Bay Downs moves to a four-days-a-week schedule on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, 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.