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January 06, 2018


by Mike Henry
Celebrity Warrior rolls through the lane to win Males Division of Tampa Turf Test; Jermyn Street takes over on turn to capture Females Division.

Derek Ryan limits his race-riding advice for Daniel Centeno to the bare minimum. “He won the Tampa Bay Derby for me (in 2009, on Musket Man),” Ryan said. “I don’t think I need to tell him what to do.”

But Ryan gave Centeno a quick reminder before sending him out aboard Celebrity Warrior for today’s Tampa Turf Test-Males Division: Make sure to launch his move from the outside.

“Those were the only instructions I gave, because this horse won’t come up the inside,” the conditioner said after the 7-year-old gelding and Centeno rolled to a length-and-a-half victory from Bird Humor in the eighth race, the second leg of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series for colts and geldings. “He has been doing really well in his training, and (Centeno) had him where he needed to be.”

Bird Humor had won the first leg of the series’ Males Division on Nov. 25, with Celebrity Warrior sixth.

A 10-1 shot in the 10-horse field, Celebrity Warrior paid $23.20 to win after completing the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance on the grass in 1:41.54. Wagon Boss held on for third, with pace-setter Great Harbour Cay fading to sixth.

In the Tampa Turf Test-Fillies and Mares Division, contested as the fourth race, betting favorite Jermyn Street posted a length-and-a-quarter victory from Believe Indeed in a time of 1:42.42 on the turf course. More on Jermyn Street shortly.

Celebrity Warrior’s victory was his first in seven turf tries at Tampa Bay Downs and sixth in 34 career starts. The son of Majestic Warrior-Miss Celebrity, by Hennessy, is owned by Joseph H. Pierce, Jr., who has transferred training duties of the horse to Ryan the last two seasons at the Oldsmar oval.

Centeno said he thinks Celebrity Warrior is better than last winter. He rode him confidently despite a slow start that found him in last place up the backstretch.

“I saw that he had a nice record this summer at Monmouth, and I know he always tries,” Centeno said. “They were going a little quick up front, so I just let him run comfortable up the backstretch. When it was time to go I put him outside, and he took off,” Centeno said.

“Turning for home I had plenty of horse, and he completely ran away from everybody.”

Now, make no mistake: Trainer Keith Nations runs the show at his Nation’s Racing Stable. But in the case of Tampa Turf Test-Fillies and Mares Division winner Jermyn Street, he’s willing to cut her some slack.

“Every horse is different, and this filly is kind of sensitive and not real big, so you can’t train on her too hard,” Nations said after the 4-year-old’s length-and-a-quarter length victory from Believe Indeed in a time of 1:42.42 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth. “You have to know when you’re going to give her a strong training day and when to back off on her, because if you get too hard on her, she gets a little sour in her stall.”

One might envision Jermyn Street feasting on carrots, apples and even peppermints after she took over from pace-setter Mast Cove on the far turn and rolled to victory under jockey Jose Ferrer. Mast Cove, who won the 1-mile first leg of the Tampa Turf Test-Fillies and Mares Division on Nov. 25, held on for third in the nine-horse field.

Savvy bettors who noticed Jermyn Street’s recent form lowered her odds to 17-10 by post time. She has now won three of her last four races, including her last two at the Oldsmar oval under the care of Nations, who claimed her for $20,000 from a victory at Monmouth Park on Sept. 9 in which Ferrer made her acquaintance.

“Keith has her performing at her best right now. She is running lights out, and I’m just lucky enough to be part of the team,” said Ferrer, who piloted the daughter of Quality Road-Servalina, by A.P. Indy to a Dec. 6 victory here in a waiver claiming, 1-mile turf race for non-winners of three races.

“He told me not to let (Mast Cove) get loose on the lead and to try to lay off her in second and try to finish the best I could. I had a nice hold on the backside, and at the 5/16-mile pole I asked her a little and she just took off and was gone,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer was also aboard Jermyn Street for her victory at Monmouth for her previous connections. She is 4-for-14 in her career.

Nations, whose Nation’s Racing Stable owns Jermyn Street in partnership with Vince Campanella, said it is always a risk to claim a horse for five figures, but the move appears inspired.

He heaped praise on Ferrer, who has made a remarkable recovery from an accident at Delaware in September in which he incurred a collapsed lung, eight broken ribs and three fractured vertebrae in a multi-horse spill.

“It’s unbelievable to me that he is even back riding this early,” Nations said. “Every time I see Jose he has a smile on his face, and he is always positive. I’m really proud to be able to win races with him.”

The Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2017-2018.

Around the oval. Centeno also won today’s fifth race, a maiden claiming contest, on the 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Cootie Alert for owner Ups and Downs Racing and trainer Monte R. Thomas, who also bred the horse under his Ups and Downs Farm banner.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The program is equally divided between dirt and turf, with co-features on both surfaces.

The sixth race, a $22,500 maiden special weight for older horses racing a mile on the turf, has attracted a field of nine headed by Shortlist, a 4-year-old colt owned by Robert G. Schaedle, III and trained by Chistophe Clement. Although winless, he has finished second in five of seven lifetime starts. Brian Pedroza has the riding assignment.

The seventh race, also offering a $22,500 purse, is an allowance/$16,000 optional claiming affair for older fillies and mares going a mile-and-40 yards on the main track. Trainer Eoin Harty sends out the 2-1 morning-line favorite, the 4-year-old filly Marlinspike, who is owned by Gainesway Stable and will be ridden by Pablo Morales. Marlinspike is 1-for-3, the victory coming via disqualification in a $65,000 maiden special weight contest at Keeneland in October.

Tampa Bay Downs currently is racing on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with two Thursdays added to the mix on Feb. 15 and 22. 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.