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January 27, 2018


by Mike Henry
After enduring a tough dry spell, journeyman Pedro Cotto, Jr., has ridden five winners since Jan. 17; Jesus Castanon rebounds in fine fashion after Friday mishap; Antonio Gallardo sweeps late daily double; bon voyage, Gun Runner.

Two weeks ago, when journeyman rider Pedro Cotto, Jr., couldn’t buy a winner with the money in a Monte Carlo casino, he relied on advice his mother gave him earlier in his career to stay positive.

“She told me when you try too hard, you make mistakes,” said Cotto, who rode back-to-back winners on today’s card. “She said if I just let things flow, the winners would come.”


Pedro Cotto, Jr.

Cotto, 33, has overcome an early-meeting dry spell to ride five winners since Jan. 17. He helped 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Vineyard Harbour break his maiden in the fifth race today for owner-trainer Ray Stifano, then won the sixth race on the turf, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on 6-year-old mare America Mon Amie for trainer Anthony Granitz and co-owners Granitz, David Menard and Captain Jack Racing Stable.

America Mon Amie was claimed from the race for $32,000 by trainer Joan Scott for new owner Steve Ballou.

“My horses weren’t running bad (earlier in the meeting),” Cotto said. “I was confident it wasn’t my fault; another horse was just running a little better. Things are starting to go the right way now.”

Long-time Cotto supporter Stifano believed his slump, if it must be called that, was more like a temporary blip on the radar screen, a period almost every jockey endures.

“He has a lot of ability. I think he is as good a rider as anybody here,” Stifano said. “He’s ridden for me for a long time; when he first came here (about 11 years ago), I told him how you need to ride the crown of the racetrack (coming around the far turn), and he listened to me and started winning races.

“Pedro is good on the front end, and he’s good coming from off the pace,” added Stifano, who has enjoyed good success with Cotto at Monmouth Park over the years. “I’ve always felt comfortable using him, and he’s on his game right now.”

Cotto, who rode at Arlington last summer, is at a stage of his career where he’s eager to justify the faith of such horsemen as Stifano and Granitz. “I’ve always been the same guy, but I’m maybe a little more mature, more professional. You spend this many years in the business, you learn,” he said.

“I like to work in the mornings, and it’s made me see this year how hard other people who are successful work in the morning,” he said. “I know that trainers appreciate my feedback about a horse.

“I know if I try my best, people like Mr. Stifano will always find me a winner. That’s another reason to stay positive,” he said.

Around the oval. Trainer Anthony Granitz also won the seventh race, sending out 6-year-old gelding Chicory Blue to victory. The Ontario-bred is owned by Granitz in partnership with Carmen Tiritilli and Ron Venturini.

Chicory Blue’s triumph was one of two on the card for the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month, Jesus Castanon, who rebounded after being unseated from his mount in Friday’s eighth race.

Castanon’s first victory today came in the fourth race on the turf on Phenomenal Gem, a 3-year-old filly owned by Quintessential Racing Florida and trained by Mark Casse.

Antonio Gallardo rode three winners. The track’s leading jockey notched the second race on Miss Cay O’Sea, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Ca Sal Stables and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Gallardo added the ninth race on Charcuterie, a 3-year-old Florida-bred lass owned by Rigney Racing and trained by Philip Bauer.

Gallardo swept the late daily double, winning the 10th race on the turf on Great Harbour Cay, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Acclaimed Racing Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez. Great Harbour Cay was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Dennis Ward for new owner Robson Thoroughbreds.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The feature is the second race, a $26,500 allowance/optional claiming event for older fillies and mares sprinting 6 furlongs.

The morning-line, 5-2 favorite in the wide-open affair is My Mertie, a 6-year-old owned by Terry Biondo, Oak Rock Racing and Cherrywood Racing Stables, II and trained by Michele Boyce. Edwin Gonzalez has been named to ride My Mertie, who finished second here in the 2017 Minaret Stakes to Spanish Concert and won the Third Chance Handicap in April at Hawthorne in Illinois.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with two Thursday cards scheduled 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.