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February 15, 2018

STRONG PERFORMANCE BY MAGNUM MOON; SANTOS RIDES 3 WINNERS

by Mike Henry
After displaying his natural speed last month in a maiden victory at Gulfstream, Magnum Moon proves to be a quick learner in Oldsmar allowance/optional claiming event; hat trick for jockey Ademar Santos capped by turf victory on 50-1 shot; Anthony Granitz is Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of Month.

Time will tell if racing fans at Tampa Bay Downs saw the next Always Dreaming today, but they were visibly impressed with the professional victory by Magnum Moon in today’s seventh race for 3-year-olds.

Making his second start and first around two turns, the Kentucky-bred colt moved to the lead in the stretch and powered away to a two-length victory from Hyndford, with Vouch a nose back in third in the five-horse field.

The top two finishers are trained by Todd Pletcher, who used a maiden special weight victory by Always Dreaming in January of 2017 as a springboard to that colt’s Kentucky Derby victory.

Magnum Moon’s time for the mile-and-40-yard distance on the main dirt track was 1:39.18, .11 seconds off the track record. Luis Saez rode the winner, who paid $2.20 as a huge betting favorite.

Magnum Moon, who is owned by Lawana L. and Robert E. Low, had won his career debut sprinting 6 furlongs on Jan. 13 at Gulfstream Park in 1:10.03.

“I thought it was everything we hoped it would be,” said Pletcher, who watched the race from south Florida. “We’ve had high hopes for him from the beginning, since my dad (J.J. Pletcher) and Gerard Butler had him at Payton Training Center in Ocala. He was impressive in his training and just seemed to get better and better.”

Magnum Moon, a son of Malibu Moon-Dazzling Song, out of Unbridled’s Song, appeared to take another step forward today. After rating behind the leaders for the first 6 furlongs, Magnum Moon challenged on the turn and pulled away with little urging.

Saez, who rode him in his first start, said he turned in a push-button performance today.

“He did everything perfect. When we came into the stretch, I put him in the clear and he took off,” Saez said. “I had so much horse, I could do whatever I wanted at that point. I never really asked him; he just did it by himself.

“He was more comfortable today than the first time,” Saez added.

Pletcher said Magnum Moon’s next start could be in the Grade III Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 17.

“I think he made a lot of progress today. Luis gave him a good ride, was able to sit off the pace and get him to rate behind horses, get some dirt in his face and educate him in the process,” Pletcher said.

“We have the Apollo jinx working against us,” added Pletcher, referring to the fact that no horse has won the Kentucky Derby after being unraced as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. “But I think he has put himself on the Derby prep trail.”

Granitz honored as Trainer of Month. The reputation of Tampa Bay Downs for helping young horses develop a firm foundation for rigorous competition is well-known to trainer Anthony Granitz.

Three seasons ago, Granitz arrived at Tampa Bay Downs with promising Indiana-bred 2-year-old filly Lady Fog Horn, bred and owned by The Elkstone Group.

Granitz saddled Lady Fog Horn for victories on both the Oldsmar main dirt track and the turf course (the latter as a 3-year-old). Her career took off after departure, as Lady Fog Horn won 14 of 26 starts with seven stakes victories, including the Grade II Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2016.

Lady Fog Horn, who also earned more than $400,000 in breeder and stallion awards, was named Indiana Horse of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

She might have been just as successful had she never ventured to Tampa Bay Downs. But Granitz, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month, echoes the opinion of many top horsemen when he lauds the Oldsmar track surfaces for their consistency, safety and stamina-building compositions.

“This is my 12th year coming to Tampa Bay Downs, and it is a great place to develop young horses,” said Granitz, who has won with four of his 12 most recent starters, along with four seconds and a third. “The weather is great, the turf course is outstanding and the dirt surface is one of the best anywhere to race and train on.”

The Lady Fog Horn story came full circle last month, when she sold as a broodmare prospect for $300,000 at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. There are no guarantees he’ll find another like her, but Granitz is psyched to begin the discovery process anew.

“Everything has been going really well,” he said. “I have some nice 3-year-olds for the turf that haven’t run yet.”

Granitz, who won last season’s Lightning City Stakes on the turf with Triple Chelsea (now trained by Joe Sharp), has unveiled a pair of promising Florida-bred 3-year-olds this season in filly Passion Plus (two victories locally, with a fourth in the Gasparilla Stakes) and gelding Mister Bister, who broke his maiden in a special weight contest at first asking in December. Both are owned by Calvin L. Johnston.

Another barn standout, 6-year-old mare America Mon Amie, was claimed recently for $32,000 by trainer Joan Scott.

Granitz has saddled more than 1,100 winners in his career, capturing the Grade III Hawthorne Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 1991 with Lord Joe and the Grade III Hawthorne Derby in 2003 with False Promises.

Mr. Mischief remains a personal favorite among Granitz’s retired runners. The 13-year-old gelding, a stakes winner who earned almost $500,000 on the racetrack and is boarded at nearby Innfields, is a riding horse for Anthony and wife Joy’s 13-year-old daughter, Eve. “I also trained his mother” (Coni Bug, a multiple-stakes winner), Granitz said.

The Chicago native, who lives outside Indianapolis and is looking to buy a house in the Tampa Bay area, credits assistants Juan Gongora and Isidro Castro and the rest of his team for assuring the operation runs smoothly.

“I also have great clients who give me the freedom to put the horses in the right races and let them develop,” Granitz said.

Around the oval. Ademar Santos rode three winners today, capped by his victory in the eighth and final race on the turf on 50-1 shot Saucy Symphony. That 4-year-old filly is owned by Rory Barron and Frank Barron and trained by Rory Barron.

Santos also won the first race on 3-year-old Florida-bred filly The Weef, owned by Dare To Dream Stable and trained by Rodolphe Brisset. Santos added the fourth race on D C Nine, a 4-year-old gelding, for breeder-owner Aschinger Bloodstock and trainer Gerald Aschinger.

Brisset won with both of his starters on today’s card. In addition to The Weef, the trainer won the third race on the turf, as his 3-year-old filly American Royal wore down the competition under jockey Willie Martinez. Brant Laue is the owner.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. No bettor hit the Pick-5 today, and the carryover pool on Friday’s late Pick-5 is $28,549.11.

Trainer Jorge Navarro will join track announcer Richard Grunder at Saturday’s “Morning Glory Club” show, which begins at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand. Patrons receive free coffee, donuts and Grandstand passes. Navarro has the probable favorite for Saturday’s $100,000 Pelican Stakes in 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding X Y Jet.

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.