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February 22, 2018


by Mike Henry
Senor Tequila Jockey of Month inspired by his fellow riders; Pablo Morales continues to shine; Dialed in Golf Solutions TrackMan swing analysis Saturday at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

On the surface, there wasn’t anything special about Wednesday’s eighth race at Tampa Bay Downs, an $8,000 claiming contest for fillies and mares which had never won two races.

But don’t tell that to the winning jockey, Samy Camacho.

On the far turn of the five-and-a-half furlong race, Camacho and 6-year-old mare Mamachita appeared stuck in mid-pack on the rail with nowhere to go. But the 29-year-old Venezuelan managed to urge Mamachita into contention before finding a narrow opening between horses at the eighth pole.


Samy Camacho

The betting favorite, Oh Kandrita, was also moving well, but Camacho managed to duck his horse inside for the final push. Mamachita prevailed by a head, and Camacho’s bold play with a furlong remaining impressed bettors who value a jockey willing to take chances when it can make the difference between winning and losing.

Yeah, it’s a tough profession, and Camacho is starting to show the kind of steely resolve that will take his career beyond Oldsmar.

“He’s energetic, and he knows how to position horses,” said south Florida-based trainer Bernardo G. Lopez after winning at Tampa Bay Downs for the first time. “He’s got a good clock in his head. He’s just a good, all-around rider who has everything he needs to be one of the best jockeys here.”

The victory, Camacho’s 10th from 29 mounts over five racing days, secured him the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month award. Another victory today, in the first race on Mt. Katahdin for trainer Alfonso Macerola, keeps him third in the track standings with 31 victories.

Camacho said the decision to keep Mamachita inside and move between horses was a no-brainer if he wanted to have any shot to win. “I saw four horses in front of me at the top of the stretch, so it looked like I wouldn’t have a chance if I went outside,” he said.

“(At the eighth pole), the two horses ahead of me were together for a moment, then it opened up a little. I knew that was my chance, and I said ‘Let’s go.’ ”

Again, it was one race, for horses that haven’t distinguished themselves. But it provided another indication that Camacho is developing the drive, focus and perspective to climb to the next level.

Agent Steve Elzey thinks a trip to Santa Anita to ride a 50-1 shot in the Sweet Life Stakes on Feb. 11 on the downhill turf course might have opened Camacho’s eyes to the possibilities that come with unquenchable desire.

Elzey arranged for Camacho to talk to southern California mainstays Rafael Bejarano and Alonso Quinonez, former clients of the agent, about their experiences and what Camacho needs to do to progress his career.

Coming on the heels of a recent discussion with Tampa Bay Downs rider Willie Martinez, winner of the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Trinniberg in 2012, about what the opportunity to ride at Santa Anita signified, the insight provided by Bejarano and Quinonez gave Camacho encouragement and inspiration.

“Basically, they’ve told him this game will pass you by if you don’t get serious,” Elzey said. “Samy has always had a lot of ability, but now he’s putting it all together. He has clicked almost overnight, and right now I would put him with any rider here.

“When he came back from California, he got to the track the earliest I’ve ever seen him here. He’s getting the kind of focus he needs to be successful, and I’m planning to talk to some of the big trainers at Gulfstream about using him.”

Although his filly at Santa Anita was an also-ran, Camacho traveled to Gulfstream on Saturday to capture the $50,000 Lady Bird starter stakes aboard 7-year-old mare Chella for owner-trainer Elliot Sullivan.

Make no mistake: Camacho is still capable of being awed by places such as Santa Anita, set against the backdrop of the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, with its quirky downhill turf course and history to match that of any track. But sight-seeing is for tourists and Camacho is beginning to embrace his ability to give this area’s snowbirds something worthwhile to watch.

“They (Bejarano and Quinonez) told me I have to keep working hard every day to keep getting those kind of opportunities,” said Camacho. “They said if I stayed focused, in a couple of years I can be a top jockey.”

Camacho, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, is talking about challenging for the Tampa Bay Downs riding title next season. That might seem premature, but how are you going to keep him down on the farm when he’s ridden the Santa Anita downhill turf course, against some outstanding jockeys, to boot?

“I thank my God every day, and the trainers for giving me these opportunities,” he said. “I talked to those other riders for their experience and to learn, and I came back seeing things different.”

Around the oval. Pablo Morales rode three winners on today’s card, giving him 14 since Jan. 31. Morales won the fourth race on Jojo’s Spensive, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. Morales added the fifth on first-time starter Forced, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Newtown Anner Stud and trained by Miguel Vera.

Morales scored again in the seventh aboard Lady’s Island, a 4-year-old filly bred in Florida and owned by Bailey Bolen and trained by Joseph Arboritanza.

Leading Oldsmar jockey Antonio Gallardo rode two winners, both on the turf. He captured the third race on Sweet Moochie, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Team Grande Racing and trained by Chad Stewart. Gallardo added the eighth with Tyr, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Robbie Norman and trained by Keith Nations.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. The feature is the fifth race, a $25,500 allowance/optional claiming event for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf.

The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Smooth Daddy, a 7-year-old horse trained by Tom Albertrani who won last year’s Grade III Fort Marcy Stakes on the inner turf at Belmont. Daniel Centeno has been named to ride Smooth Daddy.

Downs Golf offers swing analysis. Dialed in Golf Solutions, which uses the popular TrackMan Golf program to provide golfers with the information they need to improve, is offering 30-minute swing analysis sessions from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at The Downs Golf Practice Facility. The cost for the package, which includes tips from a pro and personal video and statistical analysis via e-mail, is $36.

To register, visit on the Internet or call (727) 687-9111.

Tampa Bay Downs 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.