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February 23, 2018


by Mike Henry
Serjeant At Arms is believed to be the first horse from India to compete at Oldsmar oval, turns in strong runner-up effort; Scott Spieth, Samy Camacho each ride two winners; Tampa Turf Test races on tap Saturday.

A large measure of intrigue, coupled with a dash of exotic flair, surrounded today’s fifth race, an allowance/optional claiming event for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf.

But according to Vispi Patel, the co-owner of betting favorite Serjeant At Arms, the atmosphere in India’s racing community was positively electric – even at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“Everybody there woke up to watch him run,” Patel said of the 5-year-old India-bred horse, who was 12-for-14 in his homeland with two seconds, a record that included four Grade I victories and earnings of $670,325.

Scholar Athlete  Serjeant At Arms (2)

No. 4 Scholar Athlete, himself an Ontario-bred gelding, defeats H. Graham Motion-trained stablemate Serjeant At Arms (on rail, partially obscured) of India in today's allowance feature (Photograph courtesy of Elizabeth Swarzman)

While he didn’t win, Serjeant At Arms acquitted himself admirably in his first stateside race and first outing since Aug. 4. Ridden by Feargal Lynch, Serjeant At Arms threatened graded stakes-placed Scholar Athlete briefly in the stretch before settling for a second-place finish, three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

It is believed to be the first time a horse from India has competed at Tampa Bay Downs.

The top two finishers are trained by H. Graham Motion. Pablo Morales rode the winner, a West Point Thoroughbreds-owned, 5-year-old gelding who improved to 5-for-21.

Scholar Athlete paid $14 to win. Afterward, Motion said he was pleased with the effort of both horses.

“Scholar is a very hard-knocking horse. I thought (Serjeant At Arms) ran very well,” said Motion, who had been working the horse on the turf course at his Palm Meadows Training Center base in Boynton Beach since late December.

“It was a lot to ask being his first race over here, plus he was going the opposite way today (counter-clockwise, as opposed to clockwise in India) and he hadn’t run for a while. And this was a competitive field; it was like a Grade III stakes race.

“So it just looked like maybe it got to him a little bit the last part of the race,” Motion said. “Plus, Scholar has been running all winter and is very fit.”

The winner’s time on a firm turf course was 1:47.64, slightly more than a second off Tepin’s course record.

Patel, who owns Serjeant At Arms in partnership with Khushroo N. Dhunjibhoy, said the horse’s dam, Rahy’s Serenade, is a blue-hen broodmare who has produced numerous graded-stakes winners.

Motion and Patel will wait a while to decide what’s next for the no-longer mysterious visitor to the Oldsmar oval. “We just wanted to get him started today,” the conditioner said.

Around the oval. Scott Spieth and Samy Camacho each rode two winners today. Spieth scored in the first race on Navasoda, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred and owned by Beth Hendry, Milton Hendry and Norman Hendry and trained by Stacy L. Hendry.

Spieth added the seventh race on the turf with Chosen Royal, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Linda Merritt and trained by Michael Lerman.

Camacho swept the late daily double, first capturing thr eighth race on Polygram, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Stanley Officina and Hemingway Racing and trained by Ian Hemingway.

Camacho then won the ninth race on the turf on Got Glee, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Janice M. Clark and trained by Laura Cazares.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Saturday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. The program features the third legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series for older horses.

Both races will be contested on the grass at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth.

In the Fillies and Mares Division, which is the third race on the card, 4-year-old filly Jermyn Street puts her 3-for-3 record at Tampa Bay Downs (including the second leg of the Tampa Turf Test on Jan. 6) on the line against five rivals. Keith Nations trains and co-owns Jermyn Street, who will be ridden by Jose Ferrer.

The Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test is the eighth race, with a field of nine older horses and geldings. The morning-line favorite is 7-year-old gelding Celebrity Warrior, who also won the second leg of the series. He is trained by Derek Ryan, with Daniel Centeno named to ride.

Saturday’s festivities begin at 10 a.m. with the “Morning Glory Club” show, hosted by track announcer Richard Grunder on the first floor of the Grandstand. His special guest is Samy Camacho, the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve Weekend, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed, and Wednesday, May 2.

Otherwise, 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.

“Hearts Reaching Out” golf tournament, dinner and auction fast approaching. The track’s Festival Week, which culminates on March 10 with a five-stakes card highlighted by the 38th edition of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, begins Monday, March 5 with the 26th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” golf event, dinner and auction.

Long-time racing fans and newcomers to the sport have an opportunity to get up close and personal with jockeys, trainers and track officials by participating in the fundraiser, which benefits the Race Track Chaplaincy of America-Tampa Bay Downs Division.

The golf tournament, which utilizes a four-person scramble format, will be played at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar beginning at 11 a.m. The dinner and charity auction, along with an awards ceremony, begin at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Tampa Bay Downs Grandstand.

Among its many objectives, the RTCA-Tampa Bay Downs Division strives to improve the lives of backstretch workers – often described as horse racing’s “unsung heroes and heroines” – and their families.

Under the leadership of the Chaplain, Donny Christopher, and Chaplaincy President Sharyn Wasiluk, the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA holds weekly church services, conducts English classes two days a week, and sponsors a Catholic Charities Medical Trailer on Wednesday.

The cost to play golf and enjoy an excellent meal is $100. The fee for the dinner and auction only is $20. Individuals are also encouraged to donate horse racing and other sports memorabilia, gift certificates and the like for the auction, and/or to sponsor a hole in the tournament for $125, which entitles you to signage with your company’s name and logo.

For details, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.