Grade III-winning 5-year-old mare Martini Glass is the undisputed star of the Keith Nations stable, but he has enough other good horses to keep rising in the Oldsmar standings.
Keith Nations could not have envisioned how a $16,000 claim would change his life two years ago. He had spotted the unraced 3-year-old filly, Martini Glass, during Tampa Bay Downs training hours, and was impressed by her smooth, fluid running style and the way she carried herself.
His high opinion of the daughter of Kitalpha-Glassy, by Run Softly, was confirmed when she rallied from far back to capture her career debut by two-and-a-quarter lengths. Another horseman had also put in a claim, but Nations won the two-way shake to take ownership of the promising Kentucky-bred.
Flash forward two years to Feb. 19 of this season, when Nations brought his now-5-year-old stable star to Gulfstream Park for the Grade III, 1-mile Royal Delta Stakes. Martini Glass and jockey Paco Lopez rolled past favorite Lewis Bay in the stretch, giving Nations his first graded-stakes victory as a trainer.
“She’s been a life-changer, and great for my career,” said Nations, who owns Martini Glass with wife Cheryl under their Nation’s Racing Stable banner in partnership with Vince Campanella of Maryland. “We’re always talking about a lot of races we can go to and places she might take us.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff, and we are enjoying the ride.”
Martini Glass, whose record under Nations includes runner-up finishes in the Grade I Delaware Handicap and the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes last year, is 9-for-22 lifetime with earnings of $653,675. Nations said he is considering the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes on March 10 on the Oldsmar turf course and the Grade II, $350,000 Azeri Stakes on March 17 at Oaklawn Park for her next start.
While the Royal Delta victory gained national attention for Nations, he hardly neglected business on the home front. With six victories from 10 starts over a five-day period – a streak that moved him into a tie for third place in the Oldsmar standings with 15 victories – Nations claimed (without a shake) Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month honors.
He capped his torrid run Saturday by capturing both legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series with 4-year-old filly Jermyn Street and 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Crimson Hayes. Both were ridden by Jose Ferrer, who was named two days later as the 69th recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.
Nations, who also trains such fine runners as multiple stakes-winning 4-year-old filly Grand Prix (second in the Minaret Stakes here on Feb. 17), stakes-winning 5-year-old horse Mister Nofty and Flashy Kyem, a stakes-placed 5-year-old gelding, first made a splash at Tampa Bay Downs two years ago in his first season at the track, winning the Pasco Stakes with Morning Fire and finishing third with him in the 2016 Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes.
“We enjoy it more and more here each year,” said the 57-year-old Nations, a former FedEx driver who began his own stable in 2001 at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., then worked a couple of years as a jockey’s agent before switching to training for good in 2009. “Tampa is my favorite city; we bought a home here last summer, and the area around the track is beautiful.
“There are many mornings we’ll be sitting in the grandstand watching workouts, and we’ll see the sun come up and the view is just breathtaking. The stable area is very relaxing for horses, and the Grandstand has a lot of character,” Nations said. “I’ve heard some agents refer to it as ‘Mayberry,’ because everyone is so friendly and the trainers seem to get along better than at most places.”
As luck would have it, Ray Nations, Keith’s dad, was visiting from Seattle during the recent hot streak. He wants to come back in April, and Keith is considering asking him to stay next time.
“He said it looks great on TV and it looks even better in person,” Keith said. “If we get in a little slump, you know who we’ll be calling.”
Cheryl Nations handles the business end of the operation, as well as providing various forms of therapy to keep their horses happy and at a high performance level.
Their assistants at Tampa Bay Downs, Tom Clark and Giovanni Luqueno, are indispensable cogs in the wheel. “Tom has a lot of experience and does a good job overseeing things at the barn,” Nations said. “Giovanni also gallops for us and is a dedicated, loyal assistant who does a phenomenal job, along with the rest of our crew.”
And of course, there is Ferrer, who seems to get better with age. “It’s amazing the success we’ve had together, and for him to win the Woolf award, it could not happen to a better person,” Nations said.
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame recognizes Tampa Bay Downs. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., will showcase the history of Tampa Bay Downs as its Industry Partner of the Month throughout March, it was announced today.
The Museum will display memorabilia from the track and share important moments and milestones in the track’s 92-year history through social media outreach and on-site events. On March 10, which is Festival Day 38 at Tampa Bay Downs, the Museum will host a Saturday Social from 10-11 a.m.
That event will feature race replays of past editions of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and a discussion of this year’s race with the Museum’s Director of Communications, Brien Bouyea.
On March 15, the Museum’s Horse Explorers program for children will feature Tampa Bay Downs and introduce its mascot, Mouse the Miniature Horse, to those in attendance.
“We’re very excited to showcase the wonderful history of Tampa Bay Downs as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Industry Partner of the Month for March,” said Cathy Marino, the Museum’s Director.
“We are delighted to support the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as Industry Partner of the Month and to celebrate the Thoroughbred horse and Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs,” said Tampa Bay Downs President-Treasurer Stella F. Thayer. “Hopefully this new outreach on the part of the Museum will provide the public with new awareness of racetracks across America.”
Around the oval. Samy Camacho rode two winners today. He won the third race on the turf on Word On the Street, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Josie Gump and trained by Bill Sienkewicz. Camacho added the sixth race on Pink Mama, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Juan Cacho Castro and trained by Gerald Bennett.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. 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 is Monday. 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 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.