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March 04, 2018


by Mike Henry
First $1-million stakes day in track history on Saturday draws top runners; Daniel Centeno rides three winners on today's program.

Triple Crown hopefuls and a trio of Grade I stakes winners are among the standout Thoroughbred performers expected to invade Tampa Bay Downs for Saturday’s stakes-laden Festival Day 38 card.

Total purse money for the five stakes is $1-million, an all-time track record. Both the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds on the main track and the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward on the turf have been increased to record purse levels.

The other stakes on the program are the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf; the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

The 38th edition of the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which has produced two Kentucky Derby winners in Street Sense (the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner) and Super Saver (the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher), is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Prep Race, awarding points to the first four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale toward qualifying for the May 5 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

This year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is expected to feature a rematch between the first and third-place finishers in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 10.

Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway, owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, boasts a 5-for-7 record that includes four stakes victories. Oxley and Casse teamed to win the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective.

Vino Rosso, who staged a belated rally to finish third in the Sam F. Davis, is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable – the latter entity a partner in last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, who had broken his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs that January.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Vino Rosso, will be seeking his fourth consecutive Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby victory and sixth overall. Pletcher has won the race with Tapwrit (2017), Destin (2016), Carpe Diem (2015), Verrazano (2013) and Limheouse (2004).

Another trainer to have won multiple runnings of the Oldsmar showcase, H. Graham Motion, is expected to enter West Point Thoroughbreds’ Untamed Domain, a Grade II winner who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November at Del Mar.

Motion won the 2014 Tampa Bay Derby with Ring Weekend and the 2002 renewal with Equality.

Still another conditioner expected to seek “déjà vu all over again” is Kenneth McPeek, who trains probable Grandpa Knows Best for owner Fern Circle Stables. McPeek won the race in 1999 with Pineaff.

Other expected entrants include multiple Grade II-placed Tiz Mischief, owned by Frank L. Jones, Jr., and trained by Dale Romans; this season’s Pasco Stakes winner World of Trouble, owned by Michael Dubb and trained by Jason Servis; Quip, owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing and trained by Rodolphe Brisset; and Inaugural Stakes runner-up Arazi Like Move, owned by Loooch Racing Stables and trained by Aldana Gonzalez.

The 20th staging of the mile-and-an-eighth Hillsborough Stakes appears set to bring together a star-studded assembly of turf-loving females, headed by Grade I winners Daddys Lil Darling, La Coronel and Off Limits.

Daddys Lil Darling, a 4-year-old filly who has amassed in excess of $1.1-million in career earnings, is owned by Normandy Farm and trained by McPeek. Her biggest victory came in the Grade I American Oaks in December at Santa Anita.

La Coronel, a 4-year-old from the potent combination of Oxley and Casse, won the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes presented by Lane’s End in October at Keeneland. She has finished second in her two previous races at Tampa Bay Downs: this year’s Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour and last year’s Florida Oaks.

The 6-year-old Irish-bred mare Off Limits, owned by Martin S. Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, joined the ranks of Grade I winners in her most recent outing, the Matriarch Stakes in November at Del Mar.

Other likely Hillsborough starters include Grade II winner Proctor’s Ledge, owned by Patricia L. Moseley and trained by Brendan Walsh; another Grade II winner, Lovely Bernadette, owned by James M. Miller and trained by James DiVito; Grade III winner Fourstar Crook, owned by Michael Dubb, Gary Aisquith and Bethlehem Stables and trained by Brown; Wayward Lass Stakes winner Well Humored, owned by WinStar Stablemates Racing and trained by Arnaud Delacour; multiple stakes-winner Dynatail, owned by Ballybrit Stable and trained by Michael Dini; third-place Lambholm South Endeavour finisher Truly Together; and Full of Zip, owned by Pin Oak Stud and trained by Motion.

The 35th edition of the Florida Oaks, contested at a mile-and-a-sixteenth distance, will be run on the turf course for the eighth time since being moved from the main track in 2011.

The leading probables are West Point Thoroughbreds, Tango Uniform Racing and Robert Masiello’s Best Performance, trained by Christophe Clement, and Almond Roca, owned by Chadds Ford Stable and trained by Motion.

Best Performance has finished second in five consecutive starts since breaking her maiden in May at Belmont. Three of those runner-up efforts came in graded stakes, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Del Mar.

Almond Roca has captured the hearts of Oldsmar fans this season, with victories in the Sandpiper Stakes in December and the Gasparilla Stakes in January.

Other likely Florida Oaks starters include Brown trainees Salsa Bella and Altea; Andina Del Sur, conditioned by Tom Albertrani; Cash Out, from the barn of George R. Arnold, II; Closer Still, trained by Casse; Souper Striking, trained by Michael Trombetta; and the Delacour-trained Jehozacat.

 Also possible for the Florida Oaks is C. S. Incharge, who won last month’s Suncoast Stakes here on the dirt for trainer Dale Romans.

Although not graded, the Challenger, to be run for the 27th time, has produced a treasure trove of magnificent winners, foremost among them the Ian Wilkes-trained Fort Larned, who used his 2012 victory in the race as a springboard to success in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Last year’s Challenger winner, Stanford, set the Oldsmar track record for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance of 1:41.75.

This year’s Challenger probables include 6-year-old gelding War Story, a Grade II winner with career earnings of more than $2.2-million owned by Imaginary Stables, Daybreak Stables and Glen Ellis and trained by Jorge Navarro; Rafting, a stakes-winning 5-year-old gelding trained by Motion who finished second in the 2016 Sam F. Davis; McPeek’s Brazilian 5-year-old import Vettori Kin, a multiple group stakes-winner in his homeland; and the Pletcher-trained 4-year-old You’re to Blame.

Possible entrants include the 8-year-old stakes-winning gelding Twocubanbrothersu, from the barn of his co-owner, John Rigattieri; stakes-winning 5-year-old Jay’s Way, trained by Armando De la cerda; Saratoga Jack, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Miguel Vera; and Orpheus, a 7-year-old conditioned by Eduardo Caramori.

The 1-mile Columbia Stakes on the grass enjoys its second running since being renewed following a seven-year hiatus (it was originally contested as the Chris Thomas Turf Classic).

Among the 3-year-olds expected to compete are Blueblood, an unbeaten (2-for-2) stakes winner owned by Fox Hill Farms and trained by Casse; Verboten, 2-for-2 on the turf for owner Pin Oak Stud and trainer Malcolm Pierce; Pletcher’s Irish-bred Gidu, a stakes-placed colt owned by Zayat Stables; stakes winner Driven by History, owned by Carl L. Hess, Jr., and trained by Teresa Connelly; stakes-placed Captivating Moon, owned by Lothenbach Stables and trained by Chris Block; stakes-placed The X, owned by Robert V. LaPenta and trained by Ben Colebrook; and stakes-placed King Angelus, owned by Andry Blanco and trained by Alexis Cordero-Lopez.  

Around the oval. Daniel Centeno rode three winners today. He won the first race on 5-year-old gelding Marrakech, owned by La Surestada Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett. Marrakech was claimed from the victory by trainer Troy Wismer for new owner Hot Scot Racing Stables.

Centeno added the third race on 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Fancy Man for owner Yenise Rosario-Colon and trainer Edwin Texidor, Jr. He came back to win the fifth aboard 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Prospective Lady for owners James Georgeades, Gregge Dasher and Ronald Pugliese, Jr., and trainer Gerald Bennett.

Pablo Morales rode two winners. He captured the fourth race with Dynashe, a 3-year-old filly owned by DARRS, Inc., and trained by Michael Stidham. Dynashe was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Juan Arriagada.

Morales also won the seventh race on the turf on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Happy Wanderer for breeder-owner Vegso Racing Stable and trainer Dale Bennett.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:23 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed.

Otherwise, 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.