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March 24, 2018


by Mike Henry
Hot broth, with noodles, for Florida Cup fans; Antonio Gallardo rides three winners, extends lead in jockey standings; Navy Armed Guard breaks through.

While their value to handicappers is arguable, the following fun facts about Florida Cup Day at Tampa Bay Downs are certain to add to racing fans’ enjoyment of Sunday’s 16th annual celebration of the state’s breeding and racing industries.

The Florida Cup had its genesis in the summer of 2002, when track President-Treasurer Stella F. Thayer and Vice President of Marketing & Publicity Margo Flynn visited Delaware Park for a similar event featuring enhanced purses and a horsemen’s luncheon.

Upon returning to Tampa Bay Downs, Flynn contacted representatives from the track’s horsemen’s group, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and some of the state’s top breeders to gauge their interest and level of support.

The idea was embraced from all sides and title sponsors were secured, helping Tampa Bay Downs to offer $75,000 for each of six stakes, three each on dirt and the already-heralded turf course that had opened five years earlier.

Last year, Florida Cup purses were raised to $100,000. A strong lure, indeed, but first and foremost, the Florida Cup stands as a vehicle to honor such Florida-bred legends as 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, Dr. Fager, Silver Charm, Unbridled, Precisionist, Cozzene, Prized, Needles, Carry Back, Foolish Pleasure, One Dreamer and two-time Florida Cup winner World Approval, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and Eclipse Award Champion Turf Male.

Sunday’s Florida Cup action begins with the second race, the Horse Races NOW Sprint. The 7th-through-11th races, all Florida Cup events, comprise an all-stakes Pick-5 wager, with a beckoning 15-percent takeout.

Those races, in order, are the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies; the EG Vodka Turf Classic; the DRF Bets Sophomore Turf; the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore; and the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf.

Post time for Sunday’s first race is 12:12 p.m. Each of the Florida Cup races is for registered Florida-breds.

Here are a few other Florida Cup tidbits to impress your friends or total strangers with:

  • Glen Hill Farm, the Ocala breeding and racing showcase started in 1966 by the late Leonard Lavin, leads all owners with eight Florida Cup victories. Glen Hill also leads the breeders’ list with seven triumphs (2011 Sophomore Turf winner Extensive was bred by Lavin’s grandson, Glen Hill President, Craig Bernick).
  • Tom Proctor, who followed in the footsteps of his late father Willard Proctor as a Glen Hill trainer, leads the Florida Cup trainer standings with eight victories. Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott and Edward Plesa, Jr., are next with six.
  • The longest-priced winner in Florida Cup history occurred in the first year, 2003, when Robert M. Dubois’ Mychampion won the Sophomore Colts & Geldings and paid $126.40.
  • The 4-year-old filly It’s Me Mom established the track’s current 6-furlong record of 1:08.67 in winning the 2012 Sprint while defeating males.
  • Two-time Florida Cup winners include World Approval (2017 Turf Classic, 2015 Sophomore Turf); Old Time Hockey (2014 and 2015 Turf Classic); Hooh Why (2012 and 2013 Distaff Turf); Sneaking Uponyou (2011 and 2014 Sprint); and Nightmare Affair (2005 and 2006 Sprint).
  • Six-time Oldsmar champion Daniel Centeno is atop the jockeys’ list with eight victories, including three in the Sophomore Turf.
  • The biggest margin of victory was achieved by Repenting, who won the 2008 Sophomore by 10 ½ lengths.
  • You know why they call it the Florida Cup? Well, there’s another reason: It has been conducted all 15 years on a fast main track and all but one year on a firm turf course.
  • The first-ever Florida Cup race, the 2003 Sophomore Fillies, was won by Just Bill Me. Bred and owned by Denis A. Dwyer and John Reynolds and trained by Enrique Alonso, she was ridden by Rosemary Homeister, Jr.
  • Breeder-owner Peter Vegso, the publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, has won the Turf Classic three time – with Silver Tree (2006), Go Between (2007) and Go Around (2016).

Around the oval. Antonio Gallardo increased his lead in the jockeys standings to 84-73 from Daniel Centeno by riding three winners today. Gallardo, who won three consecutive titles from 2013-2016, won the first race on So Long Chuck, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Acclaimed Racing Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Gallardo next won the fourth race on the turf on Sweetly Maid, a 3-year-old filly owned by Richard M. Cummings and trained by J. K. Sweezey. He added the sixth on the turf with Humorous Song, a 3-year-old filly owned by Stonehedge, LLC and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Jose Ferrer and Scott Spieth each rode two winners. Ferrer won the second race on 16-1 shot Charming Verse, a 6-year-old mare owned and trained by Anthony Granitz.

Ferrer added the eighth race on the turf with Silly Factor, a 4-year-old filly owned by Roberto Baez and trained by Alison Escobar. Silly Factor was claimed from the race by trainer Gerald Bennett for new owner Robson Thoroughbreds.

Spieth captured the fifth race with Andrew the Bull, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by John Guzik and trained by Frances Gogas. Spieth also won the 10th and final race on the turf aboard 38-1 shot Thru Street, a 3-year-old filly owned by Street Smart Stable and trained by Leon McKanas.

In the third race, Navy Armed Guard signaled he might have a bright future, breaking his maiden in 1:42.70 for the mile-and-40-yard distance while defeating Yeehaw by a length-and-a-half. Navy Armed Guard, who has two seconds and two thirds from eight starts, finished fifth in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 10.

David Delgado rode the son of Midshipman-Black Java, by Pine Bluff, who is owned by Harriette Waldron, Roger McDaniel and Robert K. Johnson and trained by Joan Scott.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 6, except for Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed, and Wednesday, May 2. The 2017-2018 meeting runs through June 30, the first day of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

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.