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March 28, 2018


by Mike Henry
Gerald Bennett and Kathleen O'Connell, who boast a combined five Tampa Bay Downs training titles, are gearing up for the final six weeks; Pablo Morales sets sights on third place in overall standings.

As the 2017-2018 Tampa Bay Downs meeting enters its homestretch run, neither Kathleen O’Connell nor Gerald Bennett show signs of slowing in their head-to-head competition for the track’s training title.

Meanwhile, Pablo Morales continues to excel, riding three winners to narrow the gap for third place in the jockey standings. He now trails Samy Camacho 53-46 for the third spot.

O’Connell saddled two winners today to forge a temporary 37-37 tie with Bennett, the defending champion who had sent out two winners on Sunday’s Florida Cup Day program.

But Bennett wasted little time regaining the lead by himself, sending out his reliable 5-year-old mare Pink Mama to win the sixth race by seven-and-three-quarter lengths from J’s Indian Charm. The victory was the 14th in 26 career starts for Pink Mama and her sixth in eight tries on the main Oldsmar surface.

Camacho was the jockey, as he has been for Pink Mama’s last nine starts, six resulting in victory.

Bennett has won three Tampa Bay Downs training titles, including the last two. He tied with Jamie Ness in 2010-2011.

O’Connell – who won the Oldsmar title in 1998-1999 and tied for the crown with Ness in 2009-2010 – won the third race on the turf with Vision of Blue, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Commonwealth Stable and Randy Bradshaw. Pablo Morales was the jockey.

Back on the main dirt surface in the fourth, O’Connell came out on top with 4-year-old gelding Brave Request, who is owned by Blackacre Farms and was ridden by Antonio Gallardo.

In addition to his triumph on Vision of Blue, Morales won the second race on Precious Intent, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Reitman Stables and trained by Darien Rodriguez. Precious Intent was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Alison Escobar.

Morales also captured the fifth race on the turf with 5-year-old gelding Astute Warrior, owned by William Fuccillo and trained by John Rigattieri.

Gallardo and Daniel Centeno are atop the track’s jockey standings with 87 and 74 victories, respectively.

Around the oval. Besides his victory on Brave Request, Gallardo won the eighth race on the turf on Southeast, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Randall Bloch and Phil Milner and trained by Ian Wilkes.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. The track will be closed Easter Sunday. Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 6, with the exception of May 2.

The Oldsmar Cup will be held Sunday, April 8. Oldsmar residents are admitted free, with proof of residency.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter 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.