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April 13, 2018


by Mike Henry
Oldsmar resident reaches milestone with intelligent ride aboard Diva Chick for pal Dennis Ward; Samy Camacho has 20 victories over last eight racing days here; Derek Ryan is Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month; local jockeys, horses seek fame and fortune on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, Keeneland.

Mike Allen, who has been on both ends of enough photo finishes to know the score, had a quick quip for Samy Camacho after their mounts crossed the wire together in the first race at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I said ‘You didn’t get me this time, Samy,’ ” Allen recounted after winning by a nose on 4-year-old filly Diva Chick for career victory No. 2,000, with Camacho and California Cotton second. “Samy has been on fire, so naturally you would have thought he would have run right by me.”

Diva Chick paid $5.40 as the wagering favorite after completing the mile-and-40-yard distance on the main track in 1:42.36.

In a sense, the milestone was a long time coming for the 50-year-old Oldsmar resident, who has ridden more than 100 winners in a year six times but averaged only 32 winners a year since 2010.


Jockey Mike Allen, green-and-black silks, celebrates career victory No. 2,000 on Diva Chick with (to his right) wife Lisa and daughter Alexis; trainer Dennis Ward, to his left; and brother Ronnie Allen, Jr., second from left. (courtesy SV Photography)

“I got hurt two years in a row – I broke my foot (in 2015) and dislocated my thumb (in 2016), and that slowed me down for a while,” Allen said. “But I just hung in there and kept going. A lot of riders don’t make it to 2,000 – they retire or they get too heavy or they don’t get lucky enough to find good mounts, which I’ve had to struggle with a lot in my career.

“This is right up there with the stakes races I’ve won (as an accomplishment),” Allen added. “It’s a load off. I had three weeks last month when I hardly rode any horses, but that’s part of the business. Things have started clicking, and I knew I’d get it here” (before the meeting ended).

Allen was joined in the winner’s-circle ceremony by his wife, Lisa, and their daughter, Alexis, both pony persons at Tampa Bay Downs; winning trainer Dennis Ward and his wife, Jeanne; and his brother, four-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champion Ronnie Allen, Jr., who has won 3,615 races. The elder Allen finished third in the race on Hola Princess.

Mike Allen’s older son Garrett was on a work-related cruise. Younger son Connor is a high school freshman.

“It was like any other day for (Mike),” Lisa Allen said. “He really wasn’t thinking about (2,000) that much.”

Ward, who has known Allen for more than 25 years, since their days competing in Washington state, might have been more excited than the jockey. “I love this guy. He gives you everything he’s got,” said Ward, who climbed to 997 victories as a trainer with the win. “He’s thinking all the time, and that’s one of the main reasons I put him on.”

Diva Chick, who is owned by Ward’s Ridenjac Racing outfit, had finished fourth under Allen in her previous start on March 31 on the turf. Ward outfitted her in blinkers this time, and Allen said that seemed to make a difference.

“When she saw (California Cotton) on the outside, she started digging in and giving me more,” Allen said.

Getting Diva Chick in that position was testament to Allen’s experience and savvy, which can mean as much in a race for $8,000 claiming horses as graded-stakes competitors.

“During the post parade, it looked like (track maintenance) had bladed the track, so I thought the rail might be better,” he explained. “Around the first turn it felt packed down and hard, so I just chose to stay on the rail. That worked out well, and I just let her run her race the first part.

“I got through on the rail (on the turn for home), and she finished up good,” Allen said.

Allen plans to move his tack to Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania next month.

Brother Ronnie won two races today. He won the fifth on the turf with West Coast Bias, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare bred and owned by Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor. Ronnie added the eighth on Marry Me Dude, a 3-year-old filly bred in Florida by Maria Bowersock and owned and trained by her.

Top horses, and a couple of local riders, seek stakes success. It’s that time of year when Tampa Bay Downs management, staff and fans often bask in the glory of horses that began their campaigns at the Oldsmar oval, with prestige and purse levels rising as the sport’s most important races capture the attention of Thoroughbred insiders and casual followers alike.

In the last 11 years, three horses that have competed at Tampa Bay Downs have won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve: 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense, 2010 Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher Super Saver and last year’s winner of the Run for the Roses, Always Dreaming, who captured a maiden special weight event here on the road to Louisville.

Two 3-year-old colts that could join that list are entered in today’s Grade I, $1-million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park: this year’s Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner, Quip, and unbeaten Magnum Moon, who captured an allowance/optional claiming race here on Feb. 15 before winning the Grade II Rebel Stakes four weeks ago at Oaklawn.

The mile-and-an-eighth Arkansas Derby is the 11th race on the Oaklawn card and will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs.

Quip, who scratched from last week’s Grade II Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland, is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing and trained by Rodolphe Brisset. He will be ridden by Florent Geroux, who piloted him to his Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby victory.

Magnum Moon, who is owned by Robert and Lawana Low and trained by Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by Luis Saez. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the field of nine.

Oldsmar fans will have still another rooting interest in the Arkansas Derby. Tampa Bay Downs jockey Scott Spieth has received the assignment aboard Machismo, owned by Loooch Racing Stables, Anthony Quartarolo, R. Ritchie and C. Ritchie and trained by Quartarolo. Machismo finished 12th in the Toyota Blue Grass and was fourth last month in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

Spieth will also ride 3-year-old gelding Fire When Ready in the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes, which is the eighth race on Saturday at Oaklawn.

Another Oldsmar jockey with a major out-of-town opportunity Saturday is David Delgado, named to ride 3-year-old gelding Navy Armed Guard in the Grade III, $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. For a few of the 12 entrants (including the 5-2 morning-line favorite, My Boy Jack), the Stonestreet Lexington is the final chance to prove their worthiness for the Kentucky Derby while picking up qualifying points.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Stonestreet Lexington is the ninth race on an 11-race Keeneland program that will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs.

Navy Armed Guard is owned by Harriette Waldron, Roger McDaniel, Robert K. Johnson, Frank Coniglio and Richard Rendina and trained by Oldsmar fixture Joan Scott, whose biggest career victory came at Keeneland in the Grade I Vinery Madison in 2010 at Keeneland with Dr. Zic.

Delgado earned his shot at graded-stakes glory by riding Navy Armed Guard to a maiden victory here on March 24. He left this morning for Lexington by car with three of his brothers who are visiting from Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain – Pedro, Moises and Francisco.

The Lexington will be followed by the Grade I, $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, with several in the 11-horse field capable of shining reflected glory on their winter Florida digs.

The star-laden field includes the winners of both of Tampa Bay Downs’ graded turf stakes for older fillies and mares, Grade II Hillsborough Stakes winner Fourstar Crook, a 6-year-old mare trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Javier Castellano, and Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes winner Dona Bruja, a 6-year-old mare trained by Ignacio Correas, IV and to be ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Also entered are Hillsborough runner-up Proctor’s Ledge, a 4-year-old trained by Brendan Walsh, with Feargal Lynch in the saddle; 4-year-old La Coronel, second in the Lambholm South Endeavour and third in the Hillsborough and trained by Mark Casse, with Jose Lezcano in the irons; Brown-trainee Off Limits, fifth in the Hillsborough, Joel Rosario with the riding assignment; and Hillsborough also-ran Lovely Bernadette.

Camacho keeps sizzling. Jockey Samy Camacho rode four winners today, giving him 20 over the eight most recent racing days at the Oldsmar oval and 12 here over the last four days (he also won a race on Thursday at Gulfstream with his only mount).

Camacho, who rode five winners Saturday, won the second race on Hour City, a 4-year-old gelding owned by William “Buff” Bradley and Carl Hurst and trained by Bradley. The rider capture the fourth on Gemstone Linda, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Mike Anderson Racing and trained by Jose Chavez.

Camacho added the sixth on multiple-Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner R Angel Katelyn, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Averill Racing, CCF Racing Stable and K Lauren Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett. R Angel Katelyn’s time of 1:09.49 for the 6-furlong distance was .82 seconds off the track record.

That victory gave Bennett 41 for the meeting, one behind leader Kathleen O’Connell.

Camacho then added the seventh race on Kingdom Kept after a stirring, stretch-long duel against Ruckus. The 4-year-old Florida-bred colt Kingdom Kept is owned by breeder Tim Stewart and trained by Laura Cazares.

Ryan is Trainer of Month. Derek Ryan says he’s been “getting back to the basics” after the retirement of his long-time assistant, Martin Weir, who has moved back to Ireland.

And while his stable has shown no signs of slowing throughout the current Tampa Bay Downs meeting, a recent stretch in which he sent out four winners from five starters helped Ryan, himself a native of Tipperary, Ireland, earn the Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month award.

With Weir departed, Ryan has been getting on six or seven horses during a typical morning, reconnecting with his stable from the ground up.

“When you get on them yourself and are a little more hands-on, you know what’s going on and how they’re doing,” said Ryan, who plans to take about 30 horses to Monmouth Park in New Jersey for that track’s spring-summer meeting.

Recent winners for Ryan, who is tied for sixth in the Oldsmar standings with 15 victories, include the 3-year-old fillies Rove and Pure Magic, both campaigning under his Metro Thoroughbreds banner; 7-year-old gelding Celebrity Warrior, who won the final leg of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series in (then)-course-record time for the mile-and-three-eighths distance; and 3-year-old colt Vital, owned by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.

He also conditions such stakes horses as 4-year-old filly Viva Vegas for owners George Bolton and Peter Leidel; 5-year-old mare Judy’s Chance for Judy C. Sessa; and 5-year-old stakes-winning gelding Expected Ruler for Liam Benson.

Ryan has spent most of his lifetime around Thoroughbreds, galloping horses in Europe for such turf legends as Tommy Stack and Criquette Head and free-lancing for Bill Mott, Phil Johnson, Dick DeStasio and others after moving stateside in 1989. “You’ll learn something everywhere you’ll go, if you’re smart and you keep your eyes open,” Ryan said.

He has put those lessons to good use. He developed Musket Man, who took Ryan and co-owners Eric Fein and Vic Carlson on a thrill ride of major proportions in 2009, winning the Pasco Stakes and (then)-Grade III Tampa Bay Derby, capturing the Grade II Illinois Derby and finishing third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the BlackBerry Preakness.

The trainer nearly went back-to-back in the Tampa Bay Derby, losing the 2010 renewal with Schoolyard Dreams by a nose to Odysseus, while finishing a half-length ahead of subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.

Ryan also conditioned Irish Jasper, a filly he owned, to Grade III victories at Pimlico and Belmont (she also won the Gasparilla Stakes here as a 2-year-old) before selling her to W.S. Farish and David Mackie.

The chances of finding another Musket Man are “slim to none, unless I go out and spend a lot of money on my own,” Ryan said, adding with a smile: “I might – you never know.”

Around the oval. Tampa Bay Downs presents a nine-race card Saturday beginning at 12:52 p.m. The track conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 6, with the exception of May 2.

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.