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April 27, 2018

LOZA HORSES KEEP CLICKING, BUT STABLE STAR HAS HIM IN CLOVER

by Mike Henry
Fear the Cowboy has trainer Efren Loza, Jr., counting his blessings, and a 10-for-18 mark at the Oldsmar oval is quite the dessert; Antonio Gallardo rides both Loza winners and one more, to boot; Ademar Santos wins two.

If you want to bring a smile to trainer Efren Loza, Jr.’s face on a day when he doesn’t win with both of his starters to improve to 10-for-18 at the meeting, mention Fear the Cowboy.

The 6-year-old ridgling has earned $1,243,020 since Dec. 16, winning the Grade III, $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream; finishing fourth in the Grade I, $16.3-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream, an effort worth $1-million; and finishing third in both the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino and the Grade II Charles Town Classic.

“He’s a magnificent horse,” said Loza, who began training Fear the Cowboy as a 3-year-old and won a stakes the first time he saddled him. “He impresses me every time. He’s 6 years old and is running much better than when he was younger. He’s a very smart horse who always tries hard; he’s had some hard races and always brings something back.”

Which, naturally, is greatly appreciated by owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, who paid $1,500 for the son of Cowboy Cal-Whom Shall I Fear, by Soto, as a yearling; clearly a great story for another day.

Fear the Cowboy raced twice at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2015-2016 meeting, recording a second and a fourth. The two-time Grade III winner is 9-for-30 lifetime.

While the owners and Loza consider their star’s next start – the Grade III Pimlico Special on May 18 and the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap on May 27 are possibilities – Loza continues to rack up victories, at Tampa Bay Downs and elsewhere.

He teamed with leading jockey Antonio Gallardo to win twice today. They won the fifth race on the turf with 3-year-old colt Silent Citizen, owned by W. Mike Anderson. In the sixth race, they prevailed with 4-year-old filly Flora Fantasy, who was competing against males, for owner Amancio Alonso.

The 34-year-old Loza recently moved his training base to Oak Ridge Training Center in the Ocala area. “It is a very nice facility for horses, with a 1-mile dirt track and a 7-furlong turf course, and we can move horses around from there,” said Loza, who has also competed this winter at Delta Downs, Sam Houston and Fair Grounds, in addition to Fear the Cowboy’s far-flung adventures.

The best part about being at Oak Ridge might be working side-by-side with his father, Efren Loza, Sr., who trained horses for 40 years in Mexico and came back a few years ago to be part of the team.

“It’s crazy, because he retired and now we’re together and he’s my best assistant and my teacher, too,” Loza, Jr., said. “He loves the business and loves racing and he is a big part of what we do.”

Loza currently trains about 20 horses and plans to keep some at Gulfstream this summer. “My owners are very supportive and willing to give horses time off when they need it,” he said.

“Good horses make good trainers, and good jockeys make me look good, and that’s the truth,” Loza said, laughing.

Still, the way things are going, it’s probably wise to fear the trainer a little, too.

Around the oval. Gallardo rode a third consecutive winner today when he won the seventh race on the turf on 4-year-old filly Music Babe for owner Thor-Bred Stable and trainer Kathleen O’Connell. That victory elevated O’Connell into a 46-46 tie with Gerald Bennett for the lead in the trainer standings.

Ademar Santos rode two winners. He scored in the second race with Good Samurai, a 7-year-old horse owned by Equiforce, Inc., and trained by Dale Bennett. Santos added the eighth race with Piki Piki Girl, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Four Horsemen Racing Stable and trained by Leon McKanas.

Racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs will present racing Saturday and Sunday, as well as next Friday and Kentucky Derby weekend. There will be no racing Wednesday, but the Oldsmar oval will be open for simulcasting.

The 2017-2018 meeting will conclude Saturday, June 30, which is the first day of the track’s two-day “Summer Festival of Racing” and includes a return of the popular Corgi racing dogs.

On Saturday, May 5, Tampa Bay Downs will conduct a “Kentucky Derby Day Hat Contest” as part of its Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve celebration. Winners will be chosen in men’s, women’s and children’s divisions. Participants will be required to register in the Gift Shop on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Pictures of finalists in each division will be posted on the Tampa Bay Downs Twitter page, with fans voting for the best hats. Winners in each division will receive certificates for Gift Shop merchandise, and the overall winner will receive a cash prize.

Three horses that have competed at Tampa Bay Downs this season are expected to be part of a 20-horse field of 3-year-olds on Saturday, May 5 for the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the first leg of the Triple Crown.

That trio includes Flameaway, winner of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes and runner-up in the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby; unbeaten Magnum Moon, who won an allowance/optional claiming race here on Feb. 15 and has since won the Grade II Rebel Stakes and Grade I Arkansas Derby; and Vino Rosso, who won an allowance/optional claiming race here on Dec. 22 and finished third in the Sam F. Davis and fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Grade II Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct.

The connections of Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip have decided to point their colt to the Preakness on May 19 at Pimlico.

Available reserved seating on Kentucky Derby Day at the Oldsmar oval is limited to Grandstand seats at $10 each. All other seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fans may reserve seats by visiting www.tampabaydowns.com on the Internet and clicking the “PREMIER DAY TICKETS” icon.

Sunday, May 6 is Fan Appreciation Day at Tampa Bay Downs, with free parking and free Grandstand admission and discounted prices on draft beers, sodas and Nathan’s Hot Dogs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

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.