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May 05, 2018


by Mike Henry
Noble Drama rallies under Willie Martinez to capture FTBOA Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes; 20-year-old jockey Jose A. Bracho wins FTBOA Ivanavinalot on Prospective Lady; Fan Appreciation Day is Sunday; Justify runs competition off their feet to win Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, probably would have done so on bounce-house surface.

After watching his 3-5 shot Florida Fuego come up short in her stakes race Saturday, trainer David Fawkes had mixed feelings about his 3-year-old gelding Noble Drama’s chances in the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes.

“I wanted to go home after the first race,” said Fawkes, who yearned to linger in the Tampa Bay Downs winner’s circle about 80 minutes later following Noble Drama’s pulsating, come-from-behind half-length victory from favorite Yeehaw in the Silver Charm for 3-year-old colts and geldings. “But I liked this horse a lot. I didn’t know about (Noble Drama’s ability to get) the two turns, and he got so much dirt in his face early I was afraid he might lose some confidence.”

But jockey Willie Martinez sensed Noble Drama was just beginning to fight after he launched his rally on the far turn of the inaugural mile-and-40-yard event.

noble drama

No. 1 Noble Drama and Willie Martinez get there in time in Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

“When (first-time starter Allaboutthebeach) went to the lead, we went to Plan B, and I didn’t give up on it because I felt he still had the drive,” Martinez said. “When I saw (Yeehaw and Boston Breeze) battling in front of me, I thought it could work out well, so I just kept riding and when he got in the clear, he was able to take over.”

The Silver Charm and the FTBOA Ivanavinalot Florida Sire Stakes for 3-year-old fillies were the centerpieces of a Kentucky Derby Day card that drew 11,055 fans to the Oldsmar oval, the second-largest crowd in track history and the largest for a Derby Day program.

Justify paid no heed to the sloppy track, running the field off their collective feet to stay unbeaten and become the only horse other than Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old on his own flight to the outer limits of imagination.

Back to the Silver Charm, in which the Harold L. Queen-owned homebred Noble Drama finished in a swift 1:40.34 in his first race beyond 7 furlongs and his first away from Gulfstream Park. It was the second victory in five starts for the son of Gone Astray-Queen Drama, by Burning Roma, the latter Queen’s 2001 Tampa Bay Derby winner.

Queen was represented in the winner’s-circle ceremony by his wife Jean and their daughter Shari. Fawkes has trained numerous stakes winners for Queen over the years, most notably his 2010 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Big Drama.

“He (Queen) has been feeding me good horses for 10 years and it’s been a great ride,” Fawkes said.

Fawkes has won four stakes at the current Tampa Bay Downs meeting, all with Florida-breds: Noble Drama, Florida Fuego, Madame Uno and Surprise Wedding.

Noble Drama paid $9.20 as the third betting choice. Yeehaw finished a length-and-a-quarter ahead of Boston Breeze in the seven-horse field.

The Silver Charm was preceded by the FTBOA Ivanavinalot Florida Sire Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, won in gate-to-wire fashion by 7-1 shot Prospective Lady. Owned by James Georgeades, Gregge Dasher and Ronald V. Pugliese, Jr., Prospective Lady is trained by Gerald Bennett and was ridden by 20-year-old Jose A. Bracho, who notched his first career stakes victory.

Both races for Florida-bred 3-year-olds sired by FTBOA-registered stallions honored a pair of Florida-bred racing legends. The FTBOA Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes is named for the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2007.

The race was a “Win & You’re In” opportunity sponsored by the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., with the winner earning an invitation to spend his post-racing or breeding career there.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization caring for more than 175 retired racehorses, with its Dream Chase Farm open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, N.Y., known as Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division.

The retirement is especially welcome for a gelding such as Noble Drama without stud potential who can be assured of a good home when his racing days are over.

The 24-year-old Silver Charm, who amassed more than $6.9-million in career earnings for owners Robert and Beverly Lewis and trainer Bob Baffert, was returned to the United States from stud duty in Japan in 2014 by the Lewis family and Three Chimneys Farm and is himself pensioned at Old Friends in Kentucky.

Bred by Mary Lou Wootton, Silver Charm (by Silver Buck, out of Bonnie’s Poker, by Poker), who finished second in the Belmont Stakes to Touch Gold, was voted an Eclipse Award as 1997 Champion 3-Year-Old-Male. He won the Dubai World Cup the following year.

With Prospective Lady facing strong challenges from stakes winners Starship Bonita and Florida Fuego through the stretch run of the FTBOA Ivanavinalot Florida Sire Stakes, meanwhile, trainer Gerald Bennett experienced some anxious moments.

“We were worried about getting too much weight on her because we were all hanging over the rail,” Bennett said.

prospective lady

Trainer Gerald Bennett had Prospective Lady ready, and Jose A. Bracho rode the sophomore lass to victory in the FTBOA Ivanavinalot Florida Sire Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

The leading Tampa Bay Downs conditioner could afford to jest after pace-setter Prospective Lady held on for a half-length victory from Starship Bonita, with Florida Fuego another two-and-three-quarter lengths back in third.

It was the first stakes victory of the meeting for Bennett and the first lifetime stakes triumph for 20-year-old jockey Jose A. Bracho, who lost his apprentice weight allowance a mere six weeks ago.

Owners Georgeades, Dasher and Pugliese were also enjoying their first stakes victory with Prospective Lady, a daughter of 2012 Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective out of Keep Me Straight, by Straight Man.

“I’ve always been high on this filly, but we had some respiratory problems with her,” Bennett said. “We’ve been pointing to this race and we knew there were some tough horses in here, but you can’t win it if you’re not in it. (Bracho) did a great job. I told him to relax like it was a claiming race.”

Bracho followed Bennett’s instructions to the letter and was almost beside himself with anticipation when he felt Prospective Lady dig in to repel her challengers.

“It all worked out perfect,” said the lanky youngster, who waved his whip in delight after crossing the wire. “She relaxed so well and turning for home, I had so much horse left and thought we could do it. I feel blessed and I thank (Bennett) for giving me this opportunity.

“He trusted me and I’m glad we got the job done.”

Bracho is the Oldsmar oval’s leading apprentice this season with 17 victories as a “bugboy.”

Prospective Lady paid $17.40 to win after touring the mile-and-40-yard distance in 1:41.35.

Prospective Lady needed six tries to break her maiden, finally getting the job done in her sixth career start here on March 4. She was eligible to be claimed for $25,000 from that race, but there were no takers.

“I was pretty nervous about it, but I had to let the owners worry about it because I wanted to get her a win,” Bennett said.

The 18-year-old Ivanavinalot, who raced for breeder Gilbert G. Campbell and was trained by Kathleen O’Connell, was a Grade II and multiple-stakes winner who earned almost $650,000. She has also excelled in her second career as a broodmare, her most accomplished offspring being the Medaglia d’Oro-sired Songbird, a two-time Eclipse award winner who won 13 of 15 starts (including nine Grade I events) and earned $4,692,000.

Around the oval. Bennett also won the fourth race on the turf with 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding R Hot Twenty’s and has virtually wrapped up a third consecutive training title. He leads Kathleen O’Connell, 53-48, with only the June 30 Summer Festival of Racing card remaining in the 2017-2018 meeting.

Ridden by Samy Camacho, R Hot Twenty’s was owned by Averill Racing and CCF Racing Stable. Averill maestro Rich Averill has 19 victories individually and is several partnerships at the meeting, three more than William Rivera’s G.L.A. Stable, and like Bennett will await the June 30 card to make things “official-official.”

R Hot Twenty’s was claimed from the victory by trainer Jon Dailey for new owner Jack Cannon.

Martinez, Shannon Uske and David Delgado each rode two winners today. Martinez’s second victory came in the 10th race on the turf on 5-year-old mare Ragazza Di Papa, owned by Christopher T. Dunn and trained by George Weaver.

Uske won the third race aboard Immosiautunya, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt bred and owned by Rae Marie Smith and trained by Eduardo Azpurua, Jr. Uske added the seventh race on the turf on Golden Diamond, a 4-year-old colt owned by Douglas Jones and trained by Peter Gulyas.

Delgado won the fifth race on the turf with Minister’s Strike, a 4-year-old gelding owned by G.L.A. Stable and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr. Delgado also won the ninth race on the turf, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, aboard Imaginable for owner Yenise Rosario-Colon and trainer Edwin Texidor, Jr.

Sunday 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. The 10-race program begins at 12:25 p.m.

Following Sunday’s action, Thoroughbred racing will resume Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1 with the track’s sixth annual Summer Festival of Racing. The June 30 card is the official final day of the 2017-2018 meeting, while the July 1 program kicks off the 2018-2019 season, which then is expected to resume in late November.

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.