Imperial Hint seeks to turn tables on Roy H in TwinSpires Sprint; Catholic Boy takes on elders in Classic; Oldsmar trainer Kathleen O'Connell has high hopes for Stormy Embrace in Filly and Mare Sprint.
Tampa Bay Downs will be well represented during the 35th Breeders’ Cup on Friday and Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Post time for the first of five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds on “Future Stars Friday” is 3:21 p.m. The first of Saturday’s nine Breeders’ Cup races is at noon. Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the entire Churchill Downs card both days, beginning at 12:55 p.m. on Friday and 10:45 a.m. on Saturday.
Eight horses that have raced at Tampa Bay Downs are entered in the Breeders’ Cup, headed by 5-year-old Imperial Hint, the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the $2-million, 6-furlong Sprint on Saturday. The Florida-bred is owned by Raymond Mamone and trained by Oldsmar conditioner Luis Carvajal, Jr.
Imperial Hint finished second in last year’s Sprint at Del Mar to Roy H, who is defending his title. Imperial Hint is 3-for-3 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs, including victories in this year’s Florida Cup Horse Races Now Sprint and the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore in 2016. Javier Castellano will ride Imperial Hint.
“I think (Imperial Hint) is doing much better than last year,” Carvajal said. “You have to worry about everyone, but he is eating good, he looks good, he’s happy and he’s been training well, so I can’t ask for anything more than that.”
In the $6-million, mile-and-a-quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday, 3-year-old Catholic Boy is the only entrant with Tampa Bay Downs form; the Grade I winner on dirt and turf finished second here in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes.
Two horses that raced at Tampa Bay Downs have won the Classic: Drosselmeyer in 2011 and Fort Larned in 2012.
Catholic Boy, who is 8-1 on the morning line, is trained by Jonathan Thomas and will be ridden by Castellano.
Two-time leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Kathleen O’Connell, who saddled career winner No. 2,000 earlier this year, has two Breeders’ Cup entrants. Her 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Stormy Embrace is 20-1 on the morning line for the $1-million, 7-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Saturday. Owned by Matalona Thoroughbreds, Stormy Embrace will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
O’Connell also trains 2-year-old gelding Well Defined, who will compete in the $2-million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Friday. Well Defined is owned by Gilbert Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC and will be ridden by Mike Smith.
Stormy Embrace raced four times at Tampa Bay Downs last season, winning twice and finishing second in the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes and third in the Minaret Stakes. Her big victory came in the Grade II Princess Rooney at Gulfstream on June 30.
“She trained well at Tampa, and those races were a good foundation-builder for her,” said O’Connell, who saddled Lady Shipman to a second-place finish in the 2015 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland. “She’s older and more mature, and 7 furlongs is her best distance.
“I’m always optimistic, but a lot depends on how the race unfolds,” O’Connell said of Stormy Embrace’s chances for an upset. “So much goes into it.”
Other Breeders’ Cup entrants that have raced at Tampa Bay Downs include 6-year-old mare Fourstar Crook, winner of last season’s Grade II Hillsborough Stakes on the turf, in the Filly and Mare Turf; Florida-bred colt World of Trouble, last season’s Pasco Stakes winner and third-place Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby finisher, in the Turf Sprint; 6-year-old gelding Conquest Tsunami, also in the Turf Sprint; and 5-year-old Catapult, in the Mile on the turf.
Another Tampa Bay Downs “graduate,” Insta Erma, is an also-eligible entrant for the Turf Sprint.
Other Tampa Bay Downs trainers with Breeders’ Cup entrants include Ben Colebrook (Knicks Go in the Sentient Jet Juvenile and Limousine Liberal in the TwinSpires Sprint); H. Graham Motion (Varenka and Pivottina, an also-eligible, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf); Ian Wilkes (Quarteto de Cordas in the Classic and Champagne Problems in the Distaff); Ignacio Correas, IV (Blue Prize in the Distaff); and Arnaud Delacour (Chalon in the Filly and Mare Sprint).
Correas, who won last season’s Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs with Dona Bruja, said the 6-year-old Blue Prize, who will be ridden by Joe Bravo, remains at the top of her game after her Oct. 7 victory in the Grade I Spinster at Keeneland.
“I’m very lucky to have her, and it’s a great feeling to have the opportunity to train a horse of her caliber for the Breeders’ Cup,” Correas said. “We’re not a big barn, so it’s very exciting for all of us. We set out this year to make her a Grade I winner, and this (competing in the Breeders’ Cup) is even better.”