Grass-gobbling speedsters of both sexes in Saturday spotlight; "10 Days of Festivus" contest offers $1,000 grand prize; 10-race card slated Friday.
World record-holder Pay Any Price is set to defend his 2017 Turf Dash title Saturday as Tampa Bay Downs launches its 2018-2019 stakes schedule with a pair of $100,000, 5-furlong events on the grass.
The 15th edition of the Turf Dash, which is scheduled as the third race on Saturday’s nine-race card, has attracted a field of 10 colts and geldings. The fifth race is the 15th running of the Lightning City Stakes, which has drawn an overflow field of 13 fillies and mares.
Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:38 p.m. Saturday also marks the first day of the annual “10 Days of Festivus” online handicapping contest, which offers a $1,000 grand prize and $500 to the runner-up. There is no charge to enter; go to www.festivuschallenge.com for the complete set of rules and to register.
The 8-year-old gelding Pay Any Price, who was denied a berth in the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs despite owning the world record for 5 furlongs on the turf and boasting a 10-for-14 record the last two years, has been established the 3-2 morning-line favorite for the Turf Dash.
Pay Any Price and jockey Edgard Zayas are favored to win another Turf Dash (courtesy SV Photography)
Owned by Matties Racing Stable and Rich Averill’s Averill Racing and trained by Georgina Baxter, Pay Any Price will be ridden by Edgard Zayas and carry top weight of 124 pounds. Zayas has ridden Pay Any Price in each of his starts since setting the 5-furlong turf world record of 53.61 seconds in March of 2017 in the Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream.
The Florida-bred Pay Any Price, who was claimed for $25,000 in the summer of 2016, has achieved career earnings of $551,683. His all-out, front-running style makes him a fan favorite, and he shows no signs of slowing, as witness his victory in September in the Tamiami Handicap at Gulfstream under a staggering impost of 130 pounds.
He will break from the No. 7 post position.
Second choice at 2-1 is 6-year-old Vision Perfect, a Grade III stakes winner from the barn of Jason Servis. Vision Perfect defeated Pay Any Price in this year’s Silks Run Stakes in March.
Four-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo will ride Vision Perfect, who failed to threaten in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint contested on the yielding Churchill Downs TURF course. Vision Perfect has been assigned 122 pounds.
The third morning-line choice is 3-year-old colt Tricks to Doo, who won last year’s Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and has been idle since a third-place finish in March in the Grade III Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream. Daniel Centeno has been named to ride by trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Also vying for a repeat victory Saturday is 4-year-old filly Smiling Causeway, who captured last year’s Lightning City Stakes from off the pace. Owned by Audley Farm Stable and trained by Delacour, Smiling Causeway will be ridden by Centeno.
Smiling Causeway, who will break from the No. 11 post in a 12-horse field, is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. The favorite at 3-1 is 4-year-old Morticia, a Grade III winner trained by George R. “Rusty” Arnold, II, and to be ridden by Feargal Lynch.
Smiling Causeway and Morticia will each carry top weight of 122 pounds.
The Lightning City field also includes 3-year-old Almond Roca, who won the Sandpiper Stakes and Gasparilla Stakes last season. Pablo Morales has been named to ride by trainer H. Graham Motion.
Tampa Bay Downs will also simulcast all the major races across North America on Saturday and is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25 for no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.