Long shots pave way for handicapping "hobbyist" to win first prize; jockey Antonio Gallardo has 11 victories over last four racing days; "Morning Glory Club" Show at 10 a.m. on Saturday features trainer Kent Sweezey; Military Appreciation Day is Jan. 5.
Brad Massam of Chatham, N.J., amassed a bankroll of $164.10 to capture the annual “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” Handicapping Contest sponsored by Tampa Bay Downs.
The runner-up, with a bankroll of $131.90, was Steve Wolfson of Ormond Beach, Fla., a racing consultant and a member of the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Hall of Fame.
Massam earned the first-place prize of $1,000 and Wolfson picked up $500. There were 779 entrants.
Massam, who describes handicapping as a hobby, believes the turning point occurred Dec. 12 when his fourth-race selection, Handsome Girl, finished second at odds of 38-1. She paid $31.20 to place and $9.80 to show, giving his bankroll a $41 boost.
All told, Massam had three contest selections that returned more than $28, giving him a cushion that widened when he selected first-time starter and winner They Call Me Lucky ($17, $7.60 and $7.40) in the ninth race on Sunday, the closing day of the contest.
Wolfson, the son of the late Louis Wolfson, who owned 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, entered the contest with strong credentials. He finished fourth in the 2003 NHC at Bally’s Las Vegas, a contest won by his son, Steve Wolfson, Jr.
The younger Wolfson joined his father in the NHC Hall of Fame this year.
“It’s especially gratifying to do well because there were so many people competing,” the elder Wolfson said. “I play Festivus every year. It’s a customer-friendly contest and they do a great job of disseminating the information.
“I’ve always loved Tampa Bay Downs, going back to when George Steinbrenner owned the track. The grass course is great and it’s like being at a country fair.”
Massam said his interest in the contest was also stoked by the turf offerings. “I enjoy turf racing, and because Tampa Bay Downs offers an outstanding turf racing product featuring consistently full fields and many races for young horses that attract top barns, I follow the Tampa meet very closely,” Massam said in an e-mail response.
Around the oval. Four-time leading Oldsmar jockey Antonio Gallardo continues to heat up, riding back-to-back winners for trainer Kathleen O’Connell and adding another victory to give the rider 11 winners over the last four racing days.
Gallardo and O’Connell teamed to win the fourth race on the turf with Sweet Soul Music, a 6-year-old Florida-bred horse owned by Mark F. Taylor and Robert A. Meier, IV. Sweet Soul Music was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Mike Dini for $16,000.
Gallardo and O’Connell also won the fifth with Shimmyshimmy Shake, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Ca Sal Stables. The jockey won the eighth race on the turf in a three-horse photo finish on Miko, a 4-year-old filly owned by Preferred Pals Stable and trained by Linda Rice.
Miko was claimed for $16,000 by new owner-trainer Martin R. Rosado.
Willie Martinez rode two winners, both on the turf. He won the sixth race on Lady Love, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Tri County Stables and trained by Anthony Granitz. Martinez added the 10th with More Than Teddy, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Sharyn and Peter Wasiluk, Jr., and trained by the latter.
Trainer Dennis Ward sent out two winners. He captured the second race with Wild Wigglin Jack, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred by Ward, owned by his Ridenjac Racing enterprise and ridden by Quincy Hamilton.
Ward also won the seventh with Distinctly Blue, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Edward R. Schuster and ridden by Mike Allen.
“Morning Glory Club” to debut Saturday. Thoroughbred racing fans can gain valuable insights about the sport by attending track announcer Richard Grunder’s popular “Morning Glory Club” show, which makes its return at 10 a.m. on Saturday on the first floor of the Grandstand.
Grunder, who is in his 35th season as track announcer, will interview a different guest each Saturday through March 9, including trainers, jockeys and track personalities. His guest Saturday is up-and-coming trainer Kent Sweezey. Admission is free, along with coffee and donuts.
Military Appreciation Day. Tampa Bay Downs will admit active and retired military personnel with proper identification free of charge on Military Appreciation Day, Jan. 5. Servicemen and women will be recognized during the day’s action.
The track is privileged to stage a day in recognition of these heroes who contribute so much to the American way of life.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.