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December 30, 2018


by Mike Henry
Top prize of $20,000, seat at NTRA Handicapping World Series expected to lure sharp bunch; four-time Oldsmar jockey champion has 15 winners over last six racing days; trainer Kathleen O'Connell just misses going 4-for-4; Tampa Bay Downs officials and employees urge everyone to stay safe and celebrate the New Year responsibly.

Tampa Bay Downs bettors of all experience levels are invited to chase huge payoffs in the first-ever “High Rollers Handicapping Contest” on Jan. 19, which is Skyway Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs.

The winner earns $20,000 (based on 100 entries) and the first and second-place finishers receive their choice of a seat in the 2019 or 2020 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping World Series. Second place earns $8,000; third place, $6,000; fourth place, $4,000; and fifth place, $2,000.

The tournament will originate from the VIP Room on the first floor of the Clubhouse and players must be at the racetrack to compete.

The “High Rollers Handicapping Contest” is a real-money event, with players required to deposit $1,000. From each entry, $500 will serve as the player’s bankroll for wagering, with the other $500 going to the prize pool.

At the conclusion of the tournament, each player gets to keep whatever is left in their bankroll, in addition to any contest winnings.

“We’re excited to create this opportunity for our customers to start off the New Year by pitting their handicapping skills against other good players for the chance to earn big money,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity.

“The Jan. 19 card includes three stakes – the $125,000 Pasco, the $ 125,000 Gasparilla and the $50,000 Wayward Lass – so deep, quality fields are expected throughout the day,” Flynn said. “We expect the tournament competition to be at a high level, which is to be expected when the potential rewards are so great.”

To enter, players must register online at www.tampabaydowns/challenge and make the required payment of $1,000 on or before 4:59 p.m. on Jan. 16. If a player is unable to make a payment online, they should contact Flynn at or at (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Only races at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 19 will be included in the tournament. Permitted wagering types are win, place and/or show. Players can only wager on five races and must wager $100 on each race, whether $100 to win on a single horse, $50 to win and $50 to place on one or more horses and any other win-place-show combination adding up to $100.

Each participant will be issued a player card to be used for all wagers and all wagers must be placed through selected self-service machines throughout Tampa Bay Downs.

Around the oval. After getting shut out Saturday, jockey Antonio Gallardo returned with a vengeance today, riding four winners. He has 15 victories over the last six racing days, even with the goose egg.


Antonio Gallardo

Gallardo’s huge day kicked off in the third race with his victory on Hardaway, a 2-year-old gelding owned by Burning Daylight Farms and Rebecca Galbraith and trained by Michael Stidham. Gallardo next won the fourth race on the turf on Auriga, a 3-year-old filly owned by Mark F. Taylor and Robert A. Meier, IV and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Gallardo headed back to the winner’s circle after the seventh race on Derby Day Darling, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Blackacre Farms and trained by O’Connell. Once more, with feeling: After his first-time starter in the eighth race, 2-year-old filly Missmizz, got loose before the race and returned to the paddock, Gallardo climbed aboard to pilot her to victory for owner DARRS, Inc., and Stidham.

O’Connell won with her first three starters today. Besides her victories with Auriga and Derby Day Darling, she saddled 3-year-old filly Awesome Clue to win the fifth race. Awesome Clue is a homebred racing for owner Thor-Bred Stable and was ridden by Samy Camacho.


Kathleen O'Connell

O’Connell’s bid for a track-record tying 4-for-4 performance was spoiled in the ninth race when her maiden 2-year-old filly With Me Without Me finished second to winner Phyllis Driller, a juvenile Florida-bred filly owned by Martin Goodell, trained by Maria Bowersock and ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr.

Camacho rode three winners for the second day in a row. Besides winning with Awesome Clue, Camacho won the second race on Savage Music, a 2-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Winning Stables and Ray Rech and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Camacho added the 10th and final race on the turf with Glam, a 3-year-old filly owned by Christine and Phil Hatfield and trained by Kent Sweezey.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. All racehorses in North America celebrate their “birthdays” on Jan. 1, for record-keeping purposes.

The track 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.