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January 11, 2019

64-YEAR-OLD JOCKEY LAID THE FOUNDATION FOR UPSET VICTORY

by Mike Henry
Gilberto Laiz rides first-time starter Snow Forecast with supreme confidence to shock rivals, bettors; "College Day" contest is Saturday; huge Pick-5, Pick-4 payoffs after 41-1 shot wins 10th.

Today’s Tampa Bay Downs racing program listed numerous workouts for first-time starter Snow Forecast, going back to her 5-furlong breeze in 1:03 1/5 on Oct. 21 at Wesfield Farm in Citra, Fla.

What the program didn’t mention was that the 3-year-old Florida-bred filly’s jockey, 64-year-old Gilberto Laiz, was aboard for each of her workouts.

Most individuals his age would just be worried about staying on, but Laiz might have been more confident than any of his seven rivals in the fifth race.

“I knew she was going to win,” a beaming Laiz said in the jockeys’ room after Snow Forecast’s three-and-a-half length victory from 7-10 favorite Foxy Shot. “She did everything right every time I breezed her, and I taught her everything I know leading up to this race.”

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First-time starter Snow Forecast, jockey Gilberto Laiz and owner-trainer Karyn Philipp (far right) enjoy the fruits of their labor after the fifth race. The jockey's son, Edward, is at far left.

The daughter of 2012 Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective, out of the Old Fashioned mare Snow Fashion, sped the 6 furlongs in 1:12.98 in the maiden claiming event for fillies that turned 3 on Jan. 1. She paid $41 to win.

The victory was Laiz’s first since July 1, 2016 at Tampa Bay Downs on Lady’s Kan. The long-time exercise rider doesn’t ride many races these days, but is known throughout the Ocala area for his horsemanship and ability to get inside a young Thoroughbred’s mind. He doesn’t drink or smoke, describing himself as “clean like a whistle.”

His best season was 1978 (yeah, the year of Affirmed’s Triple Crown sweep), when he rode 123 winners.

Snow Forecast’s victory was also the first as a trainer for Karyn Philipp, who purchased the filly privately from her breeders, Jennifer A. Johnson and Gillian K. Johnson.

“You see how fit (Laiz) is,” said Philipp, herself a former jockey. “He has more energy than I do. I thought I’d stick with the guy who knows the horse. My original intent was to sell her, but after we started breezing her I liked her so much I decided to keep her.”

Laiz received an additional bonus when his son, free-lance photographer Edward Laiz, showed up in time to shoot the race.

“I’m very happy, for (Philipp) and the horse,” Gilberto Laiz said. “She (Snow Forecast) just passed everybody on her own on the backstretch. I didn’t even ask her to start running until the 3/16-mile pole. When I looked behind me there wasn’t anyone there, and I knew we were home.”

That’s about the time everyone else started to get clued in on what made it all possible.

Saturday is “College Day” at Tampa Bay Downs. Current college students and high school seniors pursuing a post-secondary education are eligible to compete for one of five $2,000 scholarships to be awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation in the inaugural “College Day” promotion.

Students with proper ID will also get to spin a prize wheel on the Grandstand apron for a chance to win an iPad, betting vouchers, poker chips, Kentucky Derby glasses, Tampa Bay Downs hats and calendars and a Touch pen-and-fan combination.

To enter the scholarship contest, eligible students must complete an entry form that will be available at the Customer Service Desk on Saturday. Upon the completion of that day’s racing, 25 names will be drawn at random and designated finalists.

Those individuals will be required to submit an essay of fewer than 500 words on the following subject: “Marketing Horse Racing To a New Generation of Fans,” with emphasis on initiatives and proposals aimed at attracting and retaining new followers.

The deadline to submit essays is Feb. 2. A panel of judges will rank the essays, with criteria including feasibility, originality, understanding of the horse racing industry, clarity and grammar and spelling.

All non-winners receive two passes good for free admission on any racing day.

“High Rollers Handicapping Contest” is Jan. 19. Tampa Bay Downs bettors seeking huge payoffs are invited to enter the track’s first-ever “High Rollers Handicapping Contest,” which will originate from the VIP Room on the first floor of the Clubhouse on Jan. 19.

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.

Jan. 19 is Skyway Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs, with three stakes races on tap: the $125,000 Pasco, the $125,000 Gasparilla and the $50,000 Wayward Lass.

The “High Rollers Handicapping Contest” is a real-money event, with players required to deposit $1,000, from which $500 serves as the player’s wagering bankroll and $500 goes into the prize pool. At the conclusion of the contest, each player gets to keep their bankroll, in addition to any contest winnings.

To enter, players must register online at www.tampabaydowns/challenge and make the required payment of $1,000 by 4:59 p.m. on Wednesday. For details, contact Margo Flynn at mjflynn@tampabaydowns.com or (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

“Morning Glory Club” Show is Saturday. Track announcer Richard Grunder will converse with Juan Arriagada at 10 a.m. on Saturday on the first floor of the Grandstand. Arriagada owns and trains Tiger Blood, one of the favorites for Saturday’s seventh race. The 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding has an 8-for-10 career record at Tampa Bay Downs, including victories in the 2017 Pelican Stakes and the 2017 Florida Cup Sprint.

Admission is free, along with coffee, donuts and Grandstand passes.

Around the oval. Today’s 10th-race victory by 41-1 shot My Little Rosy created huge Pick-5 and Pick-4 payoffs, while dashing the hopes of a much larger group of bettors. The $1 Pick-5 combination of 7-7-3-6-4 paid $65,714, while the $1 Pick-4 combination of 7-3-6-4 paid $20,766.80.

The track’s totalizator system reflects the payoffs on a $1 wager, but 50 cents is the minimum wager allowed on the Pick-5 and the Pick-4. Thus, it is likely six winning 50-cent tickets were sold on the Pick-5 and four winning 50-cent tickets were sold on the Pick-4.

Trainer Nick Caruso and owner Bruno Schickedanz combined for two victories today. They captured the second race with Drinks On Maggie, a 4-year-old filly ridden by Ademar Santos.

Caruso and Schickedanz next won the eighth race on the turf with King’s Dream, a 4-year-old colt ridden by Pablo Morales.

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.