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January 13, 2019


by Mike Henry
Second four-victory performance of the meeting for last year's runner-up; deadline to register for "High Rollers Handicapping Contest" extended to noon on Saturday, the day of the event.

With four victories today, Samy Camacho is winning races at a pace that would enable him to better Antonio Gallardo’s single-season Tampa Bay Downs record of 147 set during the 2014-2015 meeting.

Camacho has 46 winners through the first 27 days of the current meeting. If he maintains that rate throughout, he would finish with 155 victories.


Samy Camacho

“I told Samy before the meeting that was a goal I had in mind,” said his agent, Steve Elzey. “When you get winning like he did at the end of last season (finishing second to Gallardo in the final standings with 100 victories), a lot of people are going to want you to ride their good horses.”

What no one, including Elzey, could forecast was that Camacho would lead Gallardo by a 19-victory margin before the moon comes over the mountain.

“I know Samy has that kind of ability,” Elzey said. “I’ve sat down and talked to him a few times this season just to make sure he keeps learning and keeps growing. The level of competition in this year’s jockey colony is unbelievably good, but I think Samy is capable of keeping this pace.”

The 30-year-old Camacho’s second four-victory performance of the meeting began when he won today’s third race on Si Si McD, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Roger McDaniel, Joe Lentine, John Colvin and David Whelihan and trained by Joan Scott. He next won the fifth race aboard Metallic, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Harry Hoglander and Josie Gump and trained by Bill Sienkewicz.

Camacho added his third victory in the seventh race on Russian Roulette, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Happy Tenth Stable and trained by Tony Wilson. He added the 10th race on Polygram, a 6-year-old gelding owned by John R. Smith and trained by Bobby Raymond.

Camacho, for his part, isn’t making any predictions. “When I’m out there, I’m just thinking about winning. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the favorite or a long shot,” he said. “I just pray every day that I stay healthy, because I know I have the ability to win races and give my horses the best chance that I can to win.”

With Festival Preview Day on Feb. 9 and Festival Day on March 9 featuring a combined six graded stakes worth $1.425-million in total purse money, it will be interesting to see what quality of mounts Elzey and Camacho can land for the track’s biggest races. Camacho won his first Tampa Bay Downs stakes on Dec. 15 on Silver Bay in the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes, but doesn’t yet have the vast experience of most of the other top local riders as well as the superstars based in south Florida.

“There have to be people looking for a jockey who rides this oval as well as he has been riding,” Elzey said.

Around the oval. Trainer Gerald Bennett could also threaten the record books this season. Bennett, who has won three consecutive Oldsmar training titles, saddled James Georgeades, Gregge Dasher and Ronald V. Pugliese, Jr.’s 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Exclusive Express to win the second race, giving him 22 victories for the meeting.

Bennett is on a pace to win 74 races. The record is 79, set by Jamie Ness in 2011-2012.

Pablo Morales rode Exclusive Express, one of two victories for the rider. Morales also won the eighth race on the turf, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, on Terrabyte, a 4-year-old filly owned by Curragh Stables, Gatsas Stables and Ken Geren and trained by John P. Terranova, II.

The deadline to register for the first-ever “High Rollers Handicapping Contest” on Saturday has been extended to noon on the day of the event.

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

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 noon Saturday. For details, contact Margo Flynn at or (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. 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.