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January 19, 2019


by Mike Henry
Win Win Win speeds home in Pasco, setting a track record as the first horse in Oldsmar history to better 1:21 for 7 furlongs; Molto Bella shakes off early speed duel to dominate Gasparilla foes; Tapa Tapa Tapa pretty as a picture in Wayward Lass; Dennis Scott, Jim Tipps finish 1-2 in "High Rollers Handicapping Contest."

Michael Trombetta, the trainer of 3-year-old colt Win Win Win, had a helpless feeling after Gladiator King broke through the gate as the field for the $125,000 Pasco Stakes was being loaded, delaying the start.

But a horse with the kind of talent Win Win Win displayed in setting a 7-furlong track record has a way of making his connections feel like they’re just along for the ride, anyway.

After breaking slowly from the No. 2 post, Win Win Win was taken in hand for the first part of the race before jockey Julian Pimentel launched his bid from the outside at the ¼-mile pole. Win Win Win surged past Gladiator King and Overdeliver, speeding to a seven-and-a-quarter length victory in track and stakes-record time of 1:20.89.



Win Win Win, Julian Pimentel in the irons, sets a 7-furlong track record of 1:20.89 in the Pasco Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                Overdeliver finished second, followed by Cave Run and War Bridle, who was racing for the track’s fantasy-based “Tampa Bay Owners Club.” Jackson and Zenden were late scratches.

It was a record-setting Skyway Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs, where 3-year-old filly Molto Bella set a stakes record of 1:22.20 in winning the $125,000, 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes and 5-year-old mare Tapa Tapa Tapa established a new stakes standard of 1:43.27 in the $50,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth Wayward Lass (more on those races soon).

Bred in Florida by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Stud and owned by her Live Oak Plantation, Win Win Win improved to 3-for-4, and Trombetta’s coy reply of “maybe” when asked if the horse would be nominated to the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 9 had a definitive air to it.

“We’ve always liked this guy, and we’re very happy with him,” Trombetta said. “They left the two inside horses in there while they were chasing the loose horse, and I think he might have fallen asleep in there. He broke flat-footed, but Julian knows him really well. He had a nice little pace to run at (22.10 for the first quarter-mile and 44.52 for the half) and he showed what he can do.”

Despite being forced to go wide on the turn, Win Win Win left his four rivals behind in a few quick, powerful strides in the 20th edition of the Pasco.

“I didn’t panic (at the start) because he did the same thing last time,” Pimentel said of Win Win Win’s awkward start in a runner-up effort in the Heft Stakes at Laurel on Dec. 29. “He’s very quick, so I just took my time and let him do his thing.

“I had so much horse and when I asked him to run, he took off.”

The winner’s share of $56,000 boosted Win Win Win’s earnings to $127,300. The son of Hat Trick-Miss Smarty Pants, by Smarty Jones, broke the stakes and track mark set in 2015 by subsequent Grade II winner Catalina Red as a 2-year-old (the Pasco was run that season on Dec. 27, 2014).

El Grande Rojo had equaled the track mark the following year as a 7-year-old gelding.

Recaps of Molto Bella’s Gasparilla victory and Tapa Tapa Tapa’s Wayward Lass follow.

Gasparilla Stakes. After Molto Bella raced virtually had-and-head with Warm during the early stages in swift fractions of 22.61 seconds for the ¼-mile and 45.12 for the half, it seemed unrealistic for either to sustain that effort throughout the race.

Molto Bella had other ideas. The daughter of Violence, out of Dr. Zic – winner of the 2008 Sandpiper Stakes here and subsequently a Grade I winner – kept pushing her limits to record a six-and-a-half length victory from Into Trouble, with Another Time finishing third in the 10-horse field.

molto bella

Molto Bella, the daughter of a past Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner, takes Luca Panici for a winning ride in the Gasparilla (courtesy SV Photography)

The winner’s time of 1:22.20 broke the former mark of 1:22.41 set by Irish Jasper as a 2-year-old in December of 2014. Molto Bella is owned in partnership by the Six Column Stables of Brad Stephens, Randall L. Bloch, Robert T. Manfuso, Fred Merritt, John Seiler and Stephen Harner and trained by Ian Wilkes.

“She broke really good, and she was a little bit aggressive early,” said winning jockey Luca Panici. “I tried to relax her but that didn’t work too well, so I let her go by herself and she responded really well. She is a very nice filly with a lot of class and a good brain.”

Molto Bella improved to 2-for-6, with two seconds. She finished fourth in her previous start, the Grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct on Dec. 1.

Whether the mile-and-an-eighth Demoiselle was beyond her scope or she didn’t like the track that day, Molto Bella gave indication in the 35th edition of the Gasparilla she is a sophomore to be reckoned with.

“Ian said he wanted to go back to one turn today and see where she takes us,” Bloch said. “We may be back for the Suncoast Stakes (on Feb. 9), but we’ll let Ian make the call.”

Wilkes was at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, with Oldsmar assistant Cesar Morales filling in and excitedly talking to his boss a few minutes after the race.

“She shipped up from Palm Meadows (Training Center, in Boynton Beach) a few days ago, and I could see she handled this track pretty well,” Morales said. “I thought it was pretty amazing the way she kept going.”

Wayward Lass Stakes. Tapa Tapa Tapa, an easy winner of the 35th edition of the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes, might be getting better with age. She rolled past pace-setter Almond Roca inside the 3/8-mile pole and powered home to a five-length victory from Puerto Rico star Pure Lemon in stakes-record time of 1:43.27 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance.

Her time bettered the mark set last year by Well Humored, who won the Wayward Lass in 1:43.86 while finishing ¾-length ahead of Tapa Tapa Tapa. Antonio Gallardo was the winning jockey.


Tapa Tapa Tapa is poetry in motion as she wins the Wayward Lass Stakes under Antonio Gallardo (courtesy SV Photography)

Now 5-for-14 lifetime and 3-for-4 at Tampa Bay Downs, Tapa Tapa Tapa had finished third in her previous start, the Grade III Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 15. She is owned by the Beau Ravine, LLC concern of her breeder, Patricia Pavlish, and husband Ed Pavlish, who are from Cleveland and attended the race.

“She is kind of a growthy, stretchy, light-framed filly who has gotten better every year, which is why we’ve taken our time with her,” Hamm said. “We give her a break after every race trying to prolong her career and get her to hold her weight better. She has a lot of ability, and we just have to hold it together.”

The daughter of Tapit-Kickin’ the Clouds, by Dixieland Band, who won the 2017 Suncoast Stakes here, has plenty of early speed, but Gallardo was content to keep her within tracking distance of Almond Roca until the far turn. After dispatching Almond Roca, herself a two-time stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs, Tapa Tapa Tapa kept to her task and was never threatened.

Pure Lemon, who had won her previous five races at Hipodromo Camarero, finished a length-and-a-quarter ahead of Figarella’s Queen, with Almond Roca fading to fourth.

“I knew (Almond Roca) has a lot of speed, but I didn’t think she could make the distance,” Gallardo said. “My filly is doing awesome and she loves this track. I knew she was miles the best, so I rode her with a lot of confidence and when I asked her in the second part, she got to running.”

Hamm said Gallardo has been working Tapa Tapa Tapa in the mornings and established a strong rapport. Four of her last five workouts produced the fastest time for the distance, including a flat 1-minute breeze for 5 furlongs on Jan. 12.

“Tony did a great job. She was running with a loose rein, and he’s been working her that way,” Hamm said. “She has really been responding well and relaxing, so when I saw the loose rein and a good horse inside us to clock, it looked like a good setup.”

Hamm said he intends to return Tapa Tapa Tapa to graded-stakes competition, where a victory would increase her value as a broodmare.

High Rollers Handicapping Contest. Dennis Scott won the inaugural “High Rollers Handicapping Contest” with a final bankroll of $1,150, earning first-place money of $5,000. Jim Tipps finished second with a bankroll of $910 to earn $2,000. Scott and Tipps also receive their choice of a seat at the 2019 or 2020 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping World Series.

Rich Averill and Wadie Khalaf tied for third with final bankrolls of $840, each earning $1,250. Finishing fifth with an $810 bankroll was Brendan Fay, who earned $500.

A total of 40 players participated.

Around the oval. Antonio Gallardo rode three winners today. Besides winning the Wayward Lass, he took the sixth race on the turf on first-time starter Digital Age, a 3-year-old colt owned by Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown.

Gallardo added the eighth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on the turf with Crown and Sugar, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Sabal Racing and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Feargal Lynch was aboard two winners. He won the second race on the turf  on Malkia, a 4-year-old filly owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trained by Jonathan Thomas. Malkia was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Laura Cazares for new owner Ashrad Mohamed.

Lynch added the 11th race on R True Sensation, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Averill Racing and CCF Racing Stable and trained by Georgina Baxter. R True Sensation was claimed for $16,000 by trainer Keith Nations for new owner Vince Campanella.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:15 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.