Wire-to-wire victory by "home-team" trainer and jockey thrills crowd of 5,208; Hawksmoor, Inspector Lynley tops on turf; Suncoast winner Point of Honor may have very bright future.
Trainer Kathleen O’Connell scored one of the biggest upsets in Tampa Bay Downs history in 2011 when she saddled 43-1 shot Watch Me Go to win the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby.
Today’s Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis triumph with 3-year-old gelding Well Defined was nowhere near as shocking, but it was equally gratifying for the Tampa Bay Downs-based trainer, her legion of fans and the huge following owned by jockey Pablo Morales, who helped engineer the upset.
Well Defined and jockey Pablo Morales are home free in the 39th running of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)
“That’s very, very special to do it at Tampa Bay,” an emotional O’Connell said after Well Defined’s two-and-three-quarter length victory from a charging Kentucky Wildcat in 1:42.70 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, .26 seconds off 2018 winner Flameaway’s stakes record. So Alive finished a distant third, with the 19-10 favorite, Knicks Go, getting nipped for fourth at the wire by Counter Offer.
“He’s had little things that have happened and he’s grown up mentally and physically, and today he showed up with his game face on,” O’Connell said of the Florida-bred Well Defined, a son of With Distinction by Fru Fru, out of Medaglia d’Oro. “I like this horse a lot and the decision (on what’s next) will be up to the owners (Gilbert and Marilyn Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC), but we just want him healthy. Maybe the (Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9) – who knows.”
Kentucky Wildcat was vanned off after the race. Later, trainer Tom Albertrani reported that the colt was bearing weight and resting comfortably but would be transported to a clinic in Ocala for observation.
Trainer Kathleen O'Connell shares her exhilaration with one of her grooms, Jose Ortiz Pinones (courtesy SV Photography)
Well Defined’s victory was part of an electric Festival Preview Day 39 Presented by Lambholm South card that also featured 6-year-old mare Hawksmoor’s victory under Javier Castellano in the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf and 6-year-old horse Inspector Lynley’s triumph under Jose Ortiz in the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf, a race Inspector Lynley won two years ago.
In the day’s non-graded stakes, the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes, Point of Honor turned on the jets in the stretch to triumph under Castellano, perhaps stamping herself as a Kentucky Oaks candidate.
Total wagering on the 12-race card of $9,521,537 was $17,185 more than last year’s Festival Preview Day and the second-highest total on a Sam F. Davis card to the $10,743,714 wagered in 2016.
Well Defined improved to 3-for-7, with the $170,000 winner’s share of the purse increasing his career bankroll to $490,570. He appeared to tire in each of his last two starts, the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream, but O’Connell said he had excuses each time.
“His rear end slipped out from underneath him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile,” she said, “and he was compromised on early position when he ran in the Mucho Macho Man and got bottled up inside. He’s a young horse who is improving, mind-wise and everything-wise.”
Getting a word from Morales is never difficult, except when he is stopping to accept congratulations from well-wishers on his walk back to the jockeys’ room. He was still floating on a cloud in the 12th and final race on the turf, en route to another victory on 10-1 shot Funny Questions, even as observers wondered how he possibly had time to pose for pictures, get interviewed and change silks after the Sam F. Davis.
“(Well Defined) has a ton of natural talent and I was going to take advantage of that today,” Morales explained. “I wasn’t too worried about where I was going to be because we were really lucky with the draw position on the outside, so I figured I was going to ride a cool race.
“The horse is naturally fast and has a super-long stride, so I was going to come out running, but if somebody wanted to take the lead, I was OK with that,” Morales said. No one did, and he stretched the lead to three lengths from Knicks Go up the backstretch.
“All I wanted to do was ride a cool and collected race and keep my horse running,” Morales said. “I didn’t feel like I was going that fast at all, and my horse was going as comfortable as he possible could.
“I knew he was doing it relaxed and very much on his own. I had a lot of horse going into the second turn, so I figured I was going to ask him a little more and not wait for them to get me. If they were going to catch me, they were really going to have to come running.”
Well Defined paid $16 to win.
Trainer Ben Colebrook said jockey Albin Jimenez offered no real excuses for Knicks Go’s late fade.
“Albin said he was getting out a little around the turn, so I don’t know what to make of that,” Colebrook said. “It looked like he had dead aim and then he kind of flattened out. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but hopefully there will be another day.”
Hawksmoor’s Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes victory came in unexpected fashion, with the 7-5 favorite missing the break while Bonnie Arch and Conquest Hardcandy contested the lead. Both Hawksmoor and Viva Vegas came running late, with the Irish-bred Hawksmoor posting a half-length victory in 1:40.83 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, .57 seconds off the stakes record.
Hawksmoor overcomes a poor start to win the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour under Javier Castellano (courtesy SV Photography)
Hawksmoor is owned by the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who were at the race, and trained by Arnaud Delacour.
“The plan was to be close to the lead and then she was at the back, but that’s why (Javier Castellano) is in the Hall of Fame – his ability to adapt to the situation,” Delacour said. “That’s the first time for us that she has come closing. Usually she is not a closer and she doesn’t like to be between horses, but it worked out. The (Grade II Hillsborough Stakes, on March 9) is possible; we’ll see how she comes out of this race.”
Castellano was psyched the way things worked out. “We had a plan, and to be honest, I was thinking there was not going to be much speed in the race,” he said. “Maybe one or two horses, or maybe Arnaud’s other horse (Bombshell).
“So we tried to play the game where whoever got the jump, we were going to sit off the pace, but if no one wanted it, I was going to go to the lead. Well, you know horse racing, you open the gate – BRRNNG – and she missed the break. I didn’t want to get too far back, but I liked the way she was doing it.
“She rolled out beautiful behind horses, and I liked the way she exploded down the lane,” Castellano said. “She hadn’t raced since October and I was afraid to ask her too much early and get flat. I think Arnaud did a good job bringing her up to the race fresh and having her ready to win.”
Hawksmoor paid $4.80 to win.
Inspector Lynley repeated his 2017 Tampa Bay Stakes victory with a late charge up the inside under Ortiz, prevailing by a half-length from Divisidero. The 2-1 favorite, Qurbaan, was a nose back in third, with Heart to Heart another neck back in fourth.
Inspector Lynley’s time of 1:40.35 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was .70 seconds off Legs Galore’s stakes and course record. He is owned by his breeders, Stuart S. Janney, III and Phipps Stable, and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III.
Inspector Lynley sure knows his way around the Oldsmar turf course, winning his second Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes under Jose Ortiz (courtesy SV Photography)
“He ran really well at Gulfstream in a really tough race from the 13 post last time (the Grade II Fort Lauderdale),” said McGaughey’s assistant, Robbie Medina. “He was last turning for home and he finished fourth and that was a really good race.
“I thought he was going to split horses coming for home today and I was really confident then, but when (Ortiz) dove him in you’re at the mercy of things to get through or not. Once he got his head in there, I knew he was going to pass (Heart to Heart), but I saw (Qurbaan) kind of moving and it was a matter of whether he was going to hold him off,” Medina said.
You know the wunderkind Ortiz: He makes it sound nowhere near as tense as Medina described.
“We drew perfect (in post position 2) and had a great target in Heart to Heart to follow and that was my goal, to be right behind him, and that’s what we did,” Ortiz said. “I know Heart to Heart tends to lean out a little bit, he has a tendency to run with his head in the air, so I sat there confidently.
“I tried to split horses but at the same time I tried to split them, (Heart to Heart) came out a touch and it opened up for me inside. I knew then I was going to get through.”
Suncoast Stakes winner Point of Honor has raced only twice, breaking her maiden by six lengths on Dec. 16 at Gulfstream in an off-the-turf maiden special weight. She turned a lot of heads today, with owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing, trainer George Weaver and Castellano singing her praises after a come-from-behind, two-and-three-quarter length victory from Lady Kate in 1:39.78 for the mile-and-40-yard distance, .42 seconds off Vaulcluse’s stakes record.
For a 3-year-old filly making her second start, Point of Honor looked like something special in the Suncoast Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)
“She won her first race very easy, but the horses behind her that day were not much,” Weaver said. “I think this was probably an acid test for her and she passed it with flying colors. She was very responsive to Javier and the way she drew away was very impressive.
“She is very push-button and very professional in whatever she does. Hopefully, it’s on to bigger things; we’ll try to work backward now to get her to the Kentucky Oaks.”
Castellano would love to come along for the ride.
“I feel very fortunate to pick her up today,” he said. “She was really impressive the way she did it and I give all the credit to Mr. Weaver for giving me the opportunity to ride her.”
Around the oval. Daniel Centeno rode two winners today. He captured the second race aboard Turko Treat, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Michael Vitello and trained by Gerald Bennett. Centeno added the fifth race on Tizk Tizk, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Yenise Rosario-Colon and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:40 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.