Leading jockey Samy Camacho sends Killybegs Captain from the outset, and Imperial Hint and the others have no answers; owner Curragh Racing and trainer John P. Terranova, II complete stakes sweep with Heavenly Score in Minaret; Kids and Family Days event is Sunday in Backyard Picnic Area.
Count assistant trainer Rory Barron among the handful of folks who thought 5-year-old Killybegs Captain was capable of upsetting multiple-Grade I winner Imperial Hint in the 35th edition of the $100,000 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
And maybe Barron is the guy everyone should have listened to, since he’s spent the last several weeks overseeing Killybegs Captain’s development into a stakes winner.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Barron after Killybegs Captain raced to a four-and-a-half length victory from closer Sweetontheladies, with Imperial Hint fading to third, another half-length back in the five-horse field. Killybegs Captain paid $21.60 to win, completing the 6-furlong distance in 1:09.66, .52 seconds off the stakes record, in his stakes debut.
Jockey Samy Camacho gives Killybegs Captain a final reminder there is gold at the end of the Pelican Stakes rainbow, and the 5-year-old responds emphatically (courtesy SV Photography)
Barron has watched Killybegs Captain morph into a powerhouse of sorts virtually overnight for owner Curragh Racing, II and trainer John P. Terranova, II, who was at Aqueduct today. “He’s been training really forwardly, and I told Samy (Camacho, the winning jockey) we were going to make Imperial Hint work for it today,” Barron said.
The Curragh Racing and Terranova team also won the $50,000 Minaret Stakes with their 5-year-old Arkansas-bred mare Heavenly Score, who found an opening on the inside in the stretch and rolled from there to a two-length victory from Silly Factor. Pablo Morales rode Heavenly Score, who raced the 6 furlongs in 1:10.63. Souper Echo was a neck back in third in the eight-horse field.
“We’re very fortunate, and we’ll continue to go forward,” said Curragh Racing, II partner James Burke of Long Island after the stakes sweep. “We have a nice stable and a great trainer, and we’re very blessed and fortunate.”
Entering the Pelican, Terranova, who spoke afterward by telephone from New York, shared Barron’s confidence – to a point – because Killybegs Captain has been working out so well on the Oldsmar oval strip since mid-January after winning a 7-furlong conditional allowance/optional claiming event here on Dec. 23.
“It sure looked on paper like it would be tough, but if we were ever going to take (Imperial Hint) on, this was the time,” Terranova said. “(Killybegs Captain) won that non-winners of two-other-than race, so there really wasn’t anywhere else for him to go, and he’s been training fantastic.
“He really likes that surface and Rory and the crew have been doing a great job with him, and I’m really proud of those guys. I’m pleasantly surprised, but it was not totally unexpected,” Terranova added.
Give plenty of credit, too, to Camacho, who rode Killybegs Captain with confidence throughout and saved plenty of horse for the stretch run. The gray Kentucky-bred son of Mizzen Mast, whose pretty coat is mottled with splotches of light brown, ran his rivals into the ground with a quarter-mile of 21.81 seconds and a half of 44.32.
“When I saw (Imperial Hint) warming up, I didn’t think he looked unbeatable today, so I knew I was going to send my horse to the lead like Rory and I talked about before the race,” Camacho said. “I had a lot of horse when I turned for home. I trusted God and I trusted myself, my horse was strong all the way and I felt a lot of confidence when I turned for home.”
The 6-year-old Imperial Hint’s trainer, Luis Carvajal, Jr., and jockey Antonio Gallardo spoke for several minutes after the race, but both found it difficult to put their fingers on what went wrong with a horse who was 3-for-3 at Tampa Bay Downs and had been working outstandingly since returning to training following his third-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“Right now it’s still a question mark,” Carvajal said a half-hour after the race. “Antonio told me that after a half-mile he wasn’t picking up the bit, and usually he will carry you around the turn every time. Today, it was like he was not too interested. He switched leads and he was breathing well, but it looked like he didn’t fire.
“The winner ran a really good race, but we should know tomorrow what’s going on (with Imperial Hint). He’s worked better than he ran today, but you have to run the race first. It’s never a sure thing,” Carvajal said.
In the 38th edition of the Minaret, for older fillies and mares, Morales kept Heavenly Score in mid-pack early, but not too far back of Elevenses, Souper Echo and Silly Factor dueling up front. When an opening on the rail became available, Morales urged the winner toward it, and she responded for her first career stakes victory.
The striking roan Heavenly Score, who is graded stakes-placed on turf, won by two lengths from Silly Factor in 1:10.63. Souper Echo was another neck back in third in the eight-horse field.
Heavenly Score and jockey Pablo Morales take advantage of a rail opening to win the Minaret Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)
“The game plan was to come out of there running and in good position,” Morales said. “I knew she has speed, but I didn’t need to use it right away. I was just trying to stay close and keep her moving.
“She is a big, long-striding mare who does everything pretty handily, and around the turn I knew I had a lot of horse. It was just a matter of trying to find a place to go, and when there was room on the rail, I had so much horse that she just pushed right through it with no problems,” Morales added.
Terranova noted Heavenly Score was also working exceptionally well going into her race, easing his concerns about her making her first start since a third-place finish in the Shine Again at Saratoga in August.
“She runs very well fresh, and she did what we were hoping for today,” Terranova said. “I was a little concerned about having the inside post, but when the rail opened she went right through there. I don’t know if she was 100 percent today, but I knew she was good enough to get it done, or be very competitive.
“She runs well on turf, too, so we have a lot of options with her going into the spring,” Terranova said.
Around the oval. Camacho rode three winners today. He triumphed in the second race on 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Pettinberg for owners Acclaimed Racing Stable and M. Robert Bosso and trainer Juan Arriagada. Camacho also captured the 11th and final race on first-time starter Storm Rising, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Robert S. Evans and trained by Christophe Clement.
Gallardo also rode three winners. He started in the first aboard Real Fast Music, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Sunshine Racing Stable and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. He next won the eighth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, on 5-year-old mare Phantom Opening for owner Surfside Stables and trainer Jordan Blair.
Gallardo also won the 10th on the turf with Strike at Dawn, a 3-year-old filly owned by Peter M. Brant and Joseph Allen, LLC and trained by Chad Brown.
Morales won twice, also taking the sixth on the turf on 4-year-old filly Imaginable for owner Yenise Rosario-Colon and trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr.
Declan Cannon rode two winners for the second consecutive day. He captured the third race on 9-year-old Petrocelli, who is owned and trained by M. Anthony Ferraro. Cannon came back to win the fourth race on the turf aboard 3-year-old colt Bundibunan, who broke his maiden for owner Haras Interlagos and trainer Ignacio Correas, IV.
Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. Sunday is also the second Kids and Family Days celebration of the meeting, with fun-filled activities for children in the Backyard Picnic Area. Games, pony rides and bounce houses will be organized, and the track mascot, Mouse the Miniature Horse, is scheduled to appear (she loves peppermints and pats on the neck!).
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.