That $16,000 Laura Cazares and her partner spent to claim Malkia may prove a great bargain, she's not too far off Tepin's course record in Fillies and Mares Division of Tampa Turf Test; iron horse Nigel's Destiny wins Males Division in his second race of the week.
One look was all owner-trainer Laura Cazares needed five weeks ago to know she wanted to add 4-year-old filly Malkia to her racing stable.
“I liked her form on paper, and when I saw her in the saddling paddock here (on Jan. 19, before a $16,000 claiming race on the turf for non-winners of two races), I got that feeling she had to be mine,” said Cazares, who claimed her that day for her New World Thoroughbreds enterprise and co-owner Ashrad Mohamed.
Malkia rallied from last place that day to win by four-and-three-quarter lengths. Call it destiny if you want, or just good horsemanship, but Cazares’ discerning eye was rewarded in her own silks today in Malkia’s very next start as she won the third leg of the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, today’s seventh race, by a length from Aquemini.
Marmalade finished third and 17-10 favorite Kool Kate was fourth.
Under jockey Ademar Santos, Malkia raced the mile-and-an-eighth distance in 1:47.52, 1.26 seconds off the course record set by the two-time Eclipse Award Champion Grass Mare, Tepin, in the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes in 2016. Malkia paid $14.20 to win as the fifth betting choice in the nine-horse field.
In the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test, contested as the ninth race, 8-year-old gelding Nigel’s Destiny broke on top under jockey Declan Cannon and turned back all challenges, winning by a length-and-a-quarter from Wagon Boss in 1:49.02. Whiskey Train finished third and Marksman was fourth.
Nigel’s Destiny paid $7.60 to win as the second-betting favorite in the field of 10. Now 5-for-35, with eight seconds, he’d been claimed in September at Belmont by owner Martin Somers’ High Kings Racing and is trained by Niall Saville, who recorded his first Tampa Bay Downs victory.
Back to the Fillies and Mares Race, in which Santos kept Malkia in mid-pack early before launching her bid at the top of the stretch. “The key was that I got to save ground and we got a clean trip,” Santos said. “I think she’s a good filly with some class who probably has stakes potential. I couldn’t even pull her up after the wire; she wanted to keep going, and that’s always a good thing.”
Malkia, who has won three in a row to improve to 3-for-5 lifetime, is by 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, out of the More Than Ready mare Set’n On Ready.
Cazares, who said she made a couple of pre-race equipment changes that benefited her filly, is extremely high on her prospects. “She’s put on a lot of weight and muscled out really good,” said Cazares, who trains her horses in Ocala. “I’m looking at some starter allowances for her next, and maybe move her up from there. I’ll let her tell me what she wants to do and what she can do.
“I’m amazingly excited because I haven’t had a big-race win like this since Whiskey Train (in the 2016 Armed Forces Stakes at Gulfstream, at odds of 23-1) in my 14th career start, and I’m hoping this is my next big one.”
For his part, Males Division winner Nigel’s Destiny, a son of Giant’s Causeway out of Ticket to Seattle, by Capote, was starting a mere five days after a respectable fourth-place finish in the Little Magician Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream. This was his first career turf victory in six starts.
After returning him to Ocala following the Gulfstream stakes, Saville was undecided whether to start Nigel’s Destiny in the Tampa Turf Test until this morning. “He went in the swimming pool for three or four days, and he was bouncing this morning, so I put him on the van,” Saville said. “He knows his job and he loves his job and he’d be quite happy to race every day of the week. He’s a tough bugger.”
Cannon was impressed by Nigel’s Destiny’s staying ability. “Obviously I was concerned about saving enough to make sure he’d finish,” Cannon said. “Her relaxed good on the lead and I was able to quicken the tempo when it suited me.”
Despite continual pressure from long shot Wagon Boss, Nigel’s Destiny had some gas left in his tank approaching the finish. “At the top of the stretch, he put his ears back and kept fighting, and I knew they weren’t going to get by him. He knows what he’s doing and I was just a good passenger.”
Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:43 p.m. The feature is the eighth race, a $27,500, allowance/optional claiming event for 3-year-old fillies going six-and-a-half furlongs. Eight are entered. The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Kansas-bred Konza Kandy, who won in a similar condition on Feb. 2 at five-and-a-half furlongs. Konza Kandy is trained by Carlos Silva and will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo.
Sunday’s seventh race is the “Generation Z Special,” with fans 25-and-under who have a ticket on the winner invited to the winner’s-circle ceremony to join in the picture with the horse and its connections.
The “Generation Z Special” race is an offshoot of the track’s “College Days” contest, in which students submitted essays with ideas for marketing horse racing to a new generation of fans. Five students were chosen by a panel of judges to receive $2,000 scholarships through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation based on their essays.
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.
Taste of the bayou. The track’s first-ever “Seafood Fest & Crawfish Boil” is scheduled Saturday, March 2 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Backyard Picnic Area. The cost is $35 a person and features a seafood boil; shrimp; jambalaya and the fixin’s; wine-tasting; and cigar-rolling. Also included are admission to the races, a Tampa Bay Downs program and chances on the prize wheel.
Tickets can be purchased on the track website, www.tampabaydowns.com , by clicking the Seafood Fest & Crawfish Boil icon and following the prompts. For details, call (813) 855-4401.
Hearts Reaching Out. The 27th annual “Hearts Reaching Out Golf Tournament and Fundraiser,” which benefits the Race Track Chaplaincy of America – Tampa Bay Downs Division, will be held Monday, March 4 at East Lake Woodlands Country Club and Tampa Bay Downs.
The event kicks off the track’s Festival Week, which culminates in Festival Day 39 on Saturday, March 9. Five stakes worth $1-million in purse money are scheduled, including three graded events: the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-old Triple Crown prospects on the main track; the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf; and the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
This year’s Hearts Reaching Out extravaganza features the Triple Crown golf sponsorship package. A $2,500 donation includes a foursome with golfer packages, recognition signs at the event and the sponsor’s name on hole signs. Other sponsorship opportunities are available.
The tournament, featuring a four-player scramble format, begins at 11 a.m. It is followed at 5:30 p.m. by a dinner on the first floor of the Tampa Bay Downs Grandstand, with a Charity Auction and the awards ceremony at 6 p.m.
Tickets for the dinner and auction only are $20. Among the items to be auctioned are photographs, paintings, whips, halters and other racing and sports memorabilia; gift certificates and gift cards for restaurants, movies, theaters, museums and sporting events; lottery tickets; gift baskets; and numerous other keepers.
The RTCA – Tampa Bay Downs Division, under the guidance of President Sharyn Wasiluk and Chaplain Pete Crisswell, ministers to the needs of the backstretch community by providing computer lessons, English language courses, church services, Bible study, softball, volleyball and soccer events and a March fishing trip.
The chaplaincy strives to help grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders and stable hands achieve a life balance while entrusting them with the care of valuable equine athletes, and any public support is greatly appreciated.
The spiritual component of the RTCA – Tampa Bay Downs Division helps “to bring the word of God to everyone on the back side of the racetrack to bring as many people as possible into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, resulting in a life that is full and abundant in its nature and eternal in its scope.”
For additional details on the “Hearts Reaching Out Golf Tournament and Fundraiser,” call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.