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March 17, 2019


by Mike Henry
Six $115,000 races for Florida-breds on March 31 attract 140 nominees; Daniel Centeno forges powerful connection with 3-year-old Alwaysmining; Samy Camacho passes the century mark for meeting.

The 17th annual Florida Cup, a collection of six $115,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds scheduled for Sunday, March 31, closed Saturday with 140 nominations, including 12 horses that were nominated to more than one race.

Leading Tampa Bay Downs conditioner Gerald Bennett, who is pursuing a fourth consecutive Oldsmar training crown, topped the list with 13 nominees.

A pair of 2018 Florida Cup winners are among the nominees. The Live Oak Plantation-owned He’s Bankable, who won last year’s DRF Bets Sophomore Turf as a 3-year-old, was nominated to the Touch Vodka Turf Classic by trainer Mark Casse, who accounted for nine nominees.

The other Florida Cup champion to be nominated is 6-year-old horse Swagger Jagger, who could seek a repeat in the Touch Vodka Turf Classic. He is owned by Freddy Lewis, III and trained by Michael Maker.

Other past Florida Cup champions nominated to this year’s event include 2017 DRF Bets Sophomore Turf winner Muggsamatic, a 5-year-old gelding nominated to the Touch Vodka Turf Classic by trainer Kathleen O’Connell for owner Stonehedge, LLC; and owner-trainer Juan Arriagada’s 6-year-old gelding Tiger Blood, who could attempt to duplicate his 2017 victory in the Zaxby’s Sprint.

Perhaps the two most accomplished nominees are 4-year-old colts World of Trouble and Firenze Fire, both nominated to the Zaxby’s Sprint by trainer Jason Servis.

Servis nominated World of Trouble, Florida’s 2018 Champion 3-Year-Old Male and Champion Turf Male, for owners Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables.

World of Trouble’s list of accomplishments include a second-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs; a third-place finish in the 2017 Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby; victories here in the 2018 Pasco Stakes and 2018 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes; and triumphs in the Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga, the Allied Forces Stakes at Belmont and, most recently, the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes.

Firenze Fire, nominated for breeder-owner Mr. Amore Stable, is the lone career millionaire among the Florida Cup nominees, with earnings in excess of $1.1-million. The winner of the Grade I Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old at Belmont, he won last year’s Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont and Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx Racing and finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill.

Another notable nominee is 3-year-old filly Catherinethegreat, nominated by Casse for owner John C. Oxley, to the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies. She won the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes in July at Saratoga.

An abundance of other stakes winners and stakes-placed horses have been nominated, creating high hopes for the most memorable Florida Cup Day in its relatively short history.

Entries will be drawn on Thursday, March 28. Here is the full slate of Florida Cup Day races:

Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs, main track; Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, 3-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs, main track; DRF Bets Sophomore Turf, 3-year-olds, mile-and-a-sixteenth, turf course; Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, mile-and-a-sixteenth, turf course; Touch Vodka Turf Classic, 4-years-old-and-upward, turf course; Zaxby’s Sprint, 4-years-old-and-upward, 6 furlongs, main track.

Centeno unearths gem in Alwaysmining. Daniel Centeno had little idea what to expect when he rode Alwaysmining for the first time on Oct. 27 in a 1-mile allowance/optional claiming event for 2-year-olds over a sloppy Laurel Park surface.

His interest in the Maryland-bred gelding increased 10-fold, and then some, after a 10-length victory. “I talked to (trainer Kelly Rubley) and told her I really liked him, and when she asked me if I’d like to come back, I said yes.”

Centeno keeps saying yes, Rubley keeps honing Alwaysmining to a razor’s edge and Centeno does his part, flying to Maryland on Saturday for the fourth time since the Tampa Bay Downs season started and riding the 3-year-old gelding to a fifth consecutive victory – the last four in stakes races – at Laurel in the $100,000 Private Terms Stakes.

Each of the victories has come at Laurel.

Alwaysmining led every step of the way in the Private Terms, touring the mile-and-a-sixteenth in 1:42.65 while winning by six-and-three-quarter lengths from Joevia. It was Alwaysmining’s first race around two turns and couldn’t have gone any better, Centeno said.

“I thought he could get the distance easily, but we didn’t know he was going to win like that,” Centeno said. “I hit him one time at the 3/16-mile pole and then I let him do everything on his own, and he finished strong and galloped out really good.

“He’s doing better and better every race and gaining more confidence,” Centeno said earlier today in the Tampa Bay Downs jockeys’ room. “We’re going to find out more about him when he runs against better horses, but this horse can run. He’s smart, he’s professional and he does everything right. You can pretty much do whatever you want with him, and Kelly is doing a great job keeping him sound and fit and sharp.”

Alwaysmining, who is owned by Runnymede Racing, is a son of 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty out of What will Be, by Anees.

The logical next start for Alwaysmining would come in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth on April 20 at Laurel. The Federico Tesio is a “Win and In” race for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 18 at Pimlico.

“I know the owners and Kelly are going to talk about what’s next, but no matter where he goes, I’m going to ride him and we’ll see what happens,” Centeno said.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode three winners today, surpassing the 100-mark for the meeting to continue his relentless pursuit of his first Oldsmar riding title.

The Caracas, Venzuela product won the second race on Burkey’s Babe, a 5-year-old mare, for owner Curragh Racing, II and trainer John P. Terranova, II.

Burkey’s Babe, who captured her third win in a row, was claimed from the race for $12,500 by owner-trainer M. Anthony Ferraro.

Milestone victory No. 100 for Camacho came in the sixth race on Majestic Secret, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by George Klein, Debbi Klein and Giogina Butler and trained by Rory C. Miller.

Not resting on his laurels, Camacho returned to win the seventh, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with 5-year-old horse Dundalk, who is trained by Kathleen O’Connell and owned by his breeder, Robert Gerczak.

Centeno showed no signs of jet lag, sweeping the late daily double. He won the eighth, the GEN-Z Race!, on She Read My Texts, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Ray Rech and trained by Gerald Bennett. Centeno added the ninth race on the turf aboard Big Tall Dawg, a 3-year-old gelding bred and owned by White Fox Farm and trained by Stacy Hendry.

In the fifth race on the turf, 4-year-old filly Malkia won for the fourth time in four starts at the meeting with a come-from-behind 1-length victory from Marmalade. Malkia, who was claimed on Jan. 19 by her current connections, is owned by her trainer Laura Cazares’ New World Thoroughbreds and Ashrad Mohamed. Ademar Santos was the jockey.

Malkia moved into a tie with Tiger Blood for most victories at the meeting.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday 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.