Marksman wins two legs of series, sets course record in today's final leg; Lemon Zip best of the gals; 26-1 winner in last means bettors have tens of thousands of duckies to vie for Sunday.
Marksman, a 6-year-old gelding who won the first leg of the annual Tampa Turf Test for males on Nov. 24, concluded the four-race starter handicap series with a flourish, powering through an opening in deep stretch and drawing away under jockey Daniel Centeno for a one-length victory from Gray Dude.
Marksman completed the mile-and-three-eighths distance in course-record time of 2:15.94, .12 seconds faster than the previous standard set last year by Desert Folly.
In the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, Lemon Zip, a 5-year-old Ontario-bred mare ridden by Declan Cannon, broke free in the stretch to post a one-length victory from Irony of Reality.
Jockey Ademar Santos was shaken up after Whiskey Train stumbled and unseated him in the Males Division, but appeared otherwise unhurt. He was taken off his mount in the 10th and final race for precautionary reasons.
Whiskey Train was vanned off after the race.
Today’s 10th-race upset by 26-1 shot Mz. Foo Do created two large carryover pools for Sunday, as no bettor hit the late Pick-5 or the final-race Super High-5. The carryover amount into Sunday’s late Pick-5 pool will be $32,967.86. The Super High-5 carryover, which is applied to the first race Sunday with at least seven entrants, is $20,800.57.
Marksman, who is owned by Bruce McCrea and trained by Rob O’Connor, II, is a Kentucky-bred son of Arch out of the Top Account mare Junkinthetrunk.
“I thought he’d win three of the four (Tampa Turf Test) races when we came down here this season, so I’m a little disappointed,” O’Connor said. “But he’s a good horse and he showed what he can do today.”
O’Connor and Centeno agreed the difference today was the decision to keep Marksman near the lead in the early going after taking him back in last month’s third leg of the series at a mile-and-an-eighth, in which he finished fourth.
“We made a mistake the last time,” Centeno said. “The plan today was to break sharp and try to go to the lead, and I had a really nice trip all the way around.”
Turning for home, the top two, Nigel’s Destiny and Wagon Boss, began to tire, but Marksman was still going strong. “I moved him out (between horses) and when he saw the clear, he went through and finished great,” Centeno said.
Marksman, now 4-for-23, paid $9 to win as the third wagering choice. Wagon Boss finished third and Vitium rallied for fourth.
Centeno also won today's first race on 4-year-old filly Drinks On Maggie for owner Bruno Schickedanz and trainer Nick Caruso.
Meanwhile, trainer Niall Saville, who had won an earlier leg of the Tampa Turf Test for males with Nigel’s Destiny on Feb. 23, said owner Martin Somers of High Kings Racing plans to breed 5-year-old mare Lemon Zip soon, perhaps to Pennsylvania-based stallion Warrior’s Reward.
But she proved her competitive juices still flow on the racetrack, breaking free in the stretch and powering to a one-length victory from Irony of Reality.
Lemon Zip paid $32 to win after completing the mile-and-three-eighths distance in 2:17.71. Irony of Reality was three-and-a-half lengths clear of favorite Aquemini, with pace-setter Haniel fading to fourth.
“She is a beautifully bred mare (by Ghostzapper out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Edge), but little things kept going wrong in her last few starts,” said Saville, who has trained Lemon Zip through five starts after Somers purchased her privately last summer. “But I knew she had it in her, and I thought today would be her best race.”
Lemon Zip improved to 4-for-17 with the victory. She had finished a non-threatening sixth in the previous Tampa Turf Test event for fillies and mares last month at a mile-and-an-eighth.
Cannon kept Lemon Zip in the top flight early today as the field dawdled through slow fractions and always felt she was willing to respond at his asking.
“Sometimes in these long-distance races there isn’t much pace, so I wanted to make use of her early and see if she’d stay,” said Cannon, who was riding Lemon Zip for the first time. “I got a good trip around the inside, and she quickened up nicely off the slow pace.
“She finished up strong, so we were very happy,” Cannon added.
Saville, highly encouraged by her enthusiastic performance, said he hopes to keep her in training for a spell after she is bred.
Around the oval. Raul Mena rode two winners today. He captured the fourth race on the turf on first-time starter Rock the Causeway, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Joe Conoscienti and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Mena added a second victory in the seventh with Road to Damascus, a 4-year-old gelding owned by G.L.A. Stable and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr.
O’Connell, for her part, returned to the winner’s circle after the fifth race with 4-year-old filly Memorable Angel, a homebred racing for owner Sandra McKinney and ridden by Antonio Gallardo.
Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 5, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 21, when the track is closed.
Otherwise, 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.
Florida Cup Day is March 31. The 17th annual Florida Cup, a series of six stakes races for registered Florida-breds worth $115,000 apiece, will be contested Sunday, March 31.
Three Florida Cup races will be contested on the main track, with three on the turf. The slate of main-track events includes the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a distance of 7 furlongs; the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, for 3-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs; and the Zaxby’s Sprint, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward going 6 furlongs.
The turf races are the DRF Bets Sophomore Turf, for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth; the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward going a mile-and-a-sixteenth; and the Touch Vodka Turf Classic, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth.
The Florida Cup is presented by Jim Browne Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and iHeartRadio.