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April 28, 2019


by Mike Henry
With a fourth consecutive training title assured, Gerald Bennett sees no reason to rest on his laurels; Pablo Morales is a master of the Oldsmar turf.

Over the next week, leading trainer Gerald Bennett will ship members of his 50-horse stable to Delaware Park, which begins its season Saturday.

Bennett, who has clinched his fourth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training title and fifth overall, increased his wins total to 65 by going 2-for-2 today. His winner in the fifth race on the turf, 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Completely Bonkers, tied Malkia and Tiger Blood atop the 2018-2019 Oldsmar equine standings with four victories.

Like many of his training rivals, Bennett has expressed his surprise at how quickly the season has seemed to fly by. The traditional season concludes next Sunday, May 5, with the track’s annual Fan Appreciation Day program, featuring free general admission and concession stand and Gift Shop discounts.

That will be preceded by Saturday’s 12-race card and the simulcast of the 145th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

While four days of racing are left before the remaining Thoroughbreds, horsemen and jockeys scatter to destinations far and wide (the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing is scheduled June 30 and July 1), some have already departed. Here’s a look at where some of the track’s top conditioners have headed, or are readying to go (Tampa Bay Downs jockeys’ destinations were covered in the April 26 press release):

  • Kathleen O’Connell, the 2018-2019 standings runner-up, trainer of Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Well Defined and a two-time Oldsmar training champion, will split her stable between Gulfstream Park West and Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
  • Michael Stidham, Derek Ryan, Mike Dini, Kent Sweezey and Rob O’Connor, II will be based at Monmouth.
  • Arnaud Delacour will keep about 15 horses at Delaware Park and the rest of his string at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
  • Keith Nations is headed to Delaware and will also compete at other mid-Atlantic tracks. Also heading to Delaware are Victor Carrasco, Jr., and John Rigattieri.
  • Anthony Granitz, Dale Bennett and Michele Boyce are headed to Arlington in Illinois, with Granitz also competing at Indiana Grand.
  • Ignacio Correas, IV has already moved most of his horses to Kentucky.
  • Darien Rodriguez, Maria Bowersock, Nick Caruso and Aldana Gonzalez will be at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., with Caruso also racing at Woodbine in Toronto.
  • Joan Scott will return to Kentucky.
  • Juan Arriagada is at Gulfstream Park.

There are few opportunities for vacations among the training ranks, and the nomadic way of life is a given for the majority of conditioners who care for their horses on a year-round basis.

It is hoped as many as possible enjoy the success and fulfillment they deserve before returning here in November.

Around the oval. Pablo Morales rode three winners today, all on the turf.

Morales, who won the fifth on Completely Bonkers for Bennett and owners Matties Racing Stable and Averill Racing, captured the sixth on the turf on 5-year-old mare Goiaba for owner Bonne Chance Farm and trainer Arnaud Delacour. The pilot added the ninth and final race on Rhythmia, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred and owned by Vegso Racing Stable and trained by Dale Bennett.

Raul Mena and Huber Villa-Gomez each rode two winners today.

Mena won the first race on My Cotton Candy, a 3-year-old filly owned by Vicente Perez and trained by Gerard Ochoa. Mena added the fourth on Sweet Gelato for owner Serena’s Dream Catcher Farm and trainer Joseph Arboritanza.

Villa-Gomez took the second and third races. He won the second on Lapulga, a 5-year-old mare owned by Jesus Ferrusquia and trained by Mario Lorito, and the third on the turf with Blarp, an 8-year-old gelding owned by La Marca Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. 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.