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November 29, 2019

BENNETT THINKS MAIDEN WINNER COULD BE SOMETHING SPECIAL

by Mike Henry
Professional performance by No Getting Over Me in career debut stokes optimism for veteran owner-trainer; Samy Camacho rides three winners; "Tampa Bay Sport Day" trivia contest, Festivus Challenge handicapping contest highlight Saturday promotional offerings.

Normally, you don’t expect to find a candidate for graded-stakes success competing in a maiden special weight race in late November at Tampa Bay Downs.

But after watching his first-time starter No Getting Over Me roll to a 9 ¾-length victory in his career debut at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards in today’s sixth race, five-time Oldsmar training champion Gerald Bennett threw caution to the wind.

“I was a little worried about him going that long his first time out, but I wanted to get him running because I haven’t won a (Grade II Lambholm South) Tampa Bay Derby yet,” said Bennett, who saddled 86-1 shot Crimson Knight for a second-place finish in the Tampa Bay Downs showcase in 2011.

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Gerald Bennett

The 2020 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is March 7.

“This is a nice horse, a real nice horse,” Bennett said of No Getting Over Me, a gray 2-year-old Florida-bred Bennett owns under his Winning Stables banner. “I’m really glad how he handled himself today. And he was so relaxed walking back (to the barn); sometimes after they run, they can get really worked up.”

The victory by No Getting Over Me capped a 3-for-3 day for Bennett. Last season’s leading jockey, Samy Camacho, rode No Getting Over Me, who completed the distance over a fast track in 1:40.31, 1.45 seconds off the track record.

Saturday’s nine-race card begins at 12:51 p.m., with Bennett set to send out three runners.

Bennett said a key to No Getting Over Me’s performance was going the extra yard with him around the barn. “He was kind of mean at first, but we just babied him,” he explained. “I’ve got him eating mints and everything. We just conned him.”

Bennett’s other victories today came in the first race with 8-year-old Florida-bred mare Southern n’ Sassy and and in the third race with 2-year-old Florida-bred colt Neat Street, who was also ridden by Camacho. Bennett and his wife Mary used some of their purse winnings to claim Americano, the third-place finisher in the fourth race, for $6,250.

Bennett, who has a string of about 42 horses here, said the key to getting off to a fast start at the meeting isn’t complicated. Numbers help, of course, plus “We get in here as early as we can and get them training here and get enough works under them so they’re already used to the track.”

A healthy dose of optimism can’t hurt, either.

“That was a good race, so now we’ll take the next step. If you don’t try to think positive. … well, that’s the way you have to go in this game. You have to carry that over to your horses and let them feel positive,” he said.

It might have also worked for Camacho, who posted his third victory on the card in the next race on the turf with 4-year-old gelding Small Hope for trainer Kent Sweezey.

Trainer Darien Rodriguez won with both of his starters today, sending out 5-year-old gelding Legacy Azteca to win the fourth race and 6-year-old mare Marmalade to capture the ninth on the turf.  

Trivia contest offers Bucs, Lightning, bowl game tickets and more. If you’re one of those folks who remembers the winner of the 1967 Kentucky Derby (Proud Clarion), knows the starting quarterback of the 1983 New York Jets (Richard Todd), and can name history’s all-time home runs leader (Sadaharu Oh), Saturday’s “Tampa Bay Sport Day” trivia contest at Tampa Bay Downs is right up your alley.

And with there being no cost to enter and prizes such as tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lightning, the Rays, the Outback Bowl, the Gasparilla Bowl, USF men’s and women’s basketball and the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship up for grabs, staying on the sidelines is hardly an option.

All fans need to do to enter Saturday is pick up a list of multiple-choice questions at the main Grandstand entrance. Anyone answering all five questions correctly gets a chance to spin the prize wheel for a chance to win.

The “Tampa Bay Sport Day” contest kicks off a fun-packed 2019-2020 Tampa Bay Downs promotional schedule.

Also free to enter is the annual “10 Days of Festivus Challenge Online Handicapping Contest,” which begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 21. The registration deadline is 10:30 a.m. Lifelines are available upon signup and on Dec. 14 and Dec. 18.

All wagers are mythical and players make a single selection each day from one of two “Challenge Races.” The contest employs a “Survivor” format, enabling players to purchase those lifelines to keep progressing. The first-place prize is $1,000 and second place is worth $500.

For details and to register, go to www.festivuschallenge.com on the Internet.

On the following Saturday, Dec. 7, Tampa Bay Downs offers the second “Tampa Bay Owners Club” contest. Fans receive an entry blank at the gate, and anyone who selects the winner of a designated race becomes a “fantasy” owner of that horse for the duration of the meeting.

Each winner receives free admission and a program each time “their” new horse competes, along with a mutuel voucher, concession stand discounts, an attractive pin and trips to the paddock and (hopefully) the winner’s circle.

Saturday, Dec. 14 is the always-popular “Touch Vodka Breakfast at the Downs” beginning at 9 a.m. under the Trackside Picnic Pavilion Tent. Tickets are $10, which covers breakfast, a Bloody Mary (adults only) and a racing program. Tickets are available in the General Office and at the site on the day of the event.

Fans can get an early start on the day’s racing excitement, watch workouts and meet with track officials, jockeys and trainers.

Racing is our game, but enjoying the totality of the experience is what it’s all about at the Oldsmar oval.

Stakes nominations released. A total of 55 2-year-olds have been nominated to the first stakes Saturday of the 2019-2020 meeting on Dec. 7.

The 35th edition of the $100,000, 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-olds has attracted 27 colts and geldings, headed by Leonard C. Green and Jonathan I. Green’s Another Miracle, trained by Gary Contessa.

Another Miracle won the Skidmore Stakes in August on the turf at Saratoga and was third in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

Other Inaugural nominees with solid ceredentials include two-time Gulfstream Park stakes winner Chance It from the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr.; trainer Michael Stidham’s stakes-winner Embolden, who finished third in the Grade III Futurity on Oct. 6 at Belmont; and stakes winner As Seen On Tv, trained by Kelly Breen.

The 41st running of the $100,000, 6-furlong Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies drew 28 nominations. That collection includes two-time south Florida stakes winner Ceci Valentina, trained by Angel Rodriguez, and Fast Scene, a stakes winner at Woodbine in Toronto on both synthetic and turf trained by Tim Hamm.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25 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.