Zaino Boyz pulls an Inaugural shocker, rewards trainer Bobby Raymond with first Tampa Bay Downs stakes victory; Daniel Centeno rides a second stakes winner in Sandpiper, scoring on Lucrezia.
If you noticed trainer Bobby Raymond in the paddock before the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes today, you might have gotten the idea he was expecting big things from his 2-year-old colt Zaino Boyz.
“I never dress up. How many times have you seen me in a suit?” Raymond said of his pinstriped attire.
Raymond would have looked good in anything after Zaino Boyz and jockey Daniel Centeno sprinted to a 6-length victory from trainer Gerald Bennett’s No Getting Over Me in 1:09.95, .63 seconds off Catalina Red’s stakes record for the 6-furlong distance.
An ebullient Daniel Centeno salutes his long-shot Inaugural winner, Zaino Boyz, who paid $58 to win; Centeno has won three consecutive Inaugurals (courtesy SV Photography)
Cajun Casanova held on for third, while the 7-10 favorite, Another Miracle, struggled throughout, finishing fifth in the six-horse field.
The victory was the third in a row in the Inaugural for Centeno, who won aboard Gladiator King last year and on Tricks to Doo in 2017.
The 35th edition of the Inaugural was one of two stakes races on a 10-race Cotillion Festival Day card featuring all 2-year-old races. Each and every horse that competed turns 3 on Jan. 1, the accepted birthday for all North American horses for record-keeping purposes.
In the 41st running of the $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Lucrezia overcame a so-so start and rallied through the stretch to defeat stakes winner Two Sixty by 1 ¾ lengths. Centeno rode Lucrezia, combining with trainer Arnaud Delacour for their second consecutive triumph in the race.
Centeno is atop the Oldsmar jockey standings with 10 victories from 24 mounts through seven days.
The Inaugural marked the second victory in four starts and first on the dirt for Zaino Boyz, an Arkansas-bred owned by Greg Zaino’s Zaino Ventures, Inc. The winner paid $58 as the second-longest shot in the field.
Raymond, who celebrated his first Tampa Bay Downs stakes victory in the winner’s circle with his wife Kathy, didn’t want to go there when asked if this was an emotional victory.
“I’m a funny guy. Whether they’re an $8,000 horse or a $5,000 horse or a stakes horse, I treat them all the same,” said Raymond, the Woonsocket, R.I., native who has saddled more than 1,200 winners since taking out his trainer’s license in 1979. “They’re all stakes horses to me. They’ve got blood running through their veins.”
Centeno, the six-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey, entered the race with a high level of confidence after breezing Zaino Boyz 3 furlongs eight days ago. He and Cajun Casanova appeared to be the early speed horses, and Zaino Boyz broke on top from the No. 4 post to give the rider good options.
“My horse broke so sharp out of the gate, like a rocket,” Centeno said. “I wanted to sit a little off (No. 1 post Cajun Casanova), but my horse was dragging me so I just let him go to the lead nice and easy. Turning for home I had plenty of horse, and when I asked him at the quarter-mile pole he responded real well and had a good kick down the lane.”
While No Getting Over Me ran a credible race eight days after winning his career debut going a mile-and-40-yards, rallying for second, Another Miracle, the Skidmore Stakes winner on turf in August at Saratoga and the third-place finisher in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last month, never reached contention.
The Inaugural was Another Miracle’s first start on dirt since his maiden victory in July at Saratoga.
“He was trying hard, but he was just spinning his wheels,” said jockey Antonio Gallardo. “Every track is different, and he couldn’t seem to handle it today from the beginning.”
Even if he had, it’s doubtful he could have touched the winning son of Daaher-Elusive Sara, by Elusive Quality.
“I loved this horse, especially after he worked so good the other day with Danny on him,” Raymond said. “I didn’t think he was going to stop today and he didn’t. But when I saw 56.85 seconds (for the first 5 furlongs), I thought he might be stopping a little, but he never did.”
Raymond said he and Zaino might look toward the $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes on Jan. 18 for Zaino Boyz’s next start. If they make it, you can be sure Raymond will be dressed to the nines.
Lucrezia, who is owned by Beverly S. Anderson and Edward Seltzer, improved to 2-for-4 with her Sandpiper victory. Her time of 1:10.16 was .15 seconds off the stakes record.
Lucrezia and the sizzling Daniel Centeno overcome a flat-footed start to win the Sandpiper Stakes authoritatively (courtesy SV Photography)
The even-money favorite broke from the No. 1 post, and Delacour said that may have contributed to a hesitant start. “She broke a little flat-footed, kind of the same way she broke the last time she ran in New York when she was on the inside,” said Delacour, referring to her fifth-place finish last month in the Stewart Manor Stakes.
Instead of rushing her, Centeno elected to keep her in third place early, behind Two Sixty and long-shot Delta Hutch. The rider was able to get her to relax and when the “real” running started, the daughter of Into Mischief-Verdana Bold, by Rahy, was up to the task. Lucrezia carried 118 pounds, 6 fewer than the Florida-bred runner-up.
“(Two Sixty) was right in front of me, so it set up perfect,” Centeno said. “She got time to relax and I put her on the outside. I made her move a little early because the track is fast today, and she was able to make one run and finish strong.”
“When something happens, you have to go to Plan B, and Danny did a good job of getting her to sit off the speed,” Delacour said. “She came with a big run and I think she learned something today, so it’s an encouraging result.”
The 10th race served as the “Tampa Bay Owners Club” race, with 2-year-old filly Matinee Girl winning under Harry Hernandez for owner Pinnacle Racing Stable and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
There were 30 fans who correctly selected Matinee Girl in the contest; they become part of a group of “fantasy owners” for the duration of the meeting.
Around the oval. In today’s fifth race, a maiden special weight contest, first-time starter Hauntedbythemusic blazed the 6-furlong distance in 1:09.69, winning by 6 ¼ lengths from Drama Chorus. Gallardo rode the winner, a Florida-bred owned by Six SandBaggers Stables and trained by Baltazar Galvan.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Next Saturday, Dec. 14, fans can get an early start on the day’s activities while watching horses work out during “Touch Vodka Breakfast at the Downs,” which begins 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.
The Dec. 14 card includes a pair of $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association stakes for 3-year-olds that are registered Florida-breds and sired by FTBOA-registered Florida stallions: the Marion County Florida Sire Stakes for colts and geldings and the City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes for fillies. Both races will be contested at a distance of 7 furlongs.
Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with Sundays added to the mix on Dec. 22 and a special Thursday, Dec. 26 card.
The track 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.