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December 21, 2019


by Mike Henry
"Lost" day to be made up Thursday, Jan. 23 pending state approval; top Great Britain apprentice jockey Cieren Fallon makes stateside debut, finishes third on turf; leading trainer Gerald Bennett sends out two winners; happiest of holiday seasons from this space to all!

Sunday’s nine-race Thoroughbred card has been cancelled due to concerns of inclement weather throughout the entire Tampa Bay area and along Florida’s west coast.

The card will be made up on Thursday, Jan. 23, pending state approval.

“The safety of our jockeys and horses, as well as fans traveling to and from the racetrack, is of paramount concern,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President-General Manager. “The forecast is for at least a couple of inches of rain and high winds overnight and into Sunday, and we have decided to err on the side of caution and make the card up at a later date.”

The track will remain open Sunday for simulcast wagering and action in The Silks Poker Room. The next day of Thoroughbred racing is Thursday, with post time for the first of nine races at 12:46 p.m.

Today’s second race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, marked the stateside debut of 20-year-old English apprentice jockey Cieren Fallon, the 2019 champion apprentice in Great Britain and son of retired six-time British champion rider Kieren Fallon. The youngster finished third aboard the Christophe Clement-trained 3-year-old colt Uhtred, 2 ¼ lengths behind winner Dream Liner.

The younger Fallon’s mother, Julie Bowker, is also a former rider.

After breaking alertly and angling to the inside from the No. 7 post position, Fallon found himself in tight quarters aboard Uhtred entering the first turn. He was able to secure good position up the backstretch in the mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance event and loomed a threat on the far turn, but had to settle for third after getting in tight in midstretch.

“He was struggling to get out in the home straight, but we didn’t have much room,” Fallon said. “We got room eventually and he picked up nicely, but it was a bit too late.”

For Fallon, who has been working for Clement at Payson Park Training Center in Indiantown, Fla., since early November, the plan is to return to England in February and come back to the United States next fall.

“I want to get some rides over here and work on the clock in my head and hopefully that can put me in a good state of mind for going back to the (United Kingdom),” he said. “This is a really nice turf course and riding here was a great experience. It’s a lot tighter than England, especially around the bends, but it was a good first ride and I’m looking forward to many more.”

Leading trainer Gerald Bennett sent out two winners today. Bennett won the first race with Lil’s Turn, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Harold Queen and ridden by Samy Camacho. Bennett added the sixth race with 13-1 shot He’s Smokin Now, a 2-year-old colt ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr.

Bennett and his wife Mary bred He’s Smokin Now in Florida and own him under their Winning Stables banner.

Thursday’s card coincides with the start of the track’s “Calendar Giveaway” promotion. The 2020 edition of the calendar will be distributed throughout the weekend to the first 10,000 patrons, with paid admission. It includes photographs by some of the area’s top equine photojournalists, as well as key racing dates throughout the season.

Beginning next week, Tampa Bay Downs will race on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule throughout the meeting with the exception of Christmas, Dec. 25, and Easter, April 12, when the track is closed, and the Dec. 26 and (tentative) Jan. 23 racing cards.

Otherwise, 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.