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December 28, 2019


by Mike Henry
Jan. 11 High Rollers contest could pay out as much as $20,000 to the winner, with two top finishers earning a coveted seat at the NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas; Samy Camacho has nine winners over last three days, teams with trainer Gerald Bennett for three today.

The second annual High Rollers Handicapping Contest, featuring a potential first-place prize of $20,000, will be held Saturday, Jan. 11 in the VIP Room at Tampa Bay Downs.

To enter, players are required to deposit $1,000, of which $500 serves as the player’s wagering bankroll and $500 goes to the prize pool. Any dollar amount remaining in their bankroll at the conclusion of the contest goes directly to the player, meaning all of the prize money is returned to the entrants.

Only races at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 11 will be included in the contest. The $20,000 first prize, and the other cash awards, are based on 100 entries. The first and second-place finishers will also claim a seat in either of the next two National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championships in Las Vegas (next year’s event is Feb. 7-9 at Bally’s).

“We are thrilled to again offer our players an opportunity to showcase their handicapping skills, win big bucks and advance to nationals,” said Margo Flynn, Vice President of Marketing and Publicity at Tampa Bay Downs.

“This area seems to have a bottomless wealth of outstanding handicappers and bettors, and the atmosphere will be electric during the contest. We wish everyone who competes the best of luck, but suspect skill will play the main role in determining the winners.”

Players can enter online at . The entry deadline is noon on Jan. 11. For additional details, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Wagers will be limited to win, place and/or show, with each player required to wager $100 on five separate races on the card. Anyone wagering on less or more than five races will be disqualified.

The entire set of rules is on the website. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five finishers, with $20,000 or 50 percent of the prize pool to the winner; $8,000/20 percent to the second-place finisher; $6,000/15 percent to third; $4,000/10 percent to fourth; and $2,000/5 percent to fifth.

Festivus Challenge. Belated congratulations to Matthew Paul Izzo of Frenchtown, N.J., and Joanne Garofano of Spring Hill, Fla., the two top finishers in the recent “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” Online Handicapping Contest.

Izzo earned $1,000 and Garofano received $500. A total of 936 players participated.

Izzo, a retired player from Frenchtown, N.J., said he is a fan of the contest because it emphasizes handicapping skill above luck. A self-described “speed handicapper mixed with a lot of luck,” Izzo has visited Tampa Bay Downs several times while on vacation.

As luck (there’s that word again) would have it, Izzo said the horse that put him over the top was namesake Matty’s Express, the 2-year-old gelding who broke his maiden on Dec. 11, paying $38.40 to win.

Around the oval. The track’s reigning trainer and jockey champions, Gerald Bennett and Samy Camacho, teamed for three victories today, with Camacho adding a fourth victory for trainer Thomas D. Foley. Bennett and Camacho already have begun putting some distance between themselves and their competition through 17 days of the meeting.


Gerald Bennett

Bennett and Camacho won the first race with R Sweet Exchange, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Averill Racing, last season’s owner champion. Bennett also saddled the third-place finisher, Southern n’ Sassy.

The combination of Bennett, Camacho and Averill Racing (Rich Averill’s operation) returned to the winner’s circle after the third race with Wild Wigglin Jack, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding. Wild Wigglin Jack was claimed from the race for $6,250 by his breeder and former owner, Dennis Ward, and Ward’s Ridenjac Racing outfit.

Bennett and Camacho won the fifth race with Diamond News, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by the Winning Stables of Bennett and his wife Mary.


Samy Camacho

Camacho also captured the seventh race on Kau, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Foley Bloodstock. The rider finished second in the second race on Molokai Night.

Bennett has 11 victories at the meeting, five more than current runner-up Michael Stidham. Camacho, who has nine victories over the last three days, has ridden 22 winners, five more than Daniel Centeno and Antonio Gallardo. Winning Stables leads the owner standings with five victories.

In today’s sixth race, a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance/optional claiming contest on the turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, stakes-placed 4-year-old filly Tapit Today made a triumphant return to competition after a 16-month layoff, rallying under Gallardo to defeat Fizzy Friday by 3 ½ lengths. Tapit Today is owned by William H. Lawrence and Bradley Thoroughbreds and trained by Chad Brown.

Gallardo and Brown also combined to win the 10th race on the turf with 2-year-old colt Assiduously, owned by Klaravich Stables.

Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule. Sunday’s nine-race card begins at 12:45 p.m. and a nine-race card on New Year’s Day kicks off at 12:46 p.m.

The track is also planning a Thursday, Jan. 23 program to make up for Sunday’s cancellation.

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.