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January 15, 2020


by Mike Henry
Pasco, Gasparilla Stakes give 3-year-olds of both sexes a chance to shine; Wayward Lass a two-turn test for older distaffers.

Precocious 3-year-olds of both sexes attempt to get 2020 off to a flying start Saturday when Tampa Bay Downs plays host to Skyway Festival Day, featuring three main-track stakes races worth a combined $300,000 in purse money.

Post time for the first of Saturday’s 10 races is 12:47 p.m.

A field of seven 3-year-old colts and geldings will line up in the 20th edition of the $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes, the track’s main prep race for the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 8. The Pasco is scheduled as the third race. The field includes three stakes winners: Liam’s Lucky Charm, Golden Candy and Albert Park.

The 36th running of the $125,000, 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes, which is the ninth race on the program, has attracted 11 3-year-old fillies, headed by the Mark Casse-trained stakes winner Two Sixty and a pair from the barn of trainer Ken McPeek, Palace Miss and Swiss Skydiver.

The third stakes on the card is the 36th edition of the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, slated as the seventh race. There are seven horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile event, including Godolphin’s 4-year-old filly Classic Fit and 5-year-old Jehozacat, owned by Lael Stables.

Around the oval. Daniel Centeno, Samy Camacho and Antonio Gallardo all rode two winners today, with both of Centeno’s victories coming on the turf. He won the fourth race, a $16,000 maiden claiming event for 3-year-olds, on first-time starter Paliza, a Bridlewood Farm-bred and owned gelding trained by Jonathan Thomas.

In the sixth race, an allowance/optional claiming event for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, Centeno triumphed on 5-year-old mare Ode to Joy for breeders-owners Beverly S. Anderson and Edward A. Seltzer and trainer Arnaud Delacour.

Camacho won the first race, a $5,000 claiming event, aboard Prima Gold, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Winning Stables and trained by Gerald Bennett. Camacho added the eighth race on the turf, a starter optional claiming race, with Uncork the Bottle, a 3-year-old colt owned by Bassett Stables and trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr., and now 3-for-3.

Gallardo won the third race, a $6,250 claiming affair, on Whistle Me Home, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Orlando Alvarado and trained by Kathleen Guciardo. Gallardo added the ninth on the turf, a claiming race for older horses, on False Info, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Windylea Farm and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:46 p.m. 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.

“College Day” contest is Saturday. Tampa Bay Downs will conduct its second annual “College Day” essay contest Saturday. Current U.S. junior, sophomore and freshmen college students, as well as U.S. high school seniors planning to enroll in college, will compete for a chance to win one of five $2,000 scholarships.

Students of four-year colleges, two-year colleges and technical schools, as well as high school seniors, are eligible.

Students wishing to participate must complete an entry form that will be available Saturday at the Customer Service Desk and complete it by the end of that day’s racing. From those entries, 25 finalists will be drawn at random and given an opportunity to submit an essay of 300-to-500 words on “Marketing Horse Racing To a New Generation of Fans.”

Essays should emphasize initiatives aimed at attracting and keeping new followers of racing. The deadline for essays is Feb. 8, with students submitting their work to the General Office or the Publicity Office on the second floor.

Judges will rank the essays based on the feasibility of the plan; originality; an understanding of the horse racing industry; clarity and grammar; and spelling. Past winners are eligible to compete, but all essays must be original and cannot present previous themes and/or approaches.

The scholarships will be awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation. For details, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

The main objective of the contest is to explore and develop ways to attract new generations of fans to the majesty and excitement of Thoroughbred racing.