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January 24, 2020


by Mike Henry
Track officials, horsemen have fingers crossed grass races will stay put; meet your favorite jockeys during Cap Giveaway Day; Faction Cat sharp in Tampa Turf Dash Prep.

Sycamore Lane, a 9-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Mike Dini, and Luna, a 5-year-old mare trained by Stacy L. Hendry, will both seek to go 2-for-2 Saturday in the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series at Tampa Bay Downs.

While track officials have their fingers crossed the rain stays away tonight and permits both divisions to run on the grass with intact fields, Sycamore Lane and Luna may have benefited from winter’s unpredictability in the first legs for their respective sexes on Jan. 4, winning on a main track rated as good after the turf course was judged unsuitable for competition.

Come rain or shine, both races will be contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, 70 yards farther than the distance of the first leg of the series.

Saturday is also Cap Giveaway Day, with each fan receiving a stylish brown-and-yellow cap with the distinctive Tampa Bay Downs logo in yellow lettering, while supplies last. Jockeys will be available on the first floor of the Grandstand throughout the day to sign caps, pose for photographs and hobnob with the public.

The Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2019-20. The Males Division, which is the eighth race, has attracted 11 runners, while the eight-horse Fillies and Mares Division is the sixth race.

Sycamore Lane, a son of 2005 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller, is 8-for-31 in his career with earnings of $330,620. His turf record is a less-than-stellar 2-for-20, with four seconds, and he is the second morning-line choice at 7-2 behind favorite Zefiro, a 6-year-old horse from the barn of trainer William Sienkewicz. Zefiro was scratched from the Jan. 4 race when it came off the turf.

Samy Camacho has been named to ride Sycamore Lane again, while Daniel Centeno will pilot Zefiro.

Similarly, Luna, who is by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, is the fourth morning-line choice at 9-2 despite her victory three weeks ago. Angel Suarez will again ride Luna, whose turf record is 2-for-8.

The morning-line 2-1 favorite is Moonlight Rain, from the barn of trainer Mark Casse. The 5-year-old mare will be making her first start since winning an allowance/optional claiming race on the all-weather track at Woodbine on Nov. 30. Antonio Gallardo will be the jockey.

Post time for the first of Saturday’s 10 races is 12:18 p.m.

Saturday’s fun starts at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand with track announcer Richard Grunder’s “Morning Glory Club” show. The special guest is 23-year-old jockey Harry Hernandez, who is tied for ninth in the standings with nine victories.

Fans attending the “Morning Glory Club” receive free donuts and coffee and Grandstand passes.

The 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding Faction Cat turned in a strong performance in today’s fifth race, the 5-furlong Turf Dash Prep, winning by 4 ¼ lengths from Backtohisroots. Faction Cat’s time was 55.12 seconds, .49 seconds off the turf course record.

Faction Cat is owned by Randall R. Russell and trained by Georgina Baxter. He is expected to return for the $100,000 Turf Dash on Feb. 22. “I started asking him at the eighth pole, and he exploded,” said jockey Antonio Gallardo. “I knew he was the best horse in the race, and the way he opened up was pretty impressive.”

Gallardo also won the seventh race on Darlindiva, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Serena’s Dream Catcher Farm and trained by Joseph Arboritanza.

Angel Suarez rode two winners. He won the fourth race on Charging Renee, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Bridlewood Farm and trained by Jonathan Thomas. Charming Renee was claimed for $12,500 by trainer Rob O’Connor, II for new owner Bruce McCrea.

Suarez added the eighth race on My Girl Annie, a 6-year-old mare owned by Hemingway Racing and trained by Ian Hemingway.

Tampa Bay Downs races each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 3, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 12, when the track is closed. 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.