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January 25, 2020


by Mike Henry
Zefiro wins third race in a row in Males Division of Tampa Turf Test; Colonels Daughter surges late to capture Fillies and Mares Division; Jose Batista rides three consecutive winners.

Horse racing is a game of risks, and trainer Bill Sienkewicz and owner Aldo De Luca both took significant chances to get to the winner’s circle in today’s Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series races at Tampa Bay Downs.

Sienkewicz claimed Zefiro for $25,000 as a 4-year-old from a race at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts in September of 2018. “I thought I paid a little high, but I thought it was going to work out,” Sienkewicz said after Zefiro captured his third consecutive victory in the Males Division of the second round of the Tampa Turf Test. “He’s turned out to be a wonderful horse for us. He’s like part of the family.”

Owned by Harry Hoglander and Josie Gump, Sienkewicz’s partner, Zefiro completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance in 1:41.98 while winning by 3 ¼ lengths from Domain in the Males Division, contested as the eighth race. Daniel Centeno was aboard Zefiro, now 10-for-38 with career earnings of $217,930.

De Luca rolled the dice with his (now)-5-year-old mare Colonels Daughter when he raced her for a $16,000 claiming price on Dec. 6 at Gulfstream Park. It was the cheapest she’d been in for, but was the only way to make her eligible for the conditions of the Tampa Turf Test series, which dictates a horse must have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2019.

Fortunately for De Luca and his wife Kelley, the owners of De Luca and Sons Stable, no one put in a claim slip that day, nor when she ran again for the same price on Dec. 20 at Gulfstream. Although she did not hit the board in either race, the De Lucas breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated today when 22-year-old jockey Jose Batista booted her home by a nose in a three-horse photo finish with runner-up Sundrenched and Native Lion, another head in arrears.

Juan C. Avila trains Colonels Daughter, who paid $16.20 to win after traveling the mile-and-a-sixteenth in 1:43.90. She is now 5-for-21.

The Fillies and Mares Division was the sixth race.

“I was very emotional today because a lot of things had to happen just to get her here,” said Aldo De Luca, who owns a 30-acre farm in Williston near Ocala. “We had to drop her in class to be eligible, we had to hope she wasn’t claimed and we decided to run her last time (in the first round of the series, a third-place finish on Jan. 4) even though it was on the dirt.

“This horse is a fighter, and I told (Batista) in the paddock not to give up on her. I really liked the way he kept pushing her, kept pushing her, knowing she wasn’t done fighting,” De Luca said.

The victory was one of three in a row for Batista. He won the fifth race on the turf on Dazzling Truths, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Peacock Stable and trained by Rory C. Miller, and added the seventh race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, aboard 6-year-old gelding Last Promise for owners Efrain Cambray and Promise Racing Stable and trainer Tim Padilla.

Zefiro did not race in the first round of the series for males because “he hates running on dirt,” Sienkewicz said. “Fortunately the weather held up, and I think the farther he goes, the better he’s going to like it.

“I told Danny to ride him like he owns him, and he gave him a great ride,” Sienkewicz added.

“Bourbon & Barbecue” event is next Saturday. Thirty, 40, 50 years ago, fans of the Sport of Kings didn’t mind having a little extra time between races. Those extra minutes allowed winners to light up a victory stogie, Red Auerbach-like, and losers a chance to regain perspective by sipping something a little stronger than normal, over rocks.

That’s kind of the idea behind next Saturday’s second annual “Bourbon & Barbecue” promotion at Tampa Bay Downs. It’s so laid-back, you might even find yourself sitting out a race while enjoying a full barbecue buffet, bourbon and hand-rolled cigars under the Trackside Picnic Pavilion Tent during the races and reflecting on the heyday of Affimed, Alydar and Spectacular Bid.

The cost is $39.95, which includes food, bourbon and cigars, along with admission, a racing program and a chance to spin the prize wheel. Food will be served at noon and bourbon-tasting will start at12:30.

For details, call (813) 855-4401 or visit on the Internet.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. The track is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 12 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.