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January 29, 2020


by Mike Henry
Veteran jockey hits 2,900-victory mark in North American career.

Six-time Tampa Bay Downs jockeys champion Daniel Centeno rode three winners today, giving him 2,900 career victories in North America.

Centeno, who won 847 races in his homeland of Venezuela, capped his three-bagger with a patented winning turf effort in the eighth race on 3-year-old colt Commence. Reserved off the early pace, Centeno allowed Commence to take the lead on his own on the far turn, then had plenty in reserve to stave off Economic Policy by a length-and-a-quarter.


Daniel Centeno

Commence is a homebred racing for owner Stella F. Thayer and trained by Arnaud Delacour. He completed the 1 mile in 1:35.94 in his second career start.

Centeno won the first race on Scarlet Bow, a 5-year-old mare owned by Gina Wright and trained by Michael W. Wright. Centeno added the fourth race aboard Snicker Kicker, a 4-year-old gelding owned and trained by Dennis Manning.

A pair of Larry Rivelli-trained fillies overwhelmed their competition on today’s Tampa Bay Downs card. Gulfstream Park-based jockey Victor Lebron rode both winners in his first appearance this season at the Oldsmar oval.

In the second race, a starter/$25,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 6 furlongs, Richies Great Girl took command at the top of the stretch and rolled to a 9 ¼-length victory from La Belle de Course. The winner’s time was a swift 1:10.25.

Richies Great Girl, whose first three starts were at Arlington Park, Churchill Downs and Gulfstream, is 3-for-4 with one second.

Another Florida-bred, 4-year-old filly Gray Owl, did Rivelli and breeder-owner Carolyn Wilson proud in the fifth race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming affair at 6 furlongs. Lebron kept her on the inside and, benefiting from a fast early pace, catapulted to the lead on the far turn before pulling away to a 4 ¾-length victory from Caught Up in You.

Gray Owl, whose victories last year on the all-weather track at Arlington came in front-running fashion, is now 5-for-15 with three seconds and two thirds. Her time was 1:10.42.

Long-shot players (some, at least) celebrated when 40-1 shot Smoky Blues won the seventh race and 45-1 shot Sent From Heaven finished second. Smoky Blues, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Sharon Simms and trained by John Simms, paid $83.80 to win. He was ridden by Willie Martinez.

The $2 exacta combination of 2-6 paid $829.80 and the $1 trifecta combination of 2-6-3, with 3-10 favorite Mr. Kisses third, paid $2,058.20.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. 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.

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.

“Bourbon & Barbecue” event is 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 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.