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February 15, 2020

KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN REPEATS IN PELICAN; LADY’S ISLAND AMAZES IN MINARET

by Mike Henry
Killybegs Captain runs every bit as good as he looks, jockey Samy Camacho gears him down late; Lady's Island overcomes big-time bobble at break, dominates Minaret field; Jesus Castanon rides three winners.

Trainer John P. Terranova, II detected a bit of “winter fat” when he saddled his 6-year-old horse Killybegs Captain for today’s $100,000 Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I thought, it’s time for him to get off the couch, get back from vacation and go to work,” Terranova said.

Killybegs Captain appeared to be in tip-top condition throughout the 6-furlong race, shaking off challenges from long shots Mooji Moo Jr. and Singanothersong down the backstretch. As he continued to increase his lead around the turn, it became apparent the son of Mizzen Mast’s competitive fires hadn’t been dampened a bit.

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Killybegs Captain, jockey Samy Camacho aboard, virtually coasts the final sixteenth of a mile to win his second consecutive Pelican Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

Despite jockey Samy Camacho gearing him down the final sixteenth of a mile, Killybegs Captain posted a 2 ¾-length victory from the late-running He Hate Me in 1:09.24, .10 seconds off Action Andy’s 2013 stakes record, to defend his 2019 Pelican title.

In today’s other stakes, the $50,000 Minaret for older fillies and mares, 6-year-old Florida-bred Lady’s Island went to her knees at the start but recovered quickly and toyed with her nine rivals the rest of the way, posting a 2-length victory from Into Chocolate. A 77-1 shot, Caught Up in You, rallied for third, with 59-1 shot Suzie’ssteppinout fourth.

Lady’s Island, who was claimed two years ago by owner Rich Averill’s Averill Racing for $16,000 at Gulfstream Park, completed the 6-furlong distance in 1:09.97, .34 seconds off Spanish Concert’s 2017 stakes record.

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Lady's Island threw a scare into her fans by bobbling at the start, but she and jockey Emisael Jaramillo turned the Minaret Stakes into a runaway (courtesy SV Photography)

Now owned in partnership by Averill Racing and Matties Racing Stable, the 11-10 betting favorite was saddled by Gerald Bennett and ridden by Emisael Jaramillo. The daughter of Greatness, who won the Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes at Gulfstream in December, is now 14-for-28 and 10-for-13 with two seconds since being claimed. The winner’s share of $30,000 raised her earnings to $434,195.

Tampa Bay Downs dubbed today’s card “Sprint Showcase Day,” and the two winners were more than up to the billing.

As mentioned, it was the second consecutive Pelican Stakes victory for Killybegs Captain, who is 3-for-4 with one second (in last year’s Challenger Stakes) at Tampa Bay Downs. He paid $6 as the wagering favorite. Brazilian-bred Wind of Change finished third in the nine-horse field, a nose ahead of Mucho.

The winner’s share of $45,000 raised Killybegs Captain’s career earnings to $572,453. Now 7-for-26 lifetime and having won last year’s Grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes at Laurel Park, Killybegs Captain is owned by the Curragh Stables of Bob Devlin, his son Michael Devlin and their partners.

“I was watching at about the 3/8 and the 5/16-mile pole, and I didn’t see anyone putting in any kind of threatening run,” said Terranova, who describes the good-looking, mottled gray as a “strawberry roan.”

“It looked like he was doing it very easy, and Samy knows this horse. He’s been working him in the mornings and he rode him for us last year, so he knows what he has underneath him.

“There was no need to overdo it (approaching the finish line). It’s his first race back for the season, and we’re looking to jump forward off this and go on to bigger and better things,” Terranova said.

Despite breaking alertly, Camacho admitted to a few anxious moments when the long shots pushed Killybegs Captain through a first quarter-mile in 22.20 seconds and the half in 44.62 on the fast main track. But at the top of the stretch, it was all over but the ceremony. Killybegs Captain was that good, today.

“I had a lot of confidence in my horse and (Terranova),” Camacho said. “He’s a big horse with a big heart. I checked behind me at the 3/8s pole and thought, I’ve got the race because he got the bit very hard and very easy. He’s very easy to ride and a very nice horse.”

Terranova said Killybegs Captain could return in the (now)-Grade III, $100,000 Challenger, a mjile-and-a-sixteenth race, on March 7. He was second in last year’s Challenger by a half-length to Flameaway.

Terranova considered last year’s Pelican victory Killybegs Captain’s “coming-out party,” as he continued to improve throughout the year. He finished third in the Grade II John A. Nerud Stakes in July at Belmont and the Grade I Forego in August at Saratoga, the latter won by the eventual Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter, Mitole.

Killybegs Captain returned to the winner’s circle on Sept. 21 in the Grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes at Laurel Park before a subpar performance in the Grade III Bold Ruler at Belmont (won by Maximum Security) to conclude 2019.

“We always thought he was a nice, solid horse and he certainly took it to another level last year,” said Terranova, who also won the fifth race on the turf with 3-year-old filly Mirabell Mei. “He’s a solid, sound horse, he’s owned by great people and he’s a barn favorite and a crowd-pleaser. He’s a real recognizable character. So we’re hoping to keep him safe and healthy and around for a long time” (before a possible stud career).

In the case of Lady’s Island, she is the gift that keeps giving, considering her humble background. She recently was named the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Claiming Horse of the Year for 2019 after going 8-for-9, and Averill and brothers Duke and Paul Matties plan to attend the ceremony at Oaklawn Park in March.

Averill, who owns Rich Averill Masonry in nearby Bradenton, invited about 70 friends to the races today and most had their hearts in their throats when Lady’s Island bobbled at the break. However, veteran jockey Emisael Jaramillo said he was (relatively?) unconcerned because she recovered so quickly and powered to the lead like nothing had occurred.

“He knows what she can do, and she did (the first quarter-mile) in 21 3/5,” said his 18-year-old son, Emisael, acting as an interpreter. “He couldn’t hold her because she’s so fast.”

“It was amazing,” said Bennett, who rarely uses that word. “She had to get started all over again. She’s a super nice filly and I’m just happy to win after such a bad start. She loves this racetrack ((4-for-8, with a second and a third), and I’m happy for Rich because he puts a lot of money in the game. You need these kind of days.”

The cheering from the Bradenton contingent reached a crescendo as Averill led Lady’s Island into the winner’s circle.

“I definitely was a little nervous when she went down, but she is so fast. She is an awesome, awesome filly,” Averill said. “There are 100 ways to lose a race and everything has to go right to win one, but she was that much the best.

“I was confident enough to invite 70 people here, but I was very nervous when that happened.”

Averill said he is thinking about running Lady’s Island against males here on March 29 in the $110,000 Florida Cup DRF Bets Sprint.

Around the oval. Jesus Castanon rode three winners today. He won the second race on Doc Kane, a 6-year-old gelding owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. Castanon won the third on the turf aboard Argentine-bred Joy Nidera, a 5-year-old mare owned by Red Magic and trained by Ignacio Correas, IV. The jockey added the sixth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, with I’m a G Six, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Midnight Rider and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Daniel Centeno and Alonso Quinonez rode two winners apiece. 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 fifth on the aforementioned Mirabell Mei, owned by Ken Geren.

Quinonez won the seventh race on the turf on Quality Step, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Nation’s Racing Stable and trained by Keith Nations. Quinonez captured the 11th race on the turf with a “flying finish” on Honest to Goodness, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Carlos Silva and Jay Collier and trained by Silva.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-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, 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.