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February 21, 2020


by Mike Henry
Five essay winners will receive $2,000 scholarships through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation; big fields for Turf Dash and Lightning City Stakes on Saturday; John P. Terranova, II is Rumba Island Bar & Grill Trainer of the Month.

One of the objectives of the track’s “College Days” essay contest is to generate ideas to influence members of “Generation Z” (folks born since 1997, roughly) to think about horse racing when planning an enjoyable day out.

This year’s winners have given track officials an overflowing cornucopia of proposals to keep Tampa Bay Downs in the loop with those future movers and shakers.

“I think a lot of people our age perceive horse racing to be more of a formal, adult experience,” said Cohen Hughes, an 18-year-old first-year student at University of South Florida St. Petersburg and one of five scholarship winners, based on their essays.

“I know I felt a little awkward at first (visiting Tampa Bay Downs for the first time), but once you get there it’s easy to have a good time,” he added.

Translating that positive experience to repeat outings could have a much better chance at success thanks to the ideas from this year’s winners.

More on the “College Days” contest shortly. Saturday’s Turf Sprint Showcase card includes two $100,000, 5-furlong stakes: the Turf Dash for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, which is the sixth race, and the Lightning City for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, which is the eighth race.

Post time for the first race is 12:45 p.m. The morning-line, 5-2 favorite for the Turf Dash is 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding Extravagant Kid, who will break from the No. 8 post under Antonio Gallardo. The Grade I-placed multiple-stakes winner is owned by DARRS, Inc., and trained by Brendan Walsh.

Among Extravagant Kid’s nine rivals are 5-year-old Justaholic, who will break from the No. 10 post under Jose Ferrer, and 7-year-old gelding Faction Cat, a Florida-bred who won the Turf Dash Preview on Jan. 24.

It’s no shock that 5-year-old mare Jean Elizabeth, who has won her six most recent races (all stakes), is 3-1 for the Lightning City. What might be surprising is that the connections of 13 others opted to challenge her. The field will be limited to 12 fillies and mares, with Jean Elizabeth breaking from the No. 9 post under Albin Jimenez.

Jean Elizabeth is owned by Larry Rivelli, Richard Ravin and Patricia’s Hope, LLC and trained by Rivelli. Other top contenders include 6-year-old Girls Know Best, set to break from the No. 6 post under Gallardo, and 5-year-old Escapade, starting from the No. 11 post with Angel Suarez in the irons.

Saturday’s fun starts at 10 a.m. with the “Morning Glory Club” show on the first floor of the Grandstand. Track announcer Richard Grunder’s special guest is Samy Camacho, last season’s leading jockey.

Now, back to class. A total of 92 students entered the “College Days” contest, with 25 chosen at random as finalists. Five winners were chosen from the 14 essays submitted, with each winner earning a $2,000 scholarship awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.

Two repeat winners emerged from this year’s essays: 18-year-old Basia Kuehn, like Hughes a first-year student at USF St. Petersburg, and Lauren Vojnovic, 21, a junior at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The other winners are Anna Laclé, 21, who is preparing to enroll at Central Florida Community College in Ocala, and Josh Ceranic, a 17-year-old senior at Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland who plans to attend Florida State University in the fall.

Most of the essays called for Tampa Bay Downs to expand its social media efforts, emphasizing that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok are primary means of messaging and staying informed on current events.

“The more times people our age see positive coverage of Tampa Bay Downs and horse racing on social media, the more curious they will be to get out and have a fun day at the races,” said Kuehn.

“We are gratified by the response to this year’s ‘College Days’ contest,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity. “Many of the ideas presented are fresh, innovative and capable of being implemented, and we look forward to bringing some of them to fruition as we strive to make racing more attractive to the next generation of fans and consumers.”

Here are excerpts from each of the winning essays:

  • Cohen Hughes: “(Offer) online or in-person tutorials of how exactly the process of betting works. This can be done as a YouTube video posted onto the Tampa Bay Downs website, or in person as a help desk.”
  • Basia Kuehn: “…By holding a social media influencer contest open to all. … you would have a virtual army of young people promoting your product on social media. For big days, such as the Tampa Bay Derby and the Kentucky Derby, it would be great to have a literal red-carpet area installed to encourage the fashion and fun of those days to make it online.”
  • Lauren Vojnovic: “Helmet cameras on jockeys; learning centers for new visitors; casual and trendy seating areas; meet the trainers, owners and jockeys; recycling program; racing-themed art work (to be displayed) from Tampa Bay area artists/students.”
  • Anna Laclé: “A tour of the backside of the race operations, where a guide could showcase the stables, the areas where the vets do the checks and perhaps watch the jockeys preparing to race. … Additionally, school trips, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts trips, with a tour and a meet-and-greet of several key people that work at the track.”
  • Josh Ceranic: “Having a small band or singing act in the (infield) could definitely help hook the interest of a younger attendee and liven the experience in general. … I’d be creative with putting a few Snapchat geo-filters on the track’s premises. … it’s a small, fun graphic you can add to your Snapchat picture that you can then send people or post publicly.”


Terranova is Rumba Island Bar & Grill Trainer of the Month. Entering last weekend’s action, John P. Terranova, II wasn’t on anyone’s list of Rumba Island Bar & Grill Trainer of the Month candidates.

But sometimes all it takes to turn your fortunes around is one good horse. And while Terranova needed three other victories last weekend to earn the award, the exploits of stable standout Killybegs Captain were the impetus to picking up another plaque for his trophy case.

“We’re looking to jump forward off this and go on to bigger and better things,” Terranova said after his 6-year-old’s successful defense in Saturday’s $100,000 Pelican Stakes, achieved in near-stakes-record time of 1:09.24 for 6 furlongs. “We’re happy we brought him down here again because this race helped push him to another level last year.”

The victory by Killybegs Captain was one of four on the weekend from five starters for Terranova, propelling him to the trainer honor. In Saturday’s fifth race, a maiden special weight contest for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, Terranova sent out the first two finishers, owner Ken Geren’s Mirabell Mei and That’s My Cue.

Terranova’s winning ways continued the next day, with victories in the sixth race on the turf with 4-year-old colt Corcoran and in the 10th on the turf with 4-year-old filly Tatterazzi, which he also owns. Trainer of the day had morphed into trainer of the weekend and, in a come-from-the-clouds display worthy of Silky Sullivan, selection as Rumba Island Bar & Grill Trainer of the Month.

“Those are the kind of moments you hope for,” said the 49-year-old Terranova, who has a string of 12 horses at Tampa Bay Downs and 24 in New York. “So many things can go wrong in a race, and it’s a great feeling when everything works out the way you hoped and planned for.”

The Terranova stable looks to keep the good times rolling at the Oldsmar oval in Saturday’s $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes with Gatsas Stables’ 4-year-old colt Backtohisroots, who won the Atlantic Beach Stakes at Aqueduct in November.

As for Killybegs Captain, owned by the Curragh Stables of Bob Devlin and Michael Devlin, he could return to action on March 7 in the Grade III, $100,000 Challenger Stakes, a mile-and-a-sixteenth race in which he finished second last year, or he could stick to sprinting. Either way, it’s a nice dilemma to have. Killybegs Captain 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. He concluded 2019 on Oct. 26 at Belmont with a sixth-place finish in the Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap, won by Maximum Security.

Although he was not stabled here during the 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 meetings, Terranova has been a major player at Tampa Bay Downs since 2013, when he won the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes with Falling Sky – who competed in that year’s Kentucky Derby – and the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf with Swift Warrior.

“We love it here,” Terranova said recently while spending an afternoon on Madeira Beach with his wife and assistant, Tonja, and their 13-year-old daughter, Giana (older daughter Paulina is a college freshman). “It’s a fantastic place to winter, and the track is very good on horses. We’ve had a lot of good experiences here winning races and getting horses ready for what’s ahead.”

Terranova is also grateful to his Oldsmar crew, especially assistant Faith Wilson; her husband, exercise rider Carlos Cortes; and groom Abel Hernandez. “They’re a great crew, and next year I’d like to have a larger group of horses here,” Terranova said.

That crew is essential on weekends such as this, when Terranova is in New York to saddle Syndergaard in the $100,000 Haynesfield Stakes at Aqueduct.

Introduced to racing by his father, owner John Terranova, Sr., the younger Terranova enjoyed his first taste of Grade I success with Laragh in the 2008 Hollywood Starlet Stakes. His other Grade I victories include the 2009 Darley Alcibiades with Negligee; the 2010 Prioress with Franny Freud; and the 2011 Central Bank Ashland with Lilacs and Lace.

Gander, who won the Grade II Meadowlands Cup Handicap in 2001, also has a warm spot in the conditioner’s heart, having taken him to two Breeders’ Cup Classics.

Gander was campaigned by the father-son duo of Mike and Matt Gatsas, now the owners of Turf Dash entrant Backtohisroots. “We’ve been together more than 20 years, and I’m grateful to them and the Devlin family and the other owners who have put their trust in us to do right with their horses,” Terranova said. “We’re blessed to have owners who have been so loyal to us.”

Around the oval. In today’s co-feature fifth race, a starter/optional claiming event for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf, Valiant Virtue sat off the pace of long-shot Free Dancer early, saving his best run for the stretch to post a 1 ½-length victory from Matty’s Express. Jesus Castanon rode Valiant Virtue, a Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Juan Arriagada.

Today’s other feature was the sixth race, a 6-furlong contest on the main track for older fillies and mares. Reaffirming her fondness for Tampa Bay Downs, 6-year-old Florida-bred J’s Indian Charm grabbed an early lead under jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., and went on to post a 2 ¼-length victory from Clearwater.

Now 11-for-39 lifetime, J’s Indian Charm is 7-for-16 on the Oldsmar dirt. She is owned by Janis Maitlen and trained by Maria Bowersock.

Angel Suarez rode two winners today. He won the third race on the turf on Sinatra Devil, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Stud TNT and Blazing Meadows Farm and trained by Tim Hamm. Sinatra Devil was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Bill Sienkewicz for new owner Josie Gump.

Suarez added the ninth on the turf with Burn the Boats, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt owned and trained by Leon McKanas.

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.