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March 22, 2020


by Mike Henry
Jesus Castanon rides two winners, including a daughter of his 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford; Samy Camacho also wins two; late agent Steve Elzey "never stopped hustling."

Tampa Bay Downs will continue racing without spectators during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis for the foreseeable future. Wednesday’s eight-race program begins at 12:40 p.m., with an eight-race card scheduled for Friday to begin at 12:45 p.m.

The track has cancelled its $660,000 Florida Cup series, which had been scheduled for Sunday, March 29. A portion of the Florida Cup purse money has been allocated to the track’s overnight purse account, enabling Tampa Bay Downs to continue its 2019-2020 meeting as circumstances allow.

Tampa Bay Downs began racing without fans Wednesday as public-health officials urge citizens to adhere to social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Fans are encouraged to wager on the races through various account-wagering sites such as NYRA Bets, DRF Bets and TVG, and they can watch the races on the track’s website, . Race replays are also available on the website.

Samy Camacho and Jesus Castanon each rode two winners today, with Camacho’s two-bagger giving him 70 for the meeting. He captured the second race on Dude’s Secret, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned and trained by Eduardo Azpurua, Jr. Camacho added the fourth race with King Daddio, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Irish Charm Thoroughbreds and trained by Gary L. Johnson.

Both of Castanon’s victories came on the turf course. He won the fifth race with Dollar Blue, a 4-year-old gelding owned by I. C. Racing and trained by Ignacio Correas, IV. Castanon added the seventh, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, on Tracy Ann’s Legacy, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned and trained by Juan Arriagada.

Tracy Ann’s Legacy is a daughter of Shackleford, who was ridden to victory by Castanon in the 2011 Preakness.

Elzey had lasting influence on Martinez, Camacho. The recent death of jockey agent Steve Elzey shocked and saddened the Tampa Bay Downs community. Past Tampa Bay Downs riding champion Willie Martinez, who worked with Elzey from 1992-2000, finds it difficult to consider how his career would have progressed without his assistance.

“In his time, there was no better agent than Steve Elzey,” said the 49-year-old Martinez, who has won 12 races at the current Oldsmar meeting. “He always wanted me to be on top, and he never stopped hustling to get me into the best barns.”


Steve Elzey

Elzey, a Decatur, Ind., product who rode races on the Illinois fair circuit in the 1960s before becoming an agent, died on March 4 at 64. In addition to Martinez, he worked for such well-known jockeys as reigning Oldsmar champion Samy Camacho, Rafael Bejarano, Miguel Mena, Rosemary Homeister, Jr., Manoel Cruz, Leandro Goncalves and and Kris Prather.

Elzey was the agent for Alonso Quinonez and Jose Batista at the current meeting.

Elzey is survived by his mother, Maxine Brewster; son Michael Elzey; two sisters; a brother; seven nieces and nephews; and four great-nephews.

Riding primarily on the Kentucky circuit, Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park, but also taking other top-level assignments, Martinez enjoyed his best years with Elzey, winning a slew of graded stakes: the Walmac International Alcibiades, the Illinois Derby, the Cotillion Handicap, the Churchill Downs Distaff, the Ohio Derby, the Fayette Stakes and the Bashford Manor, to name a few.

Elzey helped Martinez secure winning mounts on a pair of prominent Bob Baffert-trained fillies in back-to-back runnings of the Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs – subsequent National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee Silverbulletday (1998) and Chilukki (1999).

“(Their relationship) wasn’t always easy or smooth, but we accomplished a lot together. We made a good team,” said Martinez, who has ridden 3,487 career winners, including Trinniberg in the 2012 Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. “If you’re going to reach your potential as a jockey, you need somebody who has the connections, is going to stay on top of you and has the same drive you have.

“Steve was driven to win and to get his riders to the top,” Martinez added.

Camacho, who won last year’s Tampa Bay Downs title under Elzey’s guidance with 123 winners, joined forces before this meeting with another ex-jockey as his agent, Mike Moran. The 31-year-old Camacho, who won the recent Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on King Guillermo, said Elzey had a lasting influence on him in the two years they were together.

“He taught me a lot about being professional in my business,” Camacho said. “Be on time with your workers, show your class to the trainers and respect everybody. He kept telling me, every horse you ride is important, whether it’s a $5,000 claiming horse or a stakes horse, and that I always needed to ride my horse to the wire and do my best.

“I’m grateful to him because he always worked hard to try to get me on the best horse in the race and to put me with the top trainers. I won my first race for (trainer) Todd Pletcher with Steve, and he got me on good horses for Christophe Clement,” Camacho said.

Martinez joined forces with Elzey after the jockey won both the 1991-1992 Tampa Bay Downs riding title (with a then-record 123 victories) and the crown at Birmingham Race Course in Alabama.

In 1994, at 23, Martinez found himself competing in the Kentucky Derby as the youngest jockey in a field of 14. He finished ninth aboard Mahogany Hall in the race won by Go for Gin.

Working with Elzey, Martinez won a record nine jockey titles at Turfway Park in Kentucky and followed his 1997 Turfway crown with a title at the spring meeting at Keeneland. From 1992-2000, Martinez averaged 199 winners a year, with total purse earnings of $42,895,325.

“I wanted to test myself against the best riders in the country, and I was able to do that with Steve,” Martinez said. “He knew how to get you into the winner’s circle – that was the main thing. I’ll always be thankful for everything he did for me.”