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March 29, 2020


by Mike Henry
Jordan Blair-trainee wins fourth leg of Tampa Turf Test for females under leading jockey Antonio Gallardo; Ultimate 6 pays $91,970 and change to one bettor.

With the exception of her Feb. 8 race in which she reared at the start and lost jockey Antonio Gallardo, 5-year-old mare Mad Grace has been a picture of consistency during the Tampa Bay Downs meeting.

The daughter of English Channel showed a new dimension in today’s fourth leg of the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series.

In her first career start beyond a mile-and-a-sixteenth, Mad Grace led nine rivals on a merry chase throughout, winning the three-turn, 1 3/8-mile race under jockey Antonio Gallardo, who rationed her speed through dawdling early fractions of 50.47 seconds for the half-mile and 1:16.18 for 6 furlongs.

Mad Grace’s final time on the firm turf course was 2:17.33, with a final quarter-mile in 12:49 seconds. The victory was her third from five starts this season – along with a second and the “did not finish” – and she is 5-for-18 lifetime, with five seconds.

Jordan Blair trains Mad Grace for owner Coronado Stable.

Also today, one bettor hit the 20-cent Ultimate 6 – correctly selecting the winners of races 3-through-8 – to collect the entire jackpot of $91,970.42. The winning combination was 3-1-3-5-10-3.

There was also a single winner of the late 50-cent Pick-5, that individual collecting $71,930.75 for selecting the 1-3-5-10-3 combination.

Gallardo’s victory on Mad Grace was one of two on the card for the track’s leading rider, who earlier captured the second race on the main track aboard Tiz Approved, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Joe Conoscienti and trained by Darien Rodriguez. Gallardo, who has 84 victories for the meeting, is bidding for his fifth Oldsmar title in seven seasons.

Racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. Friday’s card also consists of eight races, and each of the 16 contests over the next two racing days includes 10 or more entrants.

The track is conducting racing without spectators for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. 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.

Around the oval. Gallardo’s closest pursuer in the jockey race, defending champion Samy Camacho, also rode two winners, upping his total to 76. He captured the sixth race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week on the turf, with first-time starter Apogee, a 3-year-old filly owned by Waterville Lake Stable and trained by Christophe Clement. Camacho added the seventh on the main track on 27-1 shot Tornero, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Benjamin Sanchez and trained by Antonio Machado.

“Live It Up Challenge” winners crowned. Bill Zvara of Canfield, Ohio, finished atop the standings of the “Live It Up Challenge” Handicapping Contest, which concluded today. He earns two seats into the “High Rollers” Handicapping Contest in January at Tampa Bay Downs.

Henry Gruss of Park Ridge, Ill., was the runner-up. He earns one seat. The “High Rollers” event features a potential first-place prize of $20,000 and is also a qualifying event for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championships in Las Vegas.

This date in Tampa Bay Downs history – March 29, 1997: Eight years earlier, Ontario-bred Most Valiant had finished seventh in the (then)-Grade III Tampa Bay Derby, and in July of that same year he lost by a nose to eventual Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval at Woodbine in one of the most thrilling Queen’s Plates ever run. An 11-year-old claiming horse by 1997, Most Valiant summoned another memorable effort on this date at the Oldsmar oval, winning a mile-and-five-eighths claiming race under jockey Parker Buckley in track-record time of 2:48.20. Granted, that distance is hardly used, but Most Valiant’s spot in the Tampa Bay Downs record books is a fitting tribute to a horse that raced through age 12, won 17 of 120 starts (including three stakes) and earned $775,079.