Resilience, dedication of horsemen and horsewomen enable racing to continue; Samy Camacho to ride King Guillermo in Grade I Arkansas Derby on Saturday; Antonio Gallardo rides three turf winners for Hall of Fame trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey.
Two months ago, plans already were underway to welcome 10,000 or more fans to Tampa Bay Downs this Saturday for a 12-race card, followed by the simulcast of the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
And in the days following a stunning victory by 49-1 shot King Guillermo in the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 7, excitement built to a fever pitch among area fans eager to support the colt and his rider, Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho, in the Run for the Roses.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned those plans upside down, showing no favorites as lives have been disrupted around the world. The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until Sept. 5, and Tampa Bay Downs has slated a nine-race card for Saturday without spectators.
Resilience remains the name of the game, as horsemen and horsewomen seek a silver lining in the current situation. King Guillermo and Camacho will compete Saturday at Oaklawn Park in the second division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby, with each division carrying a purse of $500,000.
Fans are not allowed at Oaklawn, but the entire card will be broadcast on FoxSports1 and TVG, with NBC Sports Network picking up the TVG feed for the stakes races, including the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap.
On the home front, Tampa Bay Downs has received approval from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to extend its 2019-2020 meeting by racing 12 additional dates, bringing the total number of days to 102.
Following Sunday’s nine-race card, Tampa Bay Downs will conduct racing each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through May 30. For record-keeping purposes, the meeting officially ends on Tuesday, June 30, the first day of the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing, with the 2020-2021 meeting beginning July 1.
Tampa Bay Downs will not permit spectators throughout May, while requiring horsemen, handlers and track employees to continue following updated protocol procedures, including having their temperatures taken, wearing masks or face coverings, frequent hand-washing and maintaining social distancing.
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, www.tampabaydowns.com . Race replays are also available on the website.
King Guillermo, owned by former major league baseball player Victor Martinez and trained by Juan Carlos Avila, is 3-1 on the morning line in his division of the Arkansas Derby. The decision to travel to Hot Springs, Ark., on Thursday to ride a Triple Crown prospect was an easy one for Camacho, who has won a Grade II and a Grade III stakes this season at Tampa Bay Downs.
However, it could derail his goal to defend his Tampa Bay Downs jockeys title from last season. Camacho, who trails four-time champion Antonio Gallardo in victories, 105-96, will be required to serve a 12-day quarantine period after his return from Arkansas before being allowed to rejoin the Oldsmar jockey colony to best ensure the health and safety of all concerned.
On today’s card, Gallardo teamed with Hall of Fame trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III for three turf victories. They won the third race with Passing Out, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Stuart S. Janney, III and Phipps Stable, and added the seventh with North Dakota, a 4-year-old colt bred and owned by Joseph Allen.
The Gallardo-McGaughey duo completed their joint hat trick and a sweep of the late daily double in the eighth race with first-time starter Stolen Holiday, a 3-year-old filly owned by Joe Allen.
Angel Suarez rode two winners. He won the second on Mr. Quality, a 3-year-old colt owned by Wayne Spalding and Faron McCubbins and trained by Tim Glyshaw. Suarez added the fifth race on the turf on Tabled, a 3-year-old gelding bred and owned by Godolphin and trained by Michael Stidham.