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SKYWAY FESTIVAL DAY STAKES FIELDS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE
Published Jan 6, 2024
by Mike Henry

OLDSMAR, FL. – The Tampa Bay Downs stakes schedule shifts into full gear next Saturday, Jan. 13, with three stakes highlighting the track’s Skyway Festival Day program.

Newly-turned 3-year-olds of both sexes will command the spotlight in the 26th edition of the Pasco Stakes for colts and geldings and the 40th running of the Gasparilla Stakes for fillies. Both races offer purse money of $125,000 and will be contested at a distance of 7 furlongs.

The third stakes is the 40th Wayward Lass Stakes, a $50,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth event for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward.

The Pasco is expected to feature a pair of standouts in West Saratoga and Book’em Danno. West Saratoga, a colt owned by Harry L. Veruchi and trained by Larry Demeritte, won the Grade III Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs. Book’em Danno, a gelding, is a two-time stakes winner and finished a strong second in his most recent start, the Nashua Stakes on Nov. 5 at Aqueduct.

Book’em Danno is owned by Atlantic Six Racing and trained by Derek Ryan.

Others under consideration at press time include trainer Gregg Sacco’s colt Crazy Mason, who finished second in the Inaugural Stakes here on Dec. 2; Rathmore, trainer Tom Albertrani’s colt who finished third in the Inaugural; and Secret Lover, a Florida-bred colt who broke his maiden for trainer Antonio Sano on Dec. 28 at Gulfstream.

Meanwhile, Michael Campbell, the trainer of Inaugural Stakes winner Patriot Spirit, said he plans to train his colt toward either the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 10 or the Grade III Holy Bull on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream. Both are “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points races, offering 20-10-6-4-2 points to the top five finishers toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 4. Both the Sam F. Davis and the Holy Bull are contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

“The focus of our attention is to get him into points races so he can earn his way into the Derby,” Campbell said of Patriot Spirit. “Both his sire and dam (Constitution and Mistical Plan) indicate he won’t have a problem with two turns, and he has matured mentally and physically, so we can work now on making his next race a two-turn effort.”

Campbell said owner Mellon Patch, Inc. (George Mellon) turned down an invitation to compete in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 24.

In the Gasparilla, R Harper Rose is expected to carry the banner for Florida-breds after her game second-place finish on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire My Dear Girl Stakes. She had won each of her three previous starts, including the FTBOA Florida Sire Susan’s Girl Stakes at Gulfstream.

R Harper Rose is owned by Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing and trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.

Others currently expected to face the starter in the Gasparilla are Gorgeous Girl, third here on Dec. 20 in an allowance/optional claiming race, owned by Red Oak Stable and trained by Sacco; and Mystic Lake, a Grade III-placed Florida-bred owned by C2 Racing Stable and Stefania Farms and trained by Joseph.

Last year’s Gasparilla winner, Opus Forty Two, is among the probables for the Wayward Lass. Owned by Mark B. Grier and trained by Arnaud Delacour, she finished second on July 1 in the Grade III Delaware Oaks and has been working out here for her return to competition after a second-place finish on Nov. 11 in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel.

Her competition is likely to include stakes-placed 4-year-old Dream Concert, owned by James Chicklo and trained by Kathleen O’Connell; Libban, a lightly-raced (3-for-4) 4-year-old owned by C2 Racing Stable and Paul Braverman and trained by Joseph; Magical Lute, a 4-year-old owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds and trained by Ian Wilkes; and Rosie’s Halo, a 5-year-old from the barn of Joseph and trained by Sean Defreitas.

Around the oval. In the ninth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Spikezone broke on top and never looked back, rolling to an 8-length victory from Charging Aero. Spikezone, the 1-2 betting favorite, was ridden by Mychel Sanchez. His time for the 6-furlong distance on a good track was 1:10.15.

Spikezone is owned by Troy Johnson, Charles Lo and Jagger, Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness.

Apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado rode back-to-back winners today. He captured the second race on Living in Style, a 3-year-old filly owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. Maldonado added the third race on La Chica Lateral, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Castillo Consulting and trained by Victor Barboza, Jr.

Trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo sent out two winners. He won the fourth race with 4-year-old gelding Midnight Getaway, owned by Bruno Schickedanz and ridden by Antonio Gallardo. D’Angelo added the sixth with Hercules, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Leon King Stable Corp. and ridden by Samy Camacho.

Hercules was claimed from the victory for $5,000 by trainer Steven Cahill for new owner Steve Zeehandelar.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. The feature is the fourth race, a $54,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance/optional claiming race for older fillies and mares. Molly’s Angel, a 6-year-old mare owned by Pete Mattson and trained by Tim Padilla, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Alonso Quinonez is the jockey.

Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule. The track 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.

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