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Racing News

Published Apr 27, 2024
by Mike Henry
Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Michael Simone with 5-year-old gelding Doin'ittherightway

Michael Simone departed Tampa Bay Downs after saddling 15 winners during the 2007-2008 meet feeling he’d experienced Thoroughbred racing the way it should be, at least from the horses’ standpoint.

‘To me, the racetrack was very safe for the horses. I thought it was a great place to train,” said Simone, who raced in Pennsylvania the following winter per his owner’s wishes. “I think (the Oldsmar dirt track) is a safe, cushiony surface where horses don’t seem to run down and they seem to come back sound. And it holds water very well. You can have a sudden downpour and a half-hour later, it looks like it’s fast.

“It’s just a good dirt track in general. Based on a lot of the tracks I’ve seen, it’s very durable. It takes a lot and it’s still a good track to train on the next day.”

For Simone, who won the final Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Award for the current meet, this season has been rejuvenating. He’d gotten out of training in 2012 after the death of his father Vic Simone – also a trainer – to sell cars and work for Walgreens in the pharmacy department.

COVID-19 – at least its aftermath – cost Simone his primary source of income in 2020 when he was laid off from the car dealership. His subsequent return to the backstretch has had its highs and lows. But after an enjoyable Oldsmar campaign, and secure in the foundation his father helped provide before his passing, the Elmont, N.Y., product is once again at home at the racetrack.

Especially Tampa Bay Downs, where he has played the claiming game with elan while saddling 12 winners, tied for 14th in the standings.

“I’ve probably claimed close to 20 horses here, and nearly all of the 12 horses I came here with have been claimed. We ‘flip’ a lot of horses,” said the 38-year-old conditioner. In fact, the only one left from his arrival is Doin’ittherightway, a handsome New York-bred 5-year-old gelded son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver who has a victory and three seconds at the meet.

Since being claimed by Simone last July at Delaware Park for $10,000 on behalf of owner Robert Deckert, Jr., Doin’ittherightway is 4-for-14 with four seconds; his career earnings are $212,019.

Searching for the winning formula is a challenge Simone embraces. “Every horse is like a puzzle, and there are really no right or wrong answers. You have to see what works for each horse. I’m a hands-on trainer, and I analyze every horse to see what we can do to help (improve their performance),” he said.

Simone, who plans to compete this summer at Delaware Park and Monmouth, has a solid group of clients, including his uncle Wayne LaMarche; Deckert, for whom he also trained here 16 years ago; Valls Thoroughbreds; and Paterpop Racing.

While he is enthusiastic about continuing to win races up north after the Oldsmar oval wraps up its meet on May 4, returning here as a top-15 conditioner next season is a moment he looks forward to.

“The surroundings here are comfortable for the horses and the people, and you have people  coming from all over so you can make new connections and get different ideas about training,” Simone said. “It’s going to be bittersweet leaving next week, but I’m very happy the way things have gone. Just being considered for the (Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Award) is a big honor.”

Around the oval. Apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado won the first and ninth races today, both on the turf. He won the first on Reckless Place, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Happy Tenth Stable and trained by Tony Wilson. Maldonado added the ninth aboard Damaso, a 4-year-old filly owned by Perrine Time Thoroughbreds and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. The co-feature is the sixth race, with trainer Chad Brown’s 3-year-old filly Peak Earnings the 6-5 morning-line favorite for her career debut. Samy Camacho will ride the first-time starter in the 1-mile turf event for Brown and owner Klaravich Stables.

Next week, Tampa Bay Downs will present racing cards Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, May 4, which is Kentucky Derby Day.

Tampa Bay Downs will offer a full slate of racing on Derby Day to wrap up the 2023-2024 meet and accompany the simulcast excitement from Churchill Downs – which will present seven graded-stakes races in addition to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve – and many other racetracks.

Admission at Tampa Bay Downs is $10, with children 17-and-under free. Valet parking is $25. The gates will open at 10 a.m., and the first local race will begin around noon. Automatic wagering terminals will be set up outside in front of the main Grandstand entrance for fans who decide to grab their tickets early and watch at home or elsewhere.

There will also be advance-wagering opportunities on the Kentucky Derby on Friday.

Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:57 p.m. The final minutes before the race are electric, as the realization sinks in that this is it for another year.

Plenty of Kentucky Derby souvenirs will be available in the Tampa Bay Downs Gift Shop, including glasses listing all 149 winners of the race. The cost is $14.95; if you want the traditional mint julep, the cost is $19 ($10 for the glass and $9 for the drink).

There will also be food-truck specials on the grounds, in addition to the usual concession and restaurant fare.

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.




Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Michael Simone with 5-year-old gelding Doin'ittherightway

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