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Published Mar 2, 2024
by Mike Henry
Book'em Danno shown winning the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 13 (courtesy SV Photography)

After arriving back in Florida from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Friday, trainer Derek Ryan decided to unwind by taking his 18-year-old son Christopher to Palm Beach Gardens for today’s third round of the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches golf tournament at PGA National Resort.

While enjoying the shot-making by many of the world’s best golfers, Ryan sounded no worse for wear after the whirlwind events of a week ago, which saw his 3-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding Book’em Danno get nipped at the wire by unbeaten Japanese star Forever Young in the $1.5-million Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

Ryan put Book’em Danno on a van for the airport Thursday, headed for Chicago and a mandatory one-week quarantine imposed on all of the U.S. horses that competed in the Saudi Cup Day races.

“He was great after the race, no problem,” Ryan said of Book’em Danno, who had won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 13 by 12 ½ lengths to earn an invitation to the Saudi Derby. “I had to gallop him over there two days after the race. He’s a tough little horse. Like they say, he’s hickory.”

Speculation abounded afterward that Book’em Danno might have lost focus late in the race, and that neither horse nor rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., were fully aware of Forever Young’s rally as the Japanese horse charged home for all he was worth on the far outside of the track under jockey Ryusei Sakai to improve to 4-for-4.

“I think if (Forever Young) came up right beside him, he doesn’t get beat,” said Ryan, who trains Book’em Danno for Atlantic Six Racing. “It’s a long stretch there, and we ended up in front a little sooner than we wanted.”

Forever Young was timed in 1:36.17 for the one-turn, 1,600-meter race (about a mile) as both horses shattered the track record for the distance. Book’em Danno is 4-for-6 with three stakes victories and two seconds to his credit, and the $300,000 second-place prize raised his career earnings to $560,625.

While Forever Young is expected to compete next in the United Arab Emirates Derby on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai as his connections seek a possible date in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4, Ryan has other targets in mind for Book’em Danno. For now, though, he’s keeping his cards close to the vest.

Ryan, who picked out the Saudi Derby last fall for Book’em Danno, said he has numerous options for the horse’s late spring and summer campaigns. The Grade I, $500,000 Woody Stephens on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day, seems a logical possibility, as it is for 3-year-olds going 7 furlongs (the Belmont Stakes card will be conducted this year at Saratoga).

But for now, Ryan doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself. He has one of the most exciting 3-year-olds in training, even if he isn’t a Triple Crown candidate, and the worldwide publicity he and Book’em Danno garnered for their courageous effort and the conditioner’s sportsmanship after the heart-rending setback are good things.

And, Ryan pointed out between golf shots as his Irish countryman Shane Lowry dueled for the lead, Tampa Bay Downs received its fair share of positive exposure from the experience, too.

“There are a lot of Saudi Arabians going around with Tampa Bay Downs hats,” he said. “I think I brought eight or 10 with me, but I should have brought a bunch more.”

Around the oval. Ryan’s 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Charging Aero staged an impressive stretch rally to win today’s fifth race, the $53,000 Lambholm South Race of the Week at 5 furlongs on the turf. Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode Charging Aero, who is owned by Eagle View Farm.

That was one of two victories today for Camacho, who also won the fourth race on Beatiful Karla, a 4-year-old filly owned by Lean Entertainment and trained by Juan Carlos Avila. Beatiful Karla was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo for new owner Gumpster Stable.

Apprentice jockey Melissa Iorio and Daniel Centeno also rode two winners apiece. Iorio captured the third race on the turf on Frosty Secret, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by SCF, Inc., and Dennis J. Manning and trained by Manning. Iorio added the eighth with She Loves to Move, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Darsan, Inc., and conditioned by leading Oldsmar trainer Kathleen O’Connell. She Loves to Move paid $32.80 to win.

Centeno won the second race on Wheelingndealing, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Richard Malouf and trained by Kelly Breen. Wheelingndealing was claimed from the race for $10,000 by trainer Aldana Spieth for new owner Bruno Schickedanz.

Centeno added the ninth on the turf on Always Royal, a 4-year-old filly owned by Roddy J. Valente and Daniel Adams and trained by Jorge Delgado. Trainer Kathleen O’Connell claimed Always Royal for $16,000 for her own Kathleen O’Connell Racing Stable.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 31 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.




Book'em Danno shown winning the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 13 (courtesy SV Photography)

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