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Published Jan 7, 2024
by Mike Henry
Mike Dini

OLDSMAR, FL. – Frosty O Toole let her performance speak for itself in today’s fourth race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week.

To her trainer Mike Dini, the message came through loud and clear: The 4-year-old Florida-bred filly loves being back at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I couldn’t tell you what it is. She just likes the racetrack,” Dini said after Frosty O Toole improved to 3-for-3 on the Oldsmar oval’s main dirt track, powering away to a 4 ¼-length victory from Molly’s Angel in the $54,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance/optional claiming contest for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward.

“They say this track is deep, but other tracks get deep where they sink up to their ankles. Maybe she doesn’t like a big, heavy track,” said Dini, who believes the dirt is where she wants to be after an uninspired effort on the turf here on Dec. 15.

Dini figures she also likes the touch of jockey Antonio Gallardo, who has ridden her in all three Tampa Bay Downs main track victories.

“She runs pretty well for me. I know her because I breezed her when she was a baby,” Gallardo said. “If you have a loose rein on her, she doesn’t want to go nowhere – ‘OK, be lazy.’ When you take the rein tight in her mouth, she wants to go.

“You have to ask her all the time because she doesn’t give it to you for free. And when you think she’s done, keep asking – she has something for the end,” the rider added.

Frosty O Toole, who paid $4.20 as the wagering favorite, earned $34,450 for the victory. She is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, who purchased her privately from Dini after her second victory here last season on March 8.

Eclipse turned her over to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who ran her in graded-stakes company twice in New York last spring without success. Eclipse, while retaining ownership, returned Frosty O Toole to Dini’s barn in the fall, and today’s victory sort of made the reunion come full circle.

“She was in some very tough races up north, and I think she needed to get her confidence back,” Dini said. “She’s a funny filly. Even though she’s big, she doesn’t like to train a lot.”

Frosty O Toole, a daughter of multiple-Grade I winner Frosted out of unraced O’Toole, by Distorted Humor, improved to 3-for-11. She was bred by Helen Barbazon, Joseph Barbazon & Godolphin and raised at the Barbazons’ Pleasant Acres in Morriston.

Although recent weather has been wetter than horsemen, track officials and bettors would prefer, Dini – the President of the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association – said this season’s increased purse money, which attracted numerous high-profile trainers and established jockeys, has created positive vibes on the backside. The competition is tougher across the board, and Dini thinks the old saying about a rising tide lifting all boats will apply throughout the meet.

“People have been entering races and our handle has been pretty good. If we can keep the fields together until we get grass racing going again, the handle should really go up,” Dini said, aware of the forecast for more rain this week. “We have new trainers who are making races set up differently and new jockeys who came here with good outfits.

“It makes for a good game when there are plenty of horses, because your wagering goes up. When there aren’t many horses in a race and a horse sticks out at 3-5 odds, everybody (meaning bettors) is going somewhere else to shop,” he said.

Around the oval. Gallardo also won the seventh race on My Name’s Jeff, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett. My Name’s Jeff was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Tony Wilson for new owner Henry Davis.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. 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.

Mike Dini

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