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Racing News

Published Dec 29, 2023
by Mike Henry
Marcos Meneses

Listening to the pre-meet hype surrounding several of the new jockey faces at Tampa Bay Downs fueled the competitive fire of Marcos Meneses.

“I’m a competition guy. When I win, I want to defeat the best jockeys,” Meneses said after riding three winners today to grab the Boot Barn Jockey of the Month Award. “If the best jockeys want to come here, you’re welcome. I feel better winning those races because the competition is tough.”

Meneses, a 37-year-old product of La Guaira, Venezuela, has ridden 11 winners at the meet, good for third place in the standings. He also rode three winners on Dec. 22.

Jockey agent Mike Moran – who also handles leading jockey Samy Camacho’s book – thinks it might not be long before trainers are clamoring for Meneses’s services, reputations or past loyalties aside.

“I don’t think he has been getting all the best mounts, but he is just riding awesome and a lot of people are not picking up on it yet,” Moran said. “He gets the most out of his horses and does a great job going with them. He doesn’t quit, and it seems like he is in the right place at the right time. It’s fun to watch him.”

Meneses rode 48 winners at Tampa Bay Downs last season to finish sixth in the standings after moving his tack from Gulfstream Park. He, his wife Aneidys and their three young daughters have embraced the slower pace on Florida’s west coast, giving him peace of mind as he works horses in the mornings and wins races in the afternoons.

Ther next step is getting in the barns of bigger outfits with horses capable of winning stakes races. Meneses has succeeded to some degree here on that front, winning last season’s Sandpiper Stakes on then-2-year-old filly Dorth Vader for trainer Michael Yates and taking the Pasco Stakes two seasons ago on 3-year-old Markhamian for conditioner Juan Carlos Avila.

Moran thinks Meneses has the potential to finish among the top three here. “He just asks me ‘Mike, what do I need to do?’ ” Moran said. “Three wins the last two Fridays and Jockey of the Month – I hope I can sell him now.”

Meneses came to the United States to ride in 2015 after winning close to 500 races in Venezuela, where he began a winner’s-circle ritual in which he raises both arms skyward before dismounting to express gratitude to God. “I’m grateful because this is a dangerous sport and because I have (the ability),” he said.

Last summer, Meneses won the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge during the Summer Festival of Racing, riding four winners over the two days of competition.

And in case you missed it, Meneses got one of those chances every jockey dreams of last spring, riding long shot Il Miracolo in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. They finished seventh in a nine-horse field, but Meneses described the opportunity to compete against the likes of Hall of Fame jockeys Javier Castellano and John Velazquez and brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz as the best experience of his career.

Bring ‘em all on. At this stage of his career, Meneses feels primed for the challenge.

Tampa Turf Test begins Saturday. The first legs of the Tampa Turf Test, a starter handicap series for horses which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less this year, gets underway Saturday. Fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward will compete in the seventh race, with males 3-and-upward vying in the ninth. Both races offer $24,000 in purse money and will be contested at a distance of a mile, course conditions permitting.

Thursday’s substantial rain has caused Saturday’s third and fifth races to be switched from the turf to the main track, and both of the Tampa Turf Test races will begin on the homestretch turf straightaway instead of the 1-mile chute.

Trainer Jamie Ness has the 2-1 morning-line favorites in both divisions. In the seventh, he will send out 4-year-old filly Paper Mansion, who is owned in partnership by his Jagger Inc. and Long Ball Stables and will be ridden by Kevin Gomez. Ness has 5-year-old gelding American Unity in the ninth, owned by Morris E. Kernan, Jr., and Jagger Inc., with Samy Camacho named to ride.

Should track officials be forced to move either or both races from the turf due to unforeseen weather, they will be contested on the main track at a distance of a mile and 40 yards.

The Tampa Turf Test consists of four races for members of both sexes at progressively longer distances.

Around the oval. Meneses scored his first victory today in the second race, winning on 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Awesome Flay for owner William G. Law, Jr., and trainer Robert G. Smith. Meneses added the third with Tiki Bar, a 3-year-old filly owned by M J M Stable and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr.

Meneses then won the fifth race aboard Queen Aiko, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Mirella Gutierrez and trained by Michael V. Laurato.

Carol Cedeno rode back-to-back winners. She captured the seventh on Countrygirl Pride, a 3-year-old filly owned by Ridenjac Racing and Larry Gourneau, Jr., and trained by Robert G. Smith for his second victory.

Cedeno added the eighth race with Etretat, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Peter Wasiluk, Jr., and Stein Racing and trained by Wasiluk.

Tampa Bay Downs 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.

Marcos Meneses

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