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Published Mar 30, 2024
by Mike Henry
paper mansion
Jockey Kevin Gomez and assistant trainer Cory Jensen, far right, with Paper Mansion after her Tampa Turf Test series four-race sweep (courtesy SV Photography)

Assistant trainer Cory Jensen probably wasn’t the only person breathing a sigh of relief after 5-year-old mare Paper Mansion completed her four-race sweep of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series for fillies and mares in today’s second race.

For many racing fans who have followed her exploits throughout the meet, it was reassuring – and, maybe, uplifting – to discover an individual they could rely on, again and again.

Beneath a textbook ride by jockey Kevin Gomez, the shining chestnut overcame a weight impost of 127 pounds, the highest of her career, to win the second race by a length-and-a-half from late-running longshot Ariana Valentina. Except Temptation finished third in the six-horse field.

Paper Mansion paid $2.20 to win as the overwhelming wagering favorite. Her career earnings are $230,195. She’d been claimed by Ness for $25,000 from a fourth-place finish on May 23, 2022 at Parx Racing, which made her 1-for-7; more than a year passed before Ness committed her fulltime to the turf, with devastating results for her future rivals.

Her victory makes Paper Mansion the first Thoroughbred of either sex to sweep all four races of the Tampa Turf Test series since the Ness-owned-and-trained gelding Brother Pat accomplished the feat in 2015.

The Tampa Turf Test is conducted annually for older horses having started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less since Jan. 1 of the previous year.

In the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test, 9-year-old gelding Megacity led eight others on a merry but futile chase, with jockey Jesus Castanon keeping enough in reserve to ensure a ¾-length victory from Sociallongdistance. American Unity finished third.

The victory was Megacity’s ninth in 41 starts and came in his first Tampa Turf Test series race. He is owned by Francis S. Vitale and trained by Darien Rodriguez. The son of City Zip-Cozy Gain, by Cozzene, has plenty of back class; as a 5-year-old, he finished second in the Grade III Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park. He has competed at 13 different tracks in his career and has earned in excess of $470,000.

On this day, Megacity was forced to take a back seat to his female counterpart.

Utilizing the same front-running style she employed in her first three Tampa Turf Test victories, and an earlier triumph here on Dec. 15 (all under Gomez), Paper Mansion completed the 1 3/8-mile distance in 2:17.58, 2.11 seconds off the course record on a turf surface rated “good.”

Amazingly, Paper Mansion never trailed at any point of call in her five Oldsmar triumphs.

Despite her ongoing excellence here and the relative ease of her victory, Jensen, the assistant to trainer and co-owner Jamie Ness, admitted to some anxious moments.

“It got a little hairy at the end. That other horse was coming a little, and it looked like (Paper Mansion) was getting a little tired carrying that much weight. She must love this turf course. Five-for-five here – that’s really good,” Jensen said.

The daughter of Tu Brutus-Gymnast Jadie, by Concord Point, is now 7-for-8 on the turf with one second and 11-for-23 overall. She extended her winning streak to six for her conditioner’s Jagger Inc., operation and co-owner Longball Stables.

She also created a lot of fond memories for Gomez, who departed Tampa Bay Downs following today’s card for Laurel (Md.) Park’s 15-day spring meet, which begins Friday.

“It’s great to ride horses like her,” Gomez said, referring not only to her talent on the turf but her eagerness to perform and win races. “The horse makes the rider, and when you have those kind of horses, it always makes you look good.

“She looked like much the best today, and when I saw her in the paddock she was nice and relaxed, the way I like her. She is not an anxious filly and she has something good always. I loved the way she handled the mile-and-three-eighths. I shook my stick at her late just to keep her attention – I didn’t want her to think it was over – and when I saw the (big) screen, I knew I was safe right there.”

Four races later, Castanon and Rodriguez, the jockey and trainer of Megacity, had few worries throughout as he carried 118 pounds to victory in a time of 2:17.40. As the race progressed through pedestrian fractions, there was no stopping him.

“That was the plan, to make the lead and slow it down as much as we could,” Rodriguez said. “He was probably running a little over his head (at the $32,000 claiming level) earlier in the meet, so we decided to drop him in class. This is probably where he fits now.

“Jesus knows the pace pretty well and it worked out today.”

With a short run into the first turn of the 11-furlong event, Castanon grabbed the lead from the outside No. 9 post, determined to let the others do the chasing.

“As soon as I came out to the paddock, he (Rodriguez) told me what the horse likes to do, and we decided to go with that. With his kind of speed, everything was in his favor,” Castanon said. “He did everything so easy today. I let him pick it up at the 5/16-pole when it was time to go and he went and did his business.”

Around the oval. Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno scored the 12th graded-stakes victory of his career today at Gulfstream Park, winning the Grade II, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks Presented by FanDuel TV aboard 3-year-old filly Power Squeeze. Centeno had won the Suncoast Stakes here on the Jorge Delgado-trained horse on Feb. 10.

The victory thrusts Power Squeeze into the picture for the Longines Kentucky Oaks, which will be contested May 3 at Churchill Downs. Power Squeeze, who is owned by Lea Farms, surged past heavy favorite Ways and Means in deep stretch to achieve today’s upset.

Tampa Bay Downs is closed to the public Sunday for Easter, then reopens Monday 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.

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




paper mansion
Jockey Kevin Gomez and assistant trainer Cory Jensen, far right, with Paper Mansion after her Tampa Turf Test series four-race sweep (courtesy SV Photography)

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