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Published Dec 2, 2023
by Mike Henry
Patriot Spirit

OLDSMAR, FL. – After praising the ability of his 2-year-old colt Patriot Spirit before the 38th edition of the $100,000, 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, trainer Michael Campbell knew he had placed a target on his horse’s back.

But the old saying “It ain’t bragging if you can do it” clearly applied after the Kentucky-bred and jockey Samy Camacho powered to a 1 ¾-length victory from an onrushing Crazy Mason in a more-than-adequate time of 1:10.26 on a fast track.

“This horse is so talented,” said Campbell, who trains Patriot Spirit for owner George Mellon’s Mellon Patch, Inc. “I asked Samy to describe him in one word after the race, and he said ‘Amazing.’ I always thought from the moment I bought him (for Mellon for $235,000) he’ll take me to Kentucky and I think he will, but time will tell.”

Like his seven Inaugural rivals, Patriot Spirit turns 3 years old on Jan. 1, so it seemed premature to press Campbell on where (and when) in Kentucky he’d like to go. But his son of top sire Constitution out of Grade I winner Mistical Plan, racing today without blinkers, seems to have every right to improve, perhaps starting with the $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 13.

Crazy Mason and jockey Mychel Sanchez could benefit from the added furlong if they return for the Pasco. Today’s pace-setter, Rathmore, held on gamely to finish third.

“I smooched at my horse at the quarter-mile pole and just tried to be pretty cool in the saddle,” said Camacho, who let Patriot Spirit do the rest. “I want to thank Michael Campbell for this opportunity, because this looks like a horse that can win graded races.”

Meanwhile, before the $100,000, 6-furlong Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, jockey Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., appeared to be in a transcendental state of mind.

Let Them Watch

Diaz had ridden Florida-bred Let Them Watch on two previous occasions at Gulfstream Park, winning easily both times sprinting. So despite an uncharacteristically dull effort on Oct. 27 in the $200,000 Myrtlewood Stakes at Keeneland, with Luis Saez aboard, Diaz was ultra-confident Let Them Watch would return to the form she displayed in winning her career debut in July and the Sharp Susan Stakes in August.

“The game plan today was to let them come and catch us,” Diaz said after Let Them Watch’s gate-to-wire, ¾-length victory from a rallying Chi Chi in a time of 1:10.64 on a fast track. “She was the fastest horse in the race, so I took advantage of that. She always breaks well, and I was confident she was going to give her all when I asked her. She kicked on in the stretch and kept going, and when (Chi Chi) started coming, my filly never quit.”

The victory was the third in four starts for Let Them Watch, a daughter of Maximus Mischief out of My Rolex, by Proud Accolade. She is owned by 32-year-old Case Chambers, an oilman from Abilene, Texas, who was making his first trip to Tampa Bay Downs while accompanied by his wife Kailey, a pharmacist.

Let Them Watch is trained by Michael Maker.

The betting favorite, Toupie, finished an even third.

“I’m never not nervous because it’s horse racing,” Case Chambers said. “But she is a special horse, and she loves racing in Florida, so (his nerves) weren’t as bad as normal. We’ve become friendly with Hector and he said before the race she was going to come out running. We’ll leave it up to (Maker) where she races next, because he’s one of the greatest in the world at what he does.”

Back to Patriot Spirit, a horse Camacho is counting his blessings for the opportunity to partner with. He was able to sit off the early speed breaking from the No. 8 post, and the race proceeded in almost cookie-cutter fashion.

‘It was perfect. Everybody was shaking up front like they do, and I just put my horse on cruise control,” Camacho said. “He did everything else.”

Camacho won three races on a Cotillion Festival Day card that consisted of nine races for 2-year-olds. The Boot Barn Jockey of the Month won the fourth on the filly Expecting a Winner for trainer Gerald Bennett and the seventh, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, on the colt Mickey Shillelagh for trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III. Both were first-time starters.

Around the oval. Racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card starting at 12:50 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with Sundays added to the mix on Dec. 24. The track is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25, and Easter, 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.

Photos courtesy of SV Photography.

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