A trainer who got his first job on the racetrack when he was 13, a pair of apprentice jockeys and an Illinois-bred gelding who has been virtually unbeatable since May were among the headliners on a brilliant, summerlike afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs.
Four betting favorites enjoyed their day in the sunshine, but the challenges for handicappers and bettors picked up throughout the day after a 4-5 shot won the first race and a 3-10 shot romped in the second.
Trainer Anthony Granitz, who took a summer job at Arlington Park in Illinois cleaning stalls before he could shave, saddled career winner No. 999 in the sixth race on the turf. Seemingly beaten at the sixteenth pole of the mile-and-a-sixteenth claiming event, Granitz’s 5-year-old mare Annamonarchos rallied under jockey Fernando De La Cruz for a neck victory from Noor Un Nisa.
The Indiana-bred Annamonarchos paid $10.80 to win.
The winner of the second race, 5-year-old mare Galiana, was ridden by 7-pound apprentice Ever Argueta, who scored his first victory at Tampa Bay Downs and No. 10 of his brief career.
Another apprentice rider, 7-pounder Janelle Campbell, scored her third victory of the meeting in the fifth race with 7-year-old mare Learn the Lingo. The winner paid $4.80 as a strong favorite. That reversed the trend from Campbell’s first two winners at the meeting, which paid $106 and $77. She has 19 career victories.
In the third race, an allowance/$62,500 optional claiming event at a mile on the turf, enough bettors overlooked 5-year-old Illinois-bred Super Soldier to reward his backers with a solid $7.20 win mutuel when he held on for a three-quarters length victory from Rerun. Luis Garcia rode the winner.
Super Soldier, who is owned by Cherrywood Racing Stables, II and trained by Michele Boyce, had won four consecutive starts at Arlington Park before a head loss on Hawthorne’s turf course in October. He is now 6-for-12 lifetime.
Not to be ignored on today’s program was an impressive performance in the seventh race by Include Betty, a 3-year-old filly who rallied from last place early to post a length victory from Hone In. The mile-and-40-yard Lambholm South Race of the Week was a maiden special weight contest for 3-year-old fillies.
Include Betty’s time of 1:41.79 was more than two seconds off the track record, but the manner in which she gobbled up ground in the stretch has to encourage owners Brereton C. Jones and Timothy C. Thornton and trainer Tom Proctor. Rosemary Homeister, Jr., rode Include Betty, who paid $5.60 as the betting favorite.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Antonio Gallardo rode two winners. He won the first race on 8-year-old gelding Gimmeadrink for owner Savoy Stable, LLC and trainer Dale Bennett and captured the 10th and final on the turf on 3-year-old gelding I’m a Big Hitter for breeder-owner Gilbert Campbell and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Tampa Bay Downs will conduct racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through January before adding Thursdays to the mix in February. The track’s feature race on Saturday, Jan. 10 is the 11th edition of the $100,000 Turf Dash for older horses at five furlongs.
Tampa Bay Downs will conduct its annual Cap Giveaway Day on Saturday, Jan. 17. Fans will receive a high-quality cap with the new Tampa Bay Downs logo with each paid admission and have the opportunity to meet many of the track’s leading jockeys and get autographs.