Racing News


by Mike Henry

Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo returned from a five-day suspension for careless riding in grand style, riding three winners to raise his total for the meeting to 110 as he continues his pursuit of Daniel Centeno’s track record of 144.

Gallardo has 23 racing days remaining to equal or surpass Centeno.

Gallardo wasted no time getting started, winning the first race on 6-year-old mare Mindfulness for owner Stephen Fosman and trainer John Simms. He captured the sixth race, a five-furlong turf sprint, on 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding Determinato, who staved off a gallant late surge by 10-year-old campaigner Hold On Smokey by a nose.

Determinato is owned by Acclaimed Racing Stable and Jagger, Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness.

Gallardo completed his comeback performance by winning the eighth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Maggie Sue, owned by Kenneth E. Ayres and trained by Jordan Blair.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Saturday is the final round of the Tampa Turf Test, with a pair of mile-and-three-eighths contests on the grass for members of both sexes.

In the Male Division, which will be the ninth race, 6-year-old gelding Brother Pat will attempt to become the first horse to sweep the four-race series in its 13-year history while giving away 5-to-11 pounds to the 13 other entrants. Brother Pat is owned by Jagger, Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness and will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo.

The Female Division of the Tampa Turf Test is the seventh race Saturday. The starter handicap series is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2014-15.

Sunday is the final Kids & Family Day of the 2014-2015 meeting. Activities include games, pony rides, bounce houses and inflatable slides, along with plenty of good food and a full card of racing excitement.

The track will conduct racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 3, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 5. However, The Downs Golf Practice Facility will be open that day from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (the last bucket of balls will be sold at 3:30 p.m.).

Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

Today’s action. In today’s fourth race, 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Big Twitch held off Winnie Bay Go by a head to capture the mile-and-40-yard, $12,500-$10,000 maiden claiming event.

Big Twitch is owned by Karel A. De Ridder, James M. Sims and Larry R. Cook and trained by De Ridder, a jockey from 1978-84 at the now-defunct Newmarket Racecourse in Alberton, South Africa.

Big Twitch was making her second start, having finished out of the money in a maiden claiming race on the turf here on Jan. 23. De Ridder trains Big Twitch and one other horse, an unraced 5-year-old son of Afleet Alex, at Classic Mile Park in Ocala.

De Ridder and his wife Trish are in the process of selling their farm in Monroe, Ga., and plan to buy a farm in Ocala for raising young horses and establishing a pinhooking operation (pinhooking is the practice of buying a young horse with the intention of developing, then re-selling it).

“She will do the pinhooking and I will continue to train those we keep to race,” De Ridder said.

Big Twitch’s victory was De Ridder’s first in Oldsmar. But he achieved considerable success while training in the mid-Atlantic region from 2001-2010, primarily as a private trainer for the late Henry “Hal” Clagett II, who died in 2010 at 93.

“He was my sponsor when I came to the United States from South Africa, and he helped write the legislation to assist the Maryland Thoroughbred breeding industry,” De Ridder said.

Among the top horses trained by De Ridder for Clagett were multiple-stakes winner Golden Malibu and stakes winner Sound Moon.

Big Twitch is a daughter of 2001 Tampa Bay Derby winner Burning Roma, out of the Tactical Advantage mare, Twitch and Jitter. In one of those pleasant coincidences racing often seems to produce, Trish breezed Burning Roma before several of his big races for owner Harold Queen, the breeder of Big Twitch.

The 52-year-old ex-jockey praised the efforts of 50-year-old winning jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., aboard Big Twitch. “I appreciate the guy riding her,” De Ridder said. “I like the older guys because of all their experience.”