One of the biggest events on the Tampa Bay Downs calendar is fast approaching: the simulcast of the 141st Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands from Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday, May 2.
Each year, the Oldsmar oval replicates an authentic Run for the Roses atmosphere with a full card of Thoroughbred competition; parties large and small throughout the track; beautiful women in their spring dresses and finest hats; and the sale of mint juleps, the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, in souvenir glasses.
Grade II Tampa Bay Derby winner Carpe Diem has established himself as one of the three favorites for the Kentucky Derby, along with fellow 3-year-olds Dortmund and American Pharoah. A full field of 20 is expected to contest the world’s most famous horse race.
Carpe Diem could become the third Tampa Bay Derby participant to win the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense won both races in 2007, while Super Saver – trained by Todd Pletcher, Carpe Diem’s conditioner – was third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby before triumphing at Churchill.
At least two other Tampa Bay Derby horses, third-place finisher Divining Rod and fourth-place finisher Danzig Moon, also appear to be on the Triple Crown trail.
The Ontario-bred Danzig Moon, owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, is likely to start in the Kentucky Derby after his second-place finish to Carpe Diem in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4, if he trains well up to the race.
Divining Rod, who finished second in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes before his solid Tampa Bay Derby effort, won today’s Grade III Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland to enter the classics picture. He is owned by the Lael Stables of his breeders, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and trained by Arnaud Delacour and was ridden today for the first time by Julien Leparoux.
Before the Coolmore Lexington, Delacour had indicated the Preakness on May 16 at Pimlico was the major target for Divining Rod; the next several days will unveil if he and the Jacksons were sufficiently impressed with today’s victory to alter direction.
Tampa Bay Downs fans could also have a strong rooting interest in the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, run on May 1. Among the leading candidates is Include Betty, trained by Oldsmar conditioner Tom Proctor.
Under jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., Include Betty has blossomed as a 3-year-old, with a victory here on Jan. 3 in a maiden special weight event; a victory in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on Jan. 31, at odds of 18-1; and a thrilling neck victory on April 4 at Oaklawn Park in the Grade III, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, also at 18-1.
Include Betty’s only defeat this year came in the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course on March 7, when she finished fifth. In each of her victories, she has won scores of new fans by trailing in last place in the early stages before unleashing a whirlwind rally to prevail.
In addition to a full card on Kentucky Derby Day, Tampa Bay Downs will also conduct Thoroughbred racing on Kentucky Oaks Day and on Sunday, May 3.
The final day of the 2014-2015 meeting is Tuesday, June 30.
Today’s action. Trainer Jamie Ness, jockey Antonio Gallardo and owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., are heating up at the right time as they continue their assaults on the Tampa Bay Downs record books.
Ness and Midwest won a pair of races with horses they claimed earlier in the meeting, with Gallardo in the irons both times. In the first race, 5-year-old gelding Nuestra Senor lived up to his 4-5 favoritism for the trio; 8-year-old gelding Backwater Blues wore down his competition to win the eighth race at odds of 3-5.
Backwater Blues was claimed from the race by trainer Derek Ryan for new owner Metro Thoroughbreds LLC.
Gallardo added another victory for good measure, piloting home 3-year-old gelding Battle Tested in the fourth race for owners Betty Hamilton and Kathleen O’Connell, who is also the trainer of the Florida-bred.
Ness now has 38 victories, two more than Gerald Bennett, as he vies for an Oldsmar-record nine consecutive training titles (the late Don Rice won eight titles, but they were not all consecutive; for the record, Ness tied for the top spot with Bennett during the 2010-2011 meeting and with Kathleen O’Connell the previous year).
Defending jockey champion Gallardo, whose consistent excellence and determination have been more than commendable throughout the meeting, now has 127 victories, 17 shy of five-time champion Daniel Centeno’s record set during the 2007-2008 meeting.
The Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., operation of Rich and Karen Papiese strengthened its hold on the top spot in the owner standings in quest of a sixth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs crown. Midwest has sent out 21 winners, four more than the Amaty Racing Stables of Dennis Amaty.
Not to be overlooked today are the three victories by Centeno, who showed unerring timing and skill in three turf course victories. The first came in the third race on 4-year-old filly So Festive, bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Leverett S. Miller and trained by Arnaud Delacour (wife Leigh Delacour handled the saddling duties while Arnaud was with Divining Rod).
In the fifth race, Centeno and 4-year-old gelding Two Jacks Wild found a narrow opening late to win for owner-trainer Dennis J. Manning. Centeno next won the ninth race – a five-furlong turf sprint and the Lambholm South Race of the Week – on Against the Win, bred and owned by Alpha Delta Stables and trained by Delacour.
Centeno is second to Gallardo at the meeting with 74 victories.
In addition to Divining Rod’s victory in the Coolmore Lexington, 4-year-ol filly Ball Dancing – second to Stephanie’s Kitten here on March 7 in the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes on turf – won the Grade I, $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes on the grass at Keeneland. She is owned by W.S. Farish and Steve F. Mooney and trained by Chad Brown.
Upcoming events. Sunday is Oldsmar Cup Day, commemorating the 99th birthday of the City of Oldsmar and its long affiliation with Tampa Bay Downs, which is enjoying its 89th anniversary season. Oldsmar residents will be admitted free of charge with proper identification.
For information on the city’s centennial celebration in 2016, visit www.oldsmar100.com on the Internet.
The annual Oldsmar Cup will be contested as the ninth race on a 10-race card that begins at 12:40 p.m. The six-furlong, allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event has attracted a field of nine, with Amaty Racing Stables’ 5-year-old gelding Grey by You the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Grey by You is trained by Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr., and will be ridden by Daniel Centeno.
Trainer Bernell Rhone has two horses entered in the Oldsmar Cup – his 4-year-old, multiple stakes-winning Minnesota-bred filly Sky and Sea, and 5-year-old Minnesota-bred gelding Bourbon County. Dean Butler is named to ride Sky and Sea, while Jose Ferrer will be aboard Bourbon County.
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.
Dynamic Sky and his connections win Sovereign Awards. On Friday night at Woodbine near Toronto, Dynamic Sky – the winner of the 2013 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs – was honored with a Sovereign Award as Canada’s Champion Turf Male for 2014.
The now-5-year-old was one of five horses trained by Mark Casse to be recognized, including Horse of the Year Lexie Lou, who won the Queen’s Plate against males. Casse took home his fourth consecutive Sovereign Award as the nation’s Outstanding Trainer and seventh overall.
Dynamic Sky is owned by John C. Oxley, who was named Outstanding Owner for the third consecutive year. The Ontario-bred son of Sky Mesa-Murani, by Distorted Humor, earned his Sovereign on the basis of his victory in the Grade III Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct in November, a second in the Grade I Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine and a third in the Grade I Pattison Canadian International, also at Woodbine.
A Grade I-placed stakes winner as a 2-year-old, Dynamic Sky began his 3-year-old campaign by winning the $100,000, seven-furlong Pasco Stakes on the dirt in January of 2013. He followed that performance with a runner-up effort here in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes, beaten a neck by Falling Sky, and a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, won by Verrazano.