Photo of Fast Flying Rumor courtesy of John Duca/SV Photography
In Thoroughbred racing, there are various degrees of race-ready. Entering today’s $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash Stakes, Fast Flying Rumor was a step beyond “sitting on a monster effort.”
The 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding grabbed the lead a couple of steps out of the starting gate, kept the lightning-quick 5-year-old mare Richies Sweetheart at bay early and powered home to a 4 ¾-length victory from graded-stakes winning 6-year-old Power Alert in 55.06 seconds on a turf course listed as firm.
Fast Flying Rumor’s time was .43 seconds off the course record established by 2015 Turf Dash Stakes winner Bold Thunder. Fast Flying Rumor’s fractional times were 21.03 seconds for the quarter-mile and 43.72 for the half.
“If I had asked him, he might have broken the record,” said winning jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr. “He broke out of the gate so fast, I was able to relax him around the turn and give him a breather, and turning for home I knew I had it. I didn’t even really hit him, just kind of tapped him a little bit to keep his mind on it.”
Power Alert, the 3-2 betting favorite, finished a length ahead of third-place finisher Night Officer in the 10-horse field, with Beantown Saint a neck back in fourth. Richies Sweetheart, winner of the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares on Dec. 19, faded to seventh.
Fast Flying Rumor, owned by Mary Bennett’s Winning Stables and the Midnight Rider, LLC outfit of Matt Ferris, and trained by Mary’s husband, Gerald Bennett, paid $24.80 to win. The $2 exacta combination of 3-2 paid $79.20 and the $1 trifecta combination of 3-2-9 paid $322.
Fast Flying Rumor had won the Turf Dash Prep in impressive fashion on Dec. 11, but bettors questioned how he would handle the step up in company.
“He’s given us a lot of fun so far,” said trainer Bennett, who claimed Fast Flying Rumor for $25,000 out of his maiden victory at Tampa Bay Downs last Jan. 24. “I would have liked to have had an outside post and just kind of sat off it a little, but he’s been so sharp training to this race that we were happy to play it however the race shaped up.
“He’s matured and he is getting more confident in himself. And he doesn’t need a certain racetrack; he likes Poly, grass, mud, whatever.”
After winning the $60,000 Select Stakes on the turf at Monmouth in June, Fast Flying Rumor turned in three subpar efforts before being sidelined three months. “His electrolyte levels were out of whack, so we just stopped on him and gave him some time,” Bennett said.
The conditioner had entered Fast Flying Rumor in the July 9 Fasig-Tipton Sale in Kentucky after his Select Stakes victory, but withdrew him when he didn’t get his asking price. With a wide grin, Bennett acknowledged that the best moves are often the ones you don’t make.
Allen and exercise rider Tommy Pellegrino had been getting on Fast Flying Rumor in the mornings, and both attested the horse was sharpened to a razor’s edge. “Gerald has done a great job getting him back to where the horse is supposed to be,” Allen said. “And he is so much more relaxed. He used to be really nervous and kind of crazy.”
Co-owner Ferris, a commercial airline pilot, was moved by the experience and grateful to Bennett and Allen for landing him in the winner’s circle with the son of West Acre-Silver Scandal, by Silver Deputy. “About four years ago I came here to get some information about possibly owning horses, and Ronnie was the first person I talked to,” Ferris said. “I grabbed him on a slow Wednesday as he was walking back to the room after a race, and he gave me all kinds of time.
“I thought, some day I’m going to want him to ride a horse of mine.”
Fast Flying Rumor improved to 5-for-14 lifetime with career earnings of $180,795 after the $60,000 payday.
Down the stretch. Emotions were also high after the fifth race on the turf, as 10-year-old gelding Allie’s Event – bred, owned and trained by Lori Smock – staged a whirlwind rally under jockey Fernando De La Cruz to defeat favored Tune Me In by a neck in the mile contest.
It was the 12th victory in 56 lifetime starts for the graded-stakes placed runner, who also has 16 seconds, and the winner’s share of $14,280 raised his lifetime earnings to $450,872.
Now, how’s this for coming full circle: De La Cruz rode Allie’s Event when he broke his maiden at Turfway Park as a 2-year-old in September of 2008 by a nose. He paid $30.60 to win that day and $18.80 today. The Florida-bred son of Wild Event-Crewsin’ Allie looked like he wanted to go around again in the winner’s circle – both times.
Veteran jockey Allen added a second win in the ninth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, when he piloted 5-year-old ridgling Danzig Storm to an easy victory for owners Steve Ballou, Kathy Tompson and Harriette Waldron and trainer Joan Scott.
Jockey Brian Pedroza posted back-to-back victories in the seventh and eighth races, defeating the wagering favorite in a photo finish in both events. He won the seventh on the turf on 4-year-old filly American Merlot for owner Henry J. Krauth, Jr., and trainer David Hinsley, then took the eighth on 3-year-old gelding Good Save, a son of 2007 Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Good Save was making his career debut for owners Michael K. Schmeling, Michael Bradley and Ron Blake and trainer Tom Proctor.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:28 p.m. There is no turf racing. 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.