Racing News


by Mike Henry

Although Fast Flying Rumor narrowly missed setting a course record in the $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash Stakes on Saturday, his performance was one for the record books.

The 4-year-old gelding achieved a Beyer Speed Figure of 108, believed to be the highest BSF at Tampa Bay Downs since the figures first appeared in print in 1991. Street Sense achieved a 102 BSF in winning the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby in then-track record time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth race, the same day the 5-year-old mare Cassydora posted a 105 BSF while winning the Hillsborough Stakes on the turf.

The Beyer Speed Figures, which are published in the Daily Racing Form, are a numerical representation of a horse’s performance based on its final time and the inherent speed over the track on which the race was run. Fast Flying Rumor’s number is the highest achieved at any Thoroughbred track thus far in 2016. In 2015, only three U.S.-based horses earned figures higher than 108 on turf.

“It’s good news,” said trainer Gerald Bennett, who had begun fielding offers for the Florida-bred shortly after the race. “He obviously loves this turf course, and I knew he was going to run good because he’s been training lights-out. The biggest thing about (the BSF) is that it means he’s improving from his 3-year-old to his 4-year-old year. A lot of horses turn 4 and can’t handle competing against older horses. It makes him a lot more valuable.”

Fast Flying Rumor’s time of 55.06 seconds under jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., was .43 seconds off the course record set in the 2015 Turf Dash Stakes by Bold Thunder. Fast Flying Rumor had earned a BSF of 87 in his previous start on Dec. 11 in the Turf Dash Prep when he scored under Allen in 55.72 seconds.

“He’s just monster fast,” Bennett said. “Ronnie didn’t even hit him” (Saturday).

It was the fifth lifetime triumph and second stakes victory for Fast Flying Rumor, which was bred in Florida by Gilbert G. Campbell and is owned by Mary Bennett’s Winning Stables and the Midnight Rider outfit of Matt Ferris. In his Select Stakes victory at five-and-a-half furlongs on the turf at Monmouth in June, Fast Flying Rumor defeated Souper Colossal by a length-and-a-quarter. The latter is a multiple-stakes winner which finished second in the Grade II West Virginia Derby last summer and competed in the 2014 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Although the turf course Saturday was firm, Allen said it had been softened somewhat by Friday night rain, which factored into his exceptional BSF. Bold Thunder had earned a BSF of 98 last year on a firm turf course. In an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Downs Publicity Department, BSF developer Andy Beyer expressed total confidence the 108 was an accurate reflection of Fast Flying Rumor’s performance, based in part on the figures earned by the second and third-place finishers.

“In our calculations at 5 furlongs, 4 ¾ lengths (his winning margin) equals 15 points,” Beyer wrote. “With the winner earning a 108, runner-up Power Alert – a high-class stakes horse – gets a 93, a typical figure for him. Third-place finisher Night Officer, another length back, earned a figure of 89, after recording numbers of 89, 91 and 91 in his prior three starts.”

Fast Flying Rumor had earned a BSF of 87 in his Turf Dash Prep victory. “In his last start he had run head-and-head in blazing fractions against a monster speed horse (third-place finisher Rivzinthehouse),” Beyer wrote.  “(Saturday) he got loose from the field, and horses usually improve under such circumstances.”

Lexie Lou returns to action Wednesday. Trainer Mark Casse’s 5-year-old Ontario-bred mare Lexie Lou, winner of both the Queen’s Plate Stakes against males and the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser as a 3-year-old, is scheduled to make her highly anticipated return to competition at Tampa Bay Downs on Wednesday in the $28,000 Endeavour Stakes Prep, which is the seventh race on a nine-race card that begins at 12:25 p.m.

“We are real excited about running her there Wednesday,” Casse said. “She is training really well and while I wouldn’t want to say she probably is at peak performance, I’m expecting a big effort out of her.”

The Endeavour Prep is a one-mile turf event for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward. Seven others are entered.

Lexie Lou, owned by Gary Barber, won three Sovereign Awards in 2014 as Canada’s Horse of the Year, Champion 3-Year-Old Filly and Champion Grass Female. In her next-to-last start in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in November of 2014, she finished a game second to that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, winner of the San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita in his first race since finishing second in the Dubai World Cup last March to Prince Bishop.

Following her subsequent second-place finish in the Grade II La Canada Stakes last January at Santa Anita, Lexie Lou received a well-earned vacation, and Casse planned to bring her back in a turf event at Woodbine in late August. But she scratched her left eye – Casse is unsure how the injury happened – and was given the rest of the year off.

“It had us nervous for a little bit,” said Casse, a seven-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s Outstanding Trainer who won Breeders’ Cup races last fall at Keeneland with distaffer Tepin in the Mile on the turf and Catch a Glimpse in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. “It’s ironic, I think, that after her big showdown against California Chrome, they are returning to competition about the same time.”

Antonio Gallardo is slated to ride Lexie Lou.

Casse said if all goes according to plan, Lexie Lou is a candidate for the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course on March 12.

On his way in from the Gulf of Mexico after a fishing excursion with his son Colby on Sunday, Casse also reported that Tepin, the 5-year-old mare he trains for Robert Masterson, could make her 2016 debut at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on Feb. 13.

Tepin defeated males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, an outcome that puts her in the running for an Eclipse Award as Champion Female Turf Horse for 2015. “If things go the way we’re hoping, Tepin is going to run in the Endeavour,” said Casse, who believes she is two or three solid workouts away from that possibility. We think so much of the turf course at Tampa Bay Downs that it would be a nice place to get her started.”

Casse is also bringing his 4-year-old colt Conquest Tsunami for Wednesday’s $28,000 Tampa Bay Stakes Prep, to be contested at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. Eight horses are entered in the Race, which is the fifth on the card. Conquest Tsunami is owned by Conquest Stables and will be ridden by Manoel Cruz.

“He was brilliant as a 2-year-old (winning three stakes) before he chipped a knee in the (Grade III) Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes, and we’re trying to get him back on track,” Casse said. “He’s only run once on the turf (as a 2-year-old), and the horse he beat, Passion for Action, turned out to be a real good horse.

“He’s trained really well for the grass, and sometimes you need to build confidence to get what you’re hoping to achieve. But (the Tampa Bay Stakes Prep) is not an easy race, for sure.”

Down the stretch. Chelsey Keiser, Fernando De La Cruz and Antonio Gallardo each rode two winners on today’s card. Keiser was aboard 5-year-old-mare Smoke N the Bottle in the fourth race for owners Robert G. Smith and Kenny Vespo, with Smith the trainer. Keiser returned to the winner’s circle after the fifth on 3-year-old filly She’s Going Strong for owners South Fork Creek Stables and Winning Stables and trainer Gerald Bennett.

De La Cruz captured the first race on 5-year-old mare Sab’s Devil for owner Maureen Hyland and trainer Angel Hyland. He also rode the seventh-race winner, Little Daniella, a 5-year-old mare owned by Amaty Racing Stables and trained by Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr.

Gallardo, the track’s leading rider, won both the eighth and ninth races. He picked up his first victory on 5-year-old gelding Kodiak Syd for owner Mary Adkins and trainer Jamie Ness, then staged a strong rally along the rail on 3-year-old colt Master Deacon for owners June Fineman, Eric Brewster and Tom Cannell and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.

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.