Racing News


by Mike Henry

Before today, 10-year-old gelding Allie’s Event had started only once on a natural dirt surface, finishing second to Grade II winner Old Time Hockey at Tampa Bay Downs two years ago in a race that was taken off his preferred turf surface.

His breeder, owner and trainer, Lori Smock, briefly considered scratching the Florida-bred when today’s ninth race was taken off the turf. But his impressive victory on the grass here on Jan. 9, combined with how he has been training on the main track, helped her decide to keep him in and vie for the green-and-gold Lambholm South Race of the Week blanket.

The gallant veteran did not disappoint, staging his customary late charge under jockey Fernando De La Cruz to score a half-length victory from Spark Kit, with Urban Cool a nose back in third. The victory was the 13th in 57 career starts for Allie’s Event and raised his career earnings to $465,552. He finished second in the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2011.

“I’ve run him enough to know when he’s not right, and he looks good right now,” Smock said in the winner’s circle after the son of Wild Event-Crewsin’ Allie completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance in 1:46.03. “He has worked good over the track, so I thought we’d give him the chance. He is not going to run forever.

“When the griddle is hot, you’d better go with it.”

De La Cruz was content to keep Allie’s Event near the back of the pack before launching his winning rally. The rider had helped Allie’s Event break his maiden in his first career start as a 2-year-old in 2008 at Turfway Park.

Also on today’s card, another grizzled veteran, 9-year-old gelding Lighthouse Sound, proved resolute through the stretch to win the third leg of the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series by three-quarters of a length from High Side, with All Call a neck back in third. The race was the 10th and final on the card and remained on the grass. Antonio Gallardo was the winning jockey.

Claimed from his most recent start, a victory on the turf here Dec. 30, for $16,000, Lighthouse Sound is owned by Anthony Borruso and trained by Darien Rodriguez. The winner’s time for the mile-and-an-eighth on a yielding turf course was 1:54.83.

Lighthouse Sound improved to 19-for-65 in his career, and the winner’s share of $12,000 raised his career earnings to $477,815. He was staked-placed in three consecutive races in 2010 at Saratoga, Monmouth and Belmont.

The victory was one of two on the card for trainer Rodriguez, who also won the fifth race with owner Judson Van Worp’s 4-year-old gelding Media Buzz.

Down the stretch. Jockeys Dean Butler and Pablo Morales each rode two winners today. Butler, who also won two races Friday, captured the third race on 6-year-old mare Best Kiss Yet for owner Del Sol Farm and trainer Karen Yanez. He added the seventh race on 8-year-old gelding National for owner Tom Abrahamson and trainer Randy Rarick.

Morales scored his first victory in the fifth race on the aforementioned Media Buzz. He also won the eighth race on 14-1 shot Tiger Blood, a 3-year-old colt making his first career start for owner Miguel Barraza and trainer Baltazar Galvan. Tiger Blood blazed the six furlongs in 1:09.90, earning an eye-popping 90 Beyer Speed Figure.

The Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, to be contested at a mile-and-an-eighth, is the fifth race on Sunday’s card. The field of eight includes 2-1 morning-line favorite Daddy’s Boo, a 5-year-old mare which won the second leg of the series on Dec. 26.

Trianer Larry Rivelli has named Daniel Centeno to ride Daddy’s Boo, but Centeno’s status is questionable after he was kicked in the thigh in the paddock before the eighth race and forced to take off his last three mounts.

The second choice at 3-1 is 7-year-old mare Miss Giacomo, a runner-up in her two previous starts this season at the Oldsmar oval. Leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Jamie Ness and top jockey Antonio Gallardo are the connections.

Ness has also entered Babe’s Ruler, a 5-year-old mare owned by his Jagger, Inc., stable and to be ridden by Angel Serpa. Ness claimed Babe’s Ruler two starts back for $16,000, and she won a turf allowance in impressive fashion on Dec. 12 before a sixth-place finish behind Daddy’s Boo two weeks later.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Thursdays added to the mix on Feb. 18 and 25. The track’s Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South is Feb. 13, featuring the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds; the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward on the turf; the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4-and-upward on the turf; and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Sixth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship is next weekend. Appearances by actor Christopher McDonald (also known as Shooter McGavin in the blockbuster movie, Happy Gilmore) and three-time PGA Tour winner Chris DiMarco, along with a $1-million Hole-in-One Contest, are among the highlights of the sixth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship, to be held the weekend of Feb. 6-7 at The Downs Golf Practice Facility at Tampa Bay Downs.

Golfers of all ages and ability levels, as well as anyone eager to be introduced to the sport, will find much to strike their fancy at the Tampa Bay area’s largest golf expo and demo-day event. Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Admission is $10, with children 14-and-under getting in free. There is no charge for parking.

McDonald and DiMarco will team in the Feb. 6 Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge III, which begins at 1:15 p.m. The event features such “Big Break” Style contests as “Break the Glass,” “Closest to the Pin,” “Flop Shot Over a Wall” and “Longest Drive.”

They will compete against the two-time defending champions, WTSP-TV’s Reginald Roundtree and Dave Wirth; long-drive champion Mike Ziegler and retired Navy SEAL Scotty Norton; former Tampa Bay Rays pitchers Andy Sonnanstine and Dan Wheeler; former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Corey Ivy and a teammate to be determined, and one or two other teams.

McDonald and DiMarco will also appear on the Golfest Stage, which offers a wide range of entertainment, instruction and demonstrations from some of the top names in golf beginning at 10 a.m. on both days.

The $1-million Hole-in-One Contest gets underway with qualifying throughout the day on Feb. 6 and during the morning of Feb. 7. Anyone landing a 155-yard shot within a 60-foot diameter circle will advance to the semifinals, in which the individual closest to the pin will qualify for one shot from 165 yards for the grand prize, which would be paid out over 40 years.

One shot at qualifying costs $3, with three shots for $5 and seven shots for $10. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the North Florida PGA Foundation, Thanks Troops – Tampa and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Those charities will also benefit from the Golfest ’16 Silent Auction, which features more than 30 donated prizes worth in excess of $6,000. In addition to tickets to golf’s first 2016 major tournament in Georgia, prizes include tickets to the Valspar Championship Presented by BB&T and the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational; tickets to a Tampa Bay Lightning game; a day for four at Tampa Bay Downs, including lunch; rounds of golf for four at various area courses; and numerous other items.