The atmosphere at the southeast corner of Barn 4 on the backside at Tampa Bay Downs is decidedly laid-back.
While a well-fed barn cat named Scooter rolls in the sand, trainer Randy “Red” Rarick leans over the shed-row railing, observing members of his 10-horse string. His wife of 11 years, Lynn, and their groom, Jose “Luis” Jacuinde, attend to training duties, allowing Rarick to reflect on a recent hot streak that has earned him the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month honors.
“When we left (Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.), I gave a lot of them six weeks off,” said Rarick, who has sent out five winners at the current meeting from only 12 starters, with three seconds and a third. “They’re fresh and they’re doing good.
“The first thing is just getting them fit,” he said. “If you get them fit and keep them happy, they will run for you. If you walk down (the shedrow), most of them will come out to meet you. If they aren’t happy, they don’t want to play.”
Rarick, who has been coming to Tampa Bay Downs the last three seasons, had an extensive background in show horses before transitioning to Thoroughbreds in 2005. At one time he trained the top reining mare in the United States, a Quarter Horse named Cody Lee Miss.
From 2002-2004, Rarick worked as an assistant at Turf Paradise in Arizona under David Van Winkle. “He trained about 40-45 head, and I think I knew more about his horses than he did because he was on the phone all the time,” Rarick joked.
Rarick’s son Wade is among the top trainers at the current Turf Paradise meeting with 10 victories. Todd Rarick, Randy’s younger brother, is an assistant at Turf Paradise to Mike Chambers.
Lynn has a son, aspiring trainer Andrew Gawarecki, who is working at Tampa Bay Downs as a groom for trainer Arnaud Delacour.
After going out on his own as a trainer, the elder Rarick moved his stable for the spring and summer to Canterbury, where Lynn has relatives. He made a quick impact by winning the Claiming Crown Express in 2006 with 4-year-old gelding Castello d’Oro, which he had claimed for $12,500. Castello d’Oro paid $71.80 to win.
“He got claimed off me at (Turf Paradise) for almost double what we gave for him,” recalled Rarick, who won with 11 of 69 starters at Canterbury in 2015.
A few years later, Rarick trained Manningtoharrison – named for the Indianapolis Colts passing combination of Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison – for a partnership comprised of Lynn’s brother, Tom Abrahamson, and her sister, Kelly Schreurs. The New Mexico-bred won five of 16 starts and was stakes-placed before breaking down in his final start. “I thought he was an upcoming superstar,” Rarick said.
The Raricks’ top horses at the current meeting include two-time winner Caleb’s Comet, a 6-year-old gelding which has won back-to-back starts; National, an 8-year-old gelding owned by Abrahamson which won a starter/optional claiming event here Saturday; and the 9-year-old gelding Raton Pass, which Lynn owns.
“Raton Pass probably will be ready to race in about three weeks,” Rarick said of the 11-time winner, which was stakes-placed as a 2-year-old. “National is one of my favorites. He’s a tryin’ old devil – he’ll give you his heart every time you run him.”
The Raricks have no quibble about being described as a “mom-and-pop” operation.
“I think keeping our stable small is a benefit for us, because we do a lot of hands-on training,” Lynn said. “Randy and I complement each other. I do a lot of the labor, and he has a good eye and knows where to place them.”
Rarick expects his stable size to double when they return north in the spring. “We really have the best of both worlds,” he said. “When Canterbury got its purse structure turned around (through an agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to supplement purses), that made it nice for us. And we really like it here in Tampa
“When you think of all the good trainers that are here, it is an honor just to be considered for Trainer of the Month,” he added. “If you can get a lick here you’re doing all right, because you are running against some good horses.”
Down the stretch. Fernando De La Cruz incurred a bruised shoulder when he was unseated from his mount and thrown to the track in the fourth race today. The 5-year-old mare No Wedding was not injured. De La Cruz is expected to return to action Friday.
Leading jockey Antonio Gallardo and Ronnie Allen, Jr., each rode two winners. Gallardo captured the fourth race on 4-year-old filly Anasazi Lass for breeder-owner Ray Hanson and trainer Keith Nations. Gallardo also won the sixth on the 5-year-old mare Fionetta for owners Equiforce, Inc., and Joanne Patten and trainer Dale Bennett. Fionetta is 3-for-4 at the meeting.
Allen won the fifth race on the turf aboard first-time starter Peggy N Judy. The 3-year-old Florida-bred filly is owned by Jim Hunt and trained by S.M. Kintz. He added the 10th and final race on R Quick Temper, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Averill Racing and CCF Racing Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett.
In the ninth race, lightly-raced 6-year-old Ruffalex broke his maiden in his sixth career start, snapping a streak of four consecutive runner-up finishes. Owned by Grupo 7C Racing Stable and trained by Gerard Ochoa, he was ridden by Pedro Monterrey, Jr.
Thoroughbred racing is conducted each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, with Thursdays added to the mix on Feb. 18 and 25. The track 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.
Sixth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship is Saturday and Sunday. 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 Saturday and Sunday 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 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is $10, with children 14-and-under getting in free. There is no charge for parking.
McDonald and DiMarco will team in Saturday’s 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 Saturday and on Sunday morning. 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.