Racing News


by Mike Henry

Florida-bred filly Royal Jewely and fellow 4-year-old Red River Heidi squared off in today’s featured sixth race, a $23,500 starter allowance at a distance of a mile and 40 yards, and the result was eerily similar to their Jan. 15 meeting.

In today’s version, Royal Jewely and jockey Daniel Centeno opened a two-length lead through the stretch, but Red River Heidi and jockey Fernando De La Cruz weren’t about to surrender. Their rally came up short by a neck, as Royal Jewely won for the second time on the main track this meeting after finishing fifth in her seasonal debut here on the turf in a conditional allowance/optional claiming race on Dec. 12.

Royal Jewely, a daughter of City Place-Sheila’s Outback, by Formal Dinner, improved to 6-for-14 lifetime. She is owned by Michael Reynolds and Anthony J. Piarulli and trained by leading Oldsmar conditioner Gerald Bennett, who has 34 victories at the meeting.

“She ran huge today. She showed a great burst of speed and really kicked it in,” Bennett said. “The last time, she saw the seagulls sitting there (inside the inner rail) and was easing herself at the wire and almost got beat. Today, (Red River Heidi) ran a big race, but (Royal Jewely) didn’t want to let her by.”

Royal Jewely, a head better than Red River Heidi six weeks ago, paid $10 to win as the third wagering choice. Lady Paradime finished third in the seven-horse field.

Royal Jewely’s time on a fast track was 1:41.61. She has won races on dirt, turf and a synthetic surface (at Presque Isle Downs), making her every trainer’s dream girl – options abound.

“(Seven furlongs) is good for her, too,” said Bennett, who might choose to run her at that distance in a March 12 allowance race or stretch her out on the turf. “We don’t have her at the top of her game yet physically and body-wise, but she has mellowed out now. She used to be kind of tough in the paddock and the starting gate, but she is doing a lot better.”

Royal Jewely is stakes-placed, having finished third in last year’s Florida Cup Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies after a poor start.

Down the stretch. Bennett’s son Dale Bennett sent out the winner of the seventh race, 4-year-old filly Wonderful Star. She won the mile-and-a-sixteenth, off-the-turf contest under jockey Luis Garcia for owners Robert E. Lewis and Tracy Hersman.

Antonio Gallardo, Manoel Cruz and Daniel Centeno all rode two winners. Gallardo, who rode five winners Wednesday, won the second race on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding One Summer Nite for breeder-owner Anthony Lenci and trainer Chad Stewart. Gallardo added the fifth race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Philoctetes for owner Tim Mawhinney and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.

Cruz captured the third race on Kickn In, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Henry Leininger and Bill Law and trained by Gary Jackson. He came right back in the fourth on 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Mama Splash for owner-trainer John G. Vinson.

Besides winning on Royal Jewely, Centeno captured today’s ninth and final race on the turf course on 4-year-old colt Hammerstein, which is owned by William A. Sorokolit, Sr., and trained by Darwin Banach.

O’Connell sent out two winners today. In addition to Philoctetes’ triumph, the trainer won the eighth race with 5-year-old gelding Steve Came Thru. He is owned by Frank Langdon, III and was ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m.

Chaplaincy benefit golf tournament set. The Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA) – Tampa Bay Downs Division will host its 24th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” golf tournament and fundraiser on Monday, March 7 to support the continued work of the chaplaincy. The tournament, which has a four-person scramble format, will begin at 11 a.m. at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar and is open to the public and media.

A dinner, awards ceremony and live and silent auctions will be held beneath the pavilion tent at Tampa Bay Downs afterward, with the dinner getting underway at 5 p.m. The cost is $100 for the tournament, dinner and auction, $20 to attend the dinner and auction only. Proceeds benefit the chaplaincy.

The event kicks off the track’s Festival Week, which culminates Saturday, March 12 with the most lucrative card in Tampa Bay Downs history, featuring the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby; the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the turf; and the $100,000 Challenger Stakes.

Donors are asked to support the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA in any of the following ways:

  • As a volunteer;
  • By sponsoring a golf hole for $125;
  • By playing in the tournament;
  • By attending the dinner and purchasing an item in the live and/or silent auction;
  • By donating money or an auction item.

For details or to reserve a spot in the tournament, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.

Kids and Family Day is Sunday. The popular “Kids and Family” Day gathering returns to the track’s Picnic Pavilion Area on Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free. In addition to watching the on-track action, attendees get to meet the track mascot, Mouse the Miniature Horse, and enjoy bounce houses, slides and a variety of games and special activities.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 27 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.