The two-day Summer Festival of Racing has established a firm foothold in the Tampa Bay area sports landscape. The fourth annual event generated total wagering handle of $3,986,590, including $3,809,971 from off-track sources.
“To say we are pleased is an understatement, and we are gratified by the response from our fans and horsemen,” said Peter Berube, the Vice President-General Manager of Tampa Bay Downs.
The Summer Festival was also a rousing success on the racetrack. And as a tune-up for one of the biggest assignments of his youthful career, the event was a marvelous adventure and a proving ground for jockey Samy Camacho.
“I’m very, very, happy, especially for the owners and trainers who gave me these opportunities,” a beaming Camacho said after winning three races on today’s card to capture the $2,500 winner’s share of the Jockeys’ Challenge bonus purse. “I’m going to keep working hard and trying to get better.”
Camacho’s excitement at winning the Jockeys’ Challenge would be multiplied perhaps fifty-fold if he wins Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 Princess Rooney Stakes Presented by Hardacre Farm at Gulfstream Park aboard the 6-year-old mare Be Mind Phil. She is 30-1, but the native of Venezuela plans to ride her with as much confidence as he displayed over two days in Oldsmar.
“I’m going to try my hardest, and if we win, I’ll probably go a week without sleeping,” he said.
Camacho amassed 86 points in the two-day series, while Pedro Monterrey, Jr., accumulated 66 points to finish second, earning $1,500. Two-time defending champion Ademar Santos took third-place money of $1,000 with 65 points.
Today’s card represented the first day of the 2016-2017 meeting, which is expected to resume on Saturday, Nov. 26. Today’s racing action was followed by an on-track concert featuring area groups The Black Honkeys and the Soul Circus Cowboys.
The 28-year-old Camacho, who won two races Thursday on the first day of the Summer Festival, rallied 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Bold Salsa along the hedge in today’s five-furlong first race for a half-length victory from Inspector Bill. The homebred is trained by Robert G. Smith, who owns him in partnership with his son, breeder Drake Smith.
“I pressured Samy to come here by telling him we were going to make sure he got that bonus money,” the elder Smith said. “I like the fact he puts horses in good positions whether it’s going short or long, on dirt or turf. He rides a very smart race, and he doesn’t have a problem coming out in the mornings and working hard.”
Camacho next took the third race on Roseanna, a 3-year-old filly owned by Robert C. Roffey, Jr., and trained by Chad Stewart, by a neck from Lake of the Isles. Camacho added the sixth on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Persian Poet for owner Manuel H. Gonzalez and trainer Horacio Barbaran, who saddled two winners.
“Samy finished the meeting off well here (in late March and April) and he has been doing well in (south Florida),” Stewart said. “He is a strong finisher and rides hard.”
Monterrey, his countryman, also paid tribute to Camacho. “He keeps getting more confident, and I think he is going to have a bright future,” he said.
Camacho, who earned a Hampton Inn & Suites Jockey of the Month Award during the 2015-2016 Oldsmar meeting, is a son of former Venezuelan standout Samuel Camacho, Sr. A younger brother, Samuel Camacho, Jr., rides in New York.
Today’s eighth and final race was won by 61-year-old jockey Gilberto Laiz aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Lady’s Kan. She was the second winner on the card for trainer Robert G. Smith and is owned by Richard Kingston George.
Santos rode two winners on today’s card. He captured the fifth race on 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Gucciguccigirl for owner Peter David Knoll and trainer Barbaran and added the seventh on first-time starter My Boy Cigar, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Hemingway Racing and Diana Venegas and trained by Ian Hemingway.
Trainer Margaret Wetherington and jockey Carson Sullivan combined for their second long-shot victory of the Summer Festival in the second race with 6-year-old gelding Toco Boy, which paid $104.40 to win.
The fourth race produced three firsts. The victory by 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Morena Mia was her first in five starts, the first in the United States for Argentinian jockey David E. Quintana and the first career triumph for trainer Laura Cazares (with her second starter).
Each of today’s races except the fifth was contested on the turf.
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.