For the majority of participants in Thoroughbred racing, their involvement transcends making a living. Many adopt a nomadic existence, moving from one track to the next and from state to state at least once or twice a year.
Anyone who has mucked a stall, cooled down a runner after a workout or been doused by a bucket of ice water following their first victory as a jockey has dreamed of being part of an American Pharoah or California Chrome story. But even if they never get any closer to a superstar horse than sharing the same paddock, the excitement of winning a race, any race, never grows old.
It’s no secret Thoroughbred racing has taken a number of body blows since its heyday in the 1970s, with track closings, controversy over medication violations, alternative gaming and – following the 2008 recession – a nearly 40-percent decline in the annual North American foal crop, to name just a few.
But when we asked 17 members of the Tampa Bay Downs community to “name their No. 1 wish for horse racing entering 2017,” a collective passion for the sport and the animals and their belief that the industry can attract a new generation of fans shone through.
Here, in no particular order and in an admittedly highly unscientific exercise, is the wish list created for this year, and beyond.
Dennis Petrucelli, Clerk of Scales: “I wish there are no injuries to jockeys and horses.”
Willie Martinez, Jockey: “I’d like to see everybody stay healthy and in one piece. That, and to keep coming up with the kind of horses we’ve seen the last few years, like Chrome, Pharoah and Arrogate. That keeps the fans excited and coming out to the races.”
Linda Scocca, Jockey Silks Person: “Universal medication rules, where everybody is on equal terms from track to track. It’s fair for the horses, the people who own them and take care of them and the people who bet on them.”
Pablo Morales, Jockey: “Hopefully, that racing keeps growing and new people keep coming, and personally, to keep winning races and stay healthy so I can keep doing what I love.”
Peter Berube, Tampa Bay Downs Vice President-General Manager: “Bigger field sizes.”
Nadean Knipe, Carrels Hostess: “To see racing flourish and return to when it was the ‘Sports of Kings.’ “
Ronnie Allen, Jr., Jockey: “I hope racing gets more recognition, especially from advertisers and sponsors, so more people will get interested.”
Glenn Wilson, Tampa resident and long-time racing fan and bettor: “I don’t want to see any more tracks go away, and I’d like to see the number of owners increase because without them, the game really doesn’t go anywhere.”
Jennifer Quinones, Trainer: “I wish the people making the rules for medication were with us working at the barns and seeing how we treat these equine athletes, because they are taking away a lot of therapeutic medication and limiting us in how we can care for the animals and keep them sound and safe. My biggest complaint is they tell us how much Lasix we can use. We would prefer to have the ability to judge our own animal and determine how much we should use, whether it’s 3 cc or 1 cc or one-and-a-half, because 3 cc doesn’t agree with some of them.”
Shannon Uske, Jockey: “I hope we can change the perceptions of some people toward the sport. I think a lot of people don’t realize how exciting and fun it is because they’re at home sitting at their computers. If track marketing departments can get the word out, you’re going to get more families to come to the track, and when the kids see the horses it makes them so happy. They enjoy the action so much, and it will help racing keep growing so we can all keep the jobs that we love.”
Richard Grunder, Track Announcer: “For Illinois racing to get some relief so they can continue racing at Arlington Park. In my opinion, the grandstand there is the most beautiful in the world, and there is so much history and tradition that it would be a crying shame if it went down.”
Ray Trisler, Owner and Trainer: “Consistency from state to state when it comes to testing and medication, so that everybody is testing for the same thing and the rules are the same. It’s like in baseball – I want a strike called the same way every time.”
Steve Deeb, Program Seller: “For the sport to develop better safety measures for jockeys and horses. Too many riders go down and too many horses have to be euthanized because of racing injuries.”
Tony Wilson, Owner and Trainer: “I hope owners keep breeding horses and more people who come to the track like it enough to get into the business and call my number. We need to get people to believe in the fun of it. If you’re going to worry about everything, this is not the business for you.”
Sharyn Wasiluk, President of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, Tampa Bay Downs Division: “I want a safe, prosperous year for everybody and for everyone to enjoy racing as much as possible. Everybody works very hard, and it takes a lot of people to run this business, so I’m happy when other people win, too.”
Stephanie Valenti and John Duca, Track Photographers: “Stricter penalties for trainers who are caught doping their horses.”
Kathleen O’Connell, Trainer: “Better purses and a condition book to follow.”
Around the oval. The late Pick-5 was hit, with the winning combination of 7-2-4-3-5 paying $16,412.50 on a $1 wager (the minimum Pick-5 wager is 50 cents). All told, $352,409 was wagered into the pool today, creating a total jackpot of $429,125. Assuming each winning ticket was of the 50-cent variety, there were 46 winners.
Pablo Morales and Orlando Bocachica each rode two winners on today’s card.
Morales moved into a tie for second in the track standings with Ronnie Allen, Jr., with 14 victories each with his two-bagger. In the second race, Morales piloted 8-year-old mare Citizen Jane to victory for owner Mike Martin and trainer Dale Bennett. He added the sixth race on 3-year-old filly Truxtun Park, a first-time starter owner by William D. McCarty and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.
Bocachica won the seventh race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week on the turf, on 3-year-old filly Dynatail, owned by Ballybrit Stable and trained by Michael Dini, who said she is a candidate for the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for sophomore fillies on March 11.
Bocachica added the ninth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Five Each Way, owned by The Club Racing and Needle In A Haystack and owned by H. Graham Motion.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.