Racing News


by Mike Henry

Torrential rain and nearby lightning forced the cancellation of today’s last four races. Action is expected to resume Sunday, with a nine-race card slated to kick off at 12:14 p.m.

There will be no turf racing, with the second, fifth, seventh and ninth races to be switched to the main track.

Refunds will be provided to bettors on the late Pick-5, Ultimate 6 and late Pick-4 wagers, as well as single-race win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta and Super High-5 wagers. Consolation payoffs will be made on daily double and Pick-3 wagers.

Count jockey Elione Chaves among those thankful the extreme weather stayed away until mid-afternoon. Chaves is a new face in the Tampa Bay Downs jockeys’ room, but he is no stranger to winner’s circles around the world.

The 38-year-old Brazilian added the United States to his victory log in today’s third race, riding 3-year-old gelding Ludo to a 3 ½-length victory from Benny’s Fiddle. The race was contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on a fast main track after being switched from the turf due to the wet grounds.

Ludo is owned by Endsley Oaks Farm and trained by Rafael Schistl, a former jockey from Brazil who Chaves competed against in their homeland. The victory came in Chaves’s sixth U.S. start, the first three coming at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

Chaves has ridden more than 1,400 winners worldwide, including 735 in Sweden, where he has been champion jockey six of the last eight years. He has won a combined 382 races in Norway and Denmark; the three Scandinavian nations are also where Schistl achieved most of his success in the saddle. Chaves has 267 victories in Brazil.

“I’m happy to get my first win in the United States for Rafael, because he asked me to come to Tampa,” Chaves said. “We started riding together 16 years ago, and he is also the one who brought me to Sweden.”

Chaves said he plans to ride at Tampa Bay Downs through the conclusion of the meeting proper on May 7. He is weighing an offer to accompany Schistl to Monmouth Park, with a return to Sweden also possible.

Ludo won today in his fifth career start and his first since being claimed by Schistl and Endsley Oaks for $16,000 from a Feb. 23 third-place finish. “For me, winning here is very big,” Chaves said. “To get my first win in this country and to get it for Rafael, I’m very happy.”

In the fifth race, Native Hawk broke a 16-way tie atop the meet’s Thoroughbred win standings, defeating Fortunate Friends by a length-and-a-quarter for his fourth victory this season. The 10-year-old gelding is 4-for-7 this season and 18-for-67 for his career.

Jose Batista has been aboard for all of Native Hawk’s victories at the meet. The son of Flower Alley is owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. Batista also won the second race on first-time starter Tindari, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Establo Heluce and trained by Juan C. Avila.

Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule through May 7, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed, and May 1, when the Thoroughbred action is limited to simulcasting.

Otherwise, the Oldsmar oval is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and (most days) golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.