Cap Giveaway Day; a 10-race card featuring the opening rounds of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series; and a “Morning Glory Club” Show appearance by red-hot jockey Antonio Gallardo are among the highlights when Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes on Saturday.
The first 7,500 fans to enter the track via paid admission will receive a stylish cap with the track’s new logo. Additionally, many of the track’s jockeys will autograph caps and other memorabilia on the first floor of the Grandstand beginning at noon.
Both legs of the first round of the Tampa Turf Test series, which offer $20,000 apiece in purse money, will be contested at a mile on the grass course. They are for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2014-2015.
The fillies and mares division of the Tampa Turf Test, which is the seventh race on the card, has drawn an overflow field of 14 (only 10 will be permitted to start). The morning-line favorite at 3-1 is the 8-year-old mare Two Wonders, whose 17-for-51 career mark includes a victory here on Dec. 10 in a one-mile turf starter allowance.
Ronnie Allen, Jr., has been named to ride Two Wonders, who is trained by Jamie Ness and owned by his Jagger, Inc., operation.
A field of 10 older horses and geldings will contest the ninth race, which is the male division of the Tampa Turf Test (14 are entered), also at a mile. Ness again has the morning-line choice in the 6-year-old gelding Brother Pat, also owned by the trainer’s Jagger, Inc. Antonio Gallardo is the rider. Brother Pat won his first start of the meeting on Nov. 29 in a one-mile turf claiming race.
Besides being named to ride in eight races, Gallardo will appear with track announcer Richard Grunder at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand for the “Morning Glory Club.” Free coffee, donuts and Grandstand passes will be provided during the question-and-answer session (please note “Morning Glory Club” attendees must pay the full admission price to receive a cap).
Gallardo rode three consecutive winners today and four overall from only five starters and leads the track standings with 48 victories. His streak started with the fifth race aboard 4-year-old gelding Posture, who broke his maiden for owners Fred and William Bradley and Brent Burns (William Bradley is the trainer).
In the sixth race, Gallardo won aboard 9-year-old gelding Scorpion Time for owner Z. Larry Hodin and trainer Christos Gatis. He added the seventh race on 5-year-old gelding How’s a Wynner for owners Jake Scott and Mary and T. Wynn Jolley and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
Gallardo’s most impressive ride of the day probably came on Hocaba in the ninth race, a five-furlong allowance/$75,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies that was taken off the turf. He hustled the Sky Mesa daughter to a clear lead out of the gate, got her to relax despite a stern challenge from Cheers for Sidney and had plenty left for a four-and-a-half length victory from eventual runner-up Extreme Excess in 58.66 seconds for winning owner St. George Stable, LLC and trainer Efren Loza, Jr.
Gallardo finished off the board in the 10th and final race for maiden 3-year-olds, won by first-time starter Tam O’Shanter and jockey Victor Lebron for owner Catherine M. Wills and trainer Christophe Clement.
Fans of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus had reason to celebrate after the fourth race, when his daughters finished first and third. While the favorite, Elle’s Pegasus, won the race for owner-trainer Jason DaCosta and jockey Fernando De La Cruz, third-place finisher Giant Fu Peg was a 28-1 shot.
With 83-1 shot Spiritual Leader – the longest shot in the race – finishing second and 42-1 shot True Shot lasting for fourth, the 2-5-4 trifecta paid $3,370.20 and the $1 superfecta combination of 2-5-4-1 paid $14,867.20.
There is a Super High-5 carryover of $11,315.94 on today’s card.
“Live It Up Challenge.” Registration has begun for the second annual, free online “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, with players vying for the grand prize of a seat at the 2016 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship and $1,000 in cash.
Also at stake are additional prizes of $1,000 for second place, $500 for third and $500 for most winners selected throughout the contest, which runs from Saturday, Jan. 31 – which is Festival Preview Day at Tampa Bay Downs – through Saturday, April 4, which is Florida Cup Day.
Players can register online and get the complete set of rules at www.liveitupchallenge.com on the Internet. All wagers are mythical. Players must make a selection every day; those skipping a day incur a strike, with three strikes ending their participation. Players also incur a strike when their selection in one of that day’s “Challenge Races” does not finish first, second or third.
All players begin the competition with two life lines. A new feature will give players the opportunity to purchase two additional life lines before the contest and extra life lines at two specified times during the competition. The deadline to register is 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 31, the first day of the contest.
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.