by Mike Henry

Eight-time leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Jamie Ness captured both divisions of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series with horses owned by his Jagger, Inc., stable on a gorgeous, spring-like afternoon that attracted an overflow crowd of 7,758 fans for Cap Giveaway Day and a competitive and largely unpredictable 10-race card.

Ness is at Gulfstream Park to attend tonight’s Eclipse Award ceremonies, in which his client Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., (Rich and Karen Papiese’s ultra-successful operation that has won five consecutive Oldsmar owner crowns) is a finalist for an Outstanding Owner Eclipse Award and Midwest’s gelding Work All Week, the Breeders’ Cup Xpressbet Sprint winner trained by Roger Brueggemann, is a finalist in the Male Sprinter category.

In today’s one-mile Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, the Ness barn sent out Two Wonders, an 8-year-old he claimed for $16,000 toward the tail end of the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Downs meeting, for a half-length victory from stakes winner Cuppy Cake in 1:36.09 for the mile distance. Four-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champ Ronnie Allen, Jr., contributed with a well-timed ride on the Florida-bred Two Wonders, who paid $7.20 as the favorite.

Since Ness acquired Two Wonders, she has won seven of 12 starts. Two Wonders was no slouch before Ness claimed her. The daughter of Three Wonders-Royal Advantage, by Regal Classic, is now 18-for-52 lifetime and has career earnings of $$489,680. Awalkinthemoonlite finished third in the 10-horse field.

Ness and Jagger, Inc., came back two races later to win the Male Division of the Tampa Turf Test with 6-year-old gelding Brother Pat, who toured the mile in 1:35.43 under leading jockey Antonio Gallardo for a two-and-three-quarter length victory from Awesome Attack. More Zen Tea finished third. Brother Pat paid $6 as the wagering favorite.

Ness had claimed Brother Pat two starts back for $16,000, when the Kentucky-bred son of Any Given Saturday-Anyhow won a mile turf race by four lengths. He went wire-to-wire today and like his distaff stablemate, appears to be in his best form in his conditioner’s capable hands.

The tote board almost exploded after the 10th and final race when long shot Lady Lucilla, a first-time starter ridden by apprentice jockey Janelle Campbell, won and paid $85.40. The 3-year-old filly is owned by Laurine Fuller-Vargas and trained by Alan Lockhart.

With other long shots rounding out the top finishers, the 7-8-14 trifecta paid $26,830.40; the 10-cent superfecta combination of 7-8-14-1 paid $14,936.21; and the 50-cent Pick-5 combination of 9-1-3-6-7 paid $30,107.35.

No one hit the Super High-5, which requires bettors to select the top five finishers in the 10th race in exact order (the official order of finish was 7-8-14-1-4). As a result, there is a $21,614.17 carryover pool into Sunday.

Saturday was a big day for the Barbaran family. In the fourth race, trainer Horacio Barbaran sent out the winner, 5-year-old mare Skayana, who was ridden by his son Erik Barbaran, the top apprentice jockey at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2011-2012 meeting. Skayana is owned by her breeder, Santa Cruz Ranch, Inc.

Earlier on the program, the elder Barbaran saddled the winner of the second race, 4-year-old filly Hardened Hero, who was ridden by Augusto A. Marin. Hardened Hero is owned by Julee Rodriguez.

Cap Giveaway Day was a major success, with all 7,500 caps distributed by the middle of the card. The track’s jockey colony was generous with its time autographing caps and pictures for their appreciative fans.

Sunday’s 10-race card begins at 12:30 p.m. Thoroughbred racing then resumes Wednesday. The stakes schedule at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Saturday, Jan. 24 with a tripleheader of outstanding races, headlined by the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. Also on tap are the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-up at five furlongs on the turf and the $100,000 Pelican Stakes for horses 4-and-up going six furlongs on the main track.

“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 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.