by Mike Henry

Brother Pat made it 2-for-2 in the Male Division of the Tampa Turf Test Starter Handicap Series today, drawing away for a three-and-three-quarter length victory from More Zen Tea under jockey Antonio Gallardo. Paige Me rallied for third.

In the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, 5-year-old Florida-bred Cuppy Cake shed her recent bridesmaid status with authority, scoring a three-length victory from 22-1 shot Blues Edge. Annamonarchos finished third and 2-1 favorite Two Wonders, winner of the first leg three weeks ago, settled for fourth.

A Kentucky-bred son of 2007 Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Any Given Saturday, the 6-year-old gelding Brother Pat completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth in 1:43.13. He had won the first leg of the Tampa Turf Test at a mile three weeks ago and gave every indication he can handle the extra sixteenth of a mile in the third leg on Feb. 28.

Brother Pat has won three of his last four starts, all on the turf. He was claimed for $16,000 by trainer Jamie Ness from a Nov. 29 Tampa Bay Downs victory for Jamie and wife Mandy’s Jagger, Inc., operation.

The Tampa Turf Test series is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2014-2015.

Cuppy Cake had finished second in her two most recent starts, including the first leg of the Tampa Turf Test series. The daughter of Olmodavor-Cindy Woo Who, out of Thunder Gulch, is owned by Roman Hill Farm, LLC and trained by Anthony Pecoraro. She was ridden by Ricardo Feliciano.

Cuppy Cake, who has finished first or second in seven of her eight Tampa Bay Downs turf starts, won last year’s Florida Cup Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf Stakes via disqualification. Her time today was 1:45.15.

In the Challenger Prep, a mile-and-40-yard allowance/$100,000 optional claiming event also contested as the Lambholm South Race of the Week, 6-year-old gelding Unstoppable U held off a determined late bid from multiple graded-stakes winner Neck ’n Neck to win by a neck. Tairneach finished third.

The $60,000 Challenger Stakes will be run on March 7 as part of Tampa Bay Downs’ Festival Day program, featuring three graded stakes including the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, which is part of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby point series.

Unstoppable U is owned by Amaty Racing Stables and trained by Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr. Owner Dennis Amaty bought the Kentucky-bred privately, shortly after he was claimed for $25,000 out of his second-place effort at Indiana Grand on Oct. 28 by trainer Gerald Bennett.

Unstoppable U won in his first race back here on Jan. 2 for Hernandez and Amaty. Fernando De La Cruz has ridden him in both local victories.

Unstoppable U, who competed in the 2012 Belmont Stakes while trained by Ken McPeek, took the lead from fading pace-setter I’m Steppin’ It Up at the quarter-mile pole. De La Cruz had just enough in reserve to prevent Neck ’n Neck from scoring his first victory since winning the Grade II Indiana Derby and Grade II Ack Ack Handicap back-to-back as a 3-year-old in 2012.

De La Cruz also won the first race on 7-year-old mare Blondecat for owners Arrowhead Stable and Daniel C. Hurtak and trainer Jason DaCosta.

With 40-1 shot Rising Tigress winning the eighth race and 30-1 shot Malibu High capturing the 11th, the late Pick-4 50-cent winning combination of 9-9-9-6 paid $47,423.85 (one winner). In the 11th race, the $1 Super High-5 combination of 6-9-10-5-3 paid $17,351.20.

No one hit the Pick-5 and there will be a carryover pool going into Sunday of $22,342.66. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes on Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m.

Jockey injury update. Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo returned to action today after Friday’s sixth-race spill sore but no less focused, riding seven horses on the 11-race card and winning twice. Gallardo scored his 68th victory of the meeting in the second race aboard 6-year-old gelding Motor City for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness before winning again for Ness on Brother Pat.

Gallardo, who won at least one race a day for 20 consecutive days earlier in the meeting, extended his current streak to 11 days with the victory.

Huber Villa-Gomez remained in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa with a broken L1 vertebra after Friday’s spill. Apprentice jockey Janelle Campbell was extremely sore and took off today’s mounts. Alice Cartwright incurred a hairline skull fracture and will be evaluated by a specialist on Monday.

Hearts Reaching Out. It’s not too early to begin planning for the annual Race Track Chaplaincy of America-Tampa Bay Downs Division’s “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, Dinner and Charity Auction, scheduled for Monday, March 2.

The gala event kicks off the track’s Festival Week, which culminates Saturday, March 7 with an unprecedented stakes program featuring the 35th running of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the turf and the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf.

The golf tournament, dinner and charity auction are open to the public. The cost is $100 for the entire day’s activities, $20 for dinner and auction only. The tournament is a four-person scramble beginning at 11 a.m. at East Lake Woodlands Country Club.

The dinner and auction begin at 5:30 p.m. under the big tent in the Picnic Pavilion Area. Auction items will include racing and sports memorabilia, autographed collectibles, paintings, racing equipment and other valuable treasures.

The tournament is a major fund-raiser for the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA, which describes its mission statement as “dedicated to providing, with excellence, for the spiritual, emotional, physical and social/educational needs of horse racing’s workforce.”

For details or to reserve a spot in the tournament, call Sharyn Wasiluk at (813) 494-1870.

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.