by Mike Henry

Try as he might, five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno has been unable to gain ground on defending champion Antonio Gallardo in the standings.

Both rode two winners today, enabling Gallardo to maintain a comfortable 71-41 margin through the first 40 days of the 91-day meeting. Of probably equal significance is that Gallardo, with 38 victories in 2015, trails only Gulfstream-based Javier Castellano (50 victories, according to Equibase statistics) in North American for the calendar year.

Also on today’s card, the Pick-5 was hit by three bettors, one of whom collected the $1 payoff of $70,549.10 for selecting the 3-4-6-8-8 combination over the last five races. Two bettors collected the 50-cent payoff of $35,274.55.

Centeno won today’s first race, a maiden claiming contest, on 4-year-old gelding Driven by Desire for breeder-owner Ripplewood Farm and trainer Tim Richardson. Gallardo responded by winning the second, a conditional claiming event, on 8-year-old gelding Kathy’s Kitten for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness.

Kathy’s Kitten was claimed from the second race by trainer Scott A. McKenzie for new owner Odessa Farms, Inc.

Gallardo won the fourth race, another conditional claiming affair, on 9-year-old gelding Scorpion Time for owner Z. Larry Hodin and trainer Christos Gatis. Centeno evened the day’s tally in the eighth race on the turf, winning aboard 4-year-old gelding Paul Reiff for breeder-owner Captain Jack Racing Stable, LLC and trainer Anthony J. Granitz.

The 2014-2015 stakes schedule at Tampa Bay Downs picks up Saturday with the 31st running of the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old and upward at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

The list of 20 nominees features several horses from the barns of top conditioners, including trainer Chad Brown’s 4-year-old filly Rosalind, who dead-heated for victory in last spring’s Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland; Todd Pletcher’s 4-year-old Got Lucky, a multiple stakes-placed daughter of A.P. Indy; H. Graham Motion’s 5-year-old mare Classy Coco, winner of the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap at Laurel in October; and Michael Maker’s 6-year-old Awesome Flower, who has scored three stakes victories at three different tracks since June.

The Wayward Lass honors the memory of the 1981 Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly, who was bred in Florida by Hall of Fame trainer Horatio Luro, trainer of 1962 Kentucky Derby winner Decidedly and 1964 Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is conducting racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, throughout February.

The track 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.

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.