by Mike Henry

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who have won back-to-back Eclipse Awards in both the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder categories, send their 6-year-old Awesome Flower to Tampa Bay Downs for Saturday’s $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for older fillies and mares.

The Wayward Lass, to be contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is the eighth race on an 11-race program that begins at 12:20 p.m. Saturday also marks the start of the fifth annual, two-day Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship – the Tampa Bay area’s largest golf expo and demo event.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early Saturday for track announcer Richard Grunder’s “Morning Glory Club” Show, which begins at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand. Grunder’s guest is jockey Pablo Morales, who at 26 has already ridden more than 1,000 winners. Admission is free, as are the donuts, coffee and Grandstand passes.

On today’s card, jockey Ademar Santos rode three winners from four mounts. In the second race, Santos rallied De Price to victory for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr. He returned to the winner’s circle after the fourth race on 4-year-old filly Oriental Secret for owners Evelyn and Manuel Troche (Manuel is the trainer).

Santos completed his hat trick in the ninth and final race, scoring aboard 3-year-old filly Must Be Magic, a first-time starter, for owner-trainer Christos Gatis.

Also today, 5-year-old gelding Shore Runner staked his claim as one of the top sprinters on the grounds, winning the eighth race – an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event – by two-and-three-quarter lengths from long shot On the River.

Under leading jockey Antonio Gallardo, Shore Runner found a narrow opening along the rail on the turn and sped away from the field, completing the five-and-a-half furlongs in 1:03.51, .72 seconds off the track record.

The victory was the second in a row at the distance for Shore Runner, who is owned by Sovereign Stable and trained by John P. Terranova, II.

Back to Saturday’s card and Awesome Flower, who has been established as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the seven-horse Wayward Lass. Trained by Michael Maker, she has won five stakes races in her career and is graded stakes-placed. In her most recent outing, she finished third three weeks ago in the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., has been named to ride Awesome Flower. He has won the last two renewals of the Wayward Lass. Awesome Flower has competed under the Ramseys’ banner since being claimed for $30,000 from a runner-up effort at Gulfstream in December of 2012.

Second choice for the Wayward Lass at 5-2 is 5-year-old Swinger’s Party, owned by Miller Racing, LLC and trained by Martin Wolfson. Swinger’s Party won the Millions Distaff Preview at Gulfstream Park West in November before settling for fifth in the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff Stakes. Daniel Centeno is the jockey.

Not to be overlooked is 4-year-old Speed Seeker, out of trainer Joan Scott’s barn. The lightly raced Florida-bred dominated allowance/optional claiming company here on the turf in December, then finished fifth in the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

As a 3-year-old, Speed Seeker won the Grade III Ontario Colleen on the turf at Woodbine, banking $90,000 Canadian. Erick Rodriguez has Saturday’s riding assignment.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes on Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. There is a Super High-5 carryover pool of $6,398.52. Action is expected to return to the turf course after a two-day hiatus.

Horse racing fans looking forward to returning to the links this spring are encouraged to shuttle between the track and The Downs Golf Practice Facility for this weekend’s Golfest Presented by Valspar extravaganza.

Golfest hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. Admission for adults is $10 and children 14-and-under get in free. There is no charge for parking.

In addition to a veritable cornucopia of golf-related events and activities, the south Florida-based group The McBrainiacs, featuring Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden and Tico Torres from Bon Jovi, will perform at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The cost to attend the concert is $10, with part of the proceeds going to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

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.

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.