Although victories have been more elusive the past two weeks, Antonio Gallardo is on pace to establish a single-season mark at Tampa Bay Downs as Wednesday’s halfway point of the 2014-2015 meeting approaches.
On this Sunday, at least, Gallardo was not as fortunate as a single simulcast bettor at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, who hit the 10th race Super High-5 to the tune of a Tampa Bay Downs record $1 payoff of $60,388.
The Super High-5 requires bettors to correctly select the first five finishers of a race in exact order. The 10th race was won by 3-year-old colt Cody’s Parade, who paid $15.40 to win, and the winning combination was 6-9-8-5-1 (No. 8, My Cowboy, was a 27-1 long shot). The old record was $31,246.80.
Meanwhile, with 74 victories through the first 45 days of the meeting, Gallardo is on pace to win 149 if he remains throughout the season. Five-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno set the standing mark of 144 victories during the 2007-2008 meeting.
Centeno is a clear second in the standings this season with 44 victories, followed by Fernando De La Cruz with 27. Rounding out the top 10 are Ronnie Allen, Jr., 23; Rosemary Homeister, Jr., 21; Victor Lebron, 19; Pablo Morales, 17; Dean Butler, 14; Harry Vega, 13; and Brian Pedroza, 12.
Gallardo won last year’s crown with 124 victories and followed that up by winning the title at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., with 94. He is tied for second in North America in 2015 with 41 victories, behind runaway leader Javier Castellano’s 63.
A check of the Oldsmar trainer standings reveals a number of familiar names at or near the top, beginning with the current leader, Gerald Bennett, who has saddled 21 winners. Currently 14 victories shy of the 3,500 career mark, Bennett is seeking his second Tampa Bay Downs title, having shared the top spot with Jamie Ness in 2010-2011 with 61 victories apiece.
Kathleen O’Connell – herself a two-time leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer – is second with 16 victories, followed by Ness with 15. Ness has won or shared the last eight track training championships.
The rest of the top 10 consists of Chad Stewart, 12; Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr., 12; Eoin Harty, 11; Joe Woodard, 10; Jason DaCosta, 10; Aldana Gonzalez, 9; and Tom Proctor, Dennis Ward and Christos Gatis, 8 each.
The ownership group of Billy, Donna and Justin Hays, who employ Woodard as their trainer, sit atop the owner standings with 10 victories, one more than Dennis Amaty’s Amaty Racing Stables.
The Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., operation of Rich and Karen Papiese, which has won five consecutive Tampa Bay Downs owner crowns, is third with eight victories.
Next in line are Ridenjac Racing, 7; Bruno Schickedanz, 7; Jagger, Inc., 6; Darley Stable, 5; and five outfits with four victories: Godolphin Racing LLC, Averill Racing LLC, Savoy Stable, Christos Gatis and Winning Stables, Inc.
Wednesday’s nine-race card begins at 12:30 p.m.
Saratoga stakes winner heads Minaret nominees. R Free Roll, winner of the Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga last summer, is expected to make her 5-year-old debut in Saturday’s $50,000 Minaret Stakes for older fillies and mares.
With more than $500,000 in career earnings, Florida-bred R Free Roll is the biggest money-winner among the 24 older fillies and mares nominated to the 34th edition of the Minaret, which will be run at a distance of six furlongs.
A daughter of Rockport Harbor-Jewels N Gems, R Free Roll is owned by the Averill Racing, LLC operation of her breeder, Rich Averill, in parternship with the Silver Oak Stable of Jim Tipps and Tim Erensen. R Free Roll is trained by Kirk Ziadie.
The Honorable Miss score was one of three consecutive stakes victories last year for R Free Roll, who has five career stakes triumphs. Her dam was a two-time stakes winner for Averill and Ziadie, including the 2006 Lightning City Stakes on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.
Another leading Minaret nominee is the 8-year-old New York-bred Risky Rachel, who won the Minaret and Manatee Stakes here back-to-back in 2014. She is 9-for-26 lifetime, including six stakes victories.
Other top prospects for the Minaret include the multiple-stakes winning 5-year-old Classy Coco, from the barn of trainer H. Graham Motion; 2014 Gasparilla Stakes winner Nesso, owned by Amaty Racing Stables and trained locally by Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr.; My Sweet Dove, trainer Monte Thomas’ filly who won the 2013 Sandpiper Stakes here as a 2-year-old; and Wildcat Lily, a graded-stakes winner trained by Everton Alex Harris who has earned $477,165.
Hearts Reaching Out. The annual Race Track Chaplaincy of America-Tampa Bay Downs Division’s “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, Dinner and Charity Auction, which brings together individuals from all segments of the Thoroughbred industry, is 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; the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf; and the $60,000 Challenger Stakes.
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 the 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.
Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship 50-50 Raffle. The fifth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship concluded Sunday at The Downs Golf Practice Facility. The “Golfest 50-50 Raffle” yielded gross ticket sales of $3,568.50, with the grand-prize winner collecting half that amount.
The winning ticket number was 80679529. The winner’s name had not been revealed at press time.
Proceeds from the “Golfest 50-50 Raffle” benefit TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.), a not-for-profit group dedicated to the safe retirement, retraining and re-homing of Tampa Bay Downs’ racing Thoroughbreds; the North Florida PGA Foundation; Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to the military families of individuals killed or disabled while in active service; Thanks Troops – Tampa; and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.