by Mike Henry

There are certain places, we are told in literature, song and fable, where it never rains.

Tampa Bay Downs was not one of those places today.

A few minutes after track officials announced plans to keep both divisions of the third round of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series on the grass, a steady downpour began.

Although it lasted about two hours and flooded the lower portions of the apron and winner’s circle, horsemen, grooms, jockeys and track employees adjusted, with post-race unsaddling and presentation ceremonies shifting to the paddock.

Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo made sure he and Brother Pat were part of that scene after the Male Division of the Tampa Turf Test, hustling the 6-year-old gelding to the lead on a sloppy main track and cruising to a five-length victory from On the Loose Again, who finished a nose ahead of Paige Me.

Brother Pat, who is trained by Jamie Ness and owned by Jamie and wife Mandy’s Jagger, Inc., operation, could attempt to become the first horse to sweep all four legs of the Tampa Turf Test on March 28. The series is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2014-2015.

Brother Pat is a Kentucky-bred son of Any Given Saturday – who won the 2007 Sam F. Davis Stakes and finished second in that year’s Tampa Bay Derby to Street Sense – out of the Tiznow mare Anyhow. Brother Pat paid $4 as the even-money favorite after touring the nine-furlong distance in 1:53.37. Brother Pat is 9-for-32 lifetime.

Gallardo, who won three races on the card, captured the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test on the main dirt surface aboard 5-year-old mare Rhythm Queen, who splashed home six lengths ahead of Kings Tuesday. Annamonarchos finished third.

Cuppy Cake, last year’s Florida Cup Distaff Turf Stakes winner who won the second leg of the Tampa Turf Test three weeks ago and finished second in the first leg on Jan. 17, was scratched when the race was taken off the turf.

Rhythm Queen, who is owned by La Marca Stable and trained by Jane Cibelli, paid $4.40 to win as the heavy betting favorite. Her time for the mile-and-an-eighth was 1:54.80. The Kentucky-bred mare, now 6-for-17 lifetime, is a daughter of 2005 Tampa Bay Derby winner Sun King, out of the Flying Pidgeon mare Dancing Rhythm.

Gallardo stayed on a roll by winning the 10th race aboard 5-year-old horse Fantasmagorico for breeder-owner St. George Stable, LLC and trainer Efren Loza, Jr. In quest of his second consecutive Oldsmar riding title, Gallardo has 86 victories, 36 more than runner-up Daniel Centeno.

Victor Lebron rode two winners today. He took the fifth race on the 4-year-old homebred filly U and Tequila for owner Ups and Downs Racing and trainer Monte R. Thomas and added the eighth on 4-year-old homebred colt Spearhead for owner Catherine M. Wills and trainer Christophe Clement.

Jamie Ness sent out two winners. In addition to Brother Pat, Ness saddled 3-year-old gelding Woodwin W, a first-time starter, to win the 11th and final race under jockey Dean Butler. Woody Weeks is the owner.

Sunday’s 10-race card begins at 12:40 p.m. There will be no turf racing. Beginning next week, Tampa Bay Downs goes back to a four-days-a-week racing schedule, with action on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Weather permitting, Sunday is “Kids & Family Day” in the Trackside Picnic Pavilion area. Track mascot Mouse the Miniature Horse is expected to make an appearance and will be available for pictures with her fans.

There will be games, pony rides, inflatable slides, a bounce house and plenty of good food. Kids & Family Days will also be held March 15 and March 29, with “Family Fiesta Day” outings – hosted by Univision Television, with a Latin flavor – on March 8 and March 22.

Excitement building for Festival Day 35. The Oldsmar oval’s Festival Day 35 celebration is Saturday, March 7, featuring the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-old Triple Crown candidates at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main dirt surface.

Carpe Diem, a Grade I winner as a 2-year-old and the 2014 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up, is expected to make his 2015 debut in the Tampa Bay Downs showcase.

The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, a points system that will help to determine the field for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby is comprised of a series of 35 designated races at tracks around the world, with points awarded to the top four finishers in each race. The 20 horses with the most points earn a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses.

The Tampa Bay Derby – which has produced a pair of Kentucky Derby champions in its 2007 winner, Street Sense, and its 2010 third-place finisher, Super Saver – offers 50-20-10-5 points to its top four.

The first 7,500 fans entering the gates will receive a beach towel with the new track logo, with paid admission. Approximate post time for the first race is noon.

Two Grade III turf races for females are also on the Festival Day program: the $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth and the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth.

The fourth stakes race on the Festival card is the $60,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.

Reserved seats are available for the Festival Day celebration. For information on seating, call the Admissions Department at (813) 855-4401.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 5 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.