by Mike Henry

Rosemary Homeister, Jr., knows all about being in the zone.

On today’s Tampa Bay Downs card, she breathed enough rarefied air to leave her competition breathless.

Homeister rode four winners, capping her outstanding afternoon with a thrilling neck victory in the sixth race on the turf aboard 16-1 shot Takin the Sloroad, a 5-year-old gelding owned by New Adventure Stables and trained by George S. Bush.

The victory on Takin the Sloroad, in which Homeister used every bit of her skill, strength and savvy to hold off Gallico and close-up third-place finisher Ascendancy, was her third in a row and fourth overall.

 “He was dragging me through holes like he hadn’t done before,” Homeister said, “and when he got in front he was not letting those other horses by. They were coming at him, and he kept sticking his head out. (Gallico) almost got by us, and my horse re-broke the last two jumps to stay in front.”

Homeister, who is in fourth place in the track standings with 32 victories, also had a second and a third from eight mounts. Almost lost in the shuffle was a three-victory performance by Tampa Bay Downs five-time leading jockey Daniel Centeno (more on him later).

“I pray a lot every day, and you have to be so grateful for days like this when everything just falls into place,” Homeister said. “You feel like you can do no wrong. A couple of horses I won on, I was shocked – not because they are bad horses, they just didn’t figure on paper.

“I am so blessed and happy and thankful for the trainers and owners who gave me the opportunity to have a big day like this,” she said. “And especially my agent, Steve Elzey, who works so hard to get me to where I am. He told me ‘Ride hungry today. You have a big day.’ ”

Homeister’s tour de force began in the first race with Raisin Rachel, a first-time starter bred and owned by Donald L. Ming and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. The 4-year-old filly won by eight lengths.

Homeister won the fourth race on the turf on Kraken King, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Seven Gables and trained by Cathy Rountree (more on that race below).

In the fifth race, Homeister scored on 4-year-old filly Likeuasafriend, owned by Hallmarc Racing, LLC and trained by Joseph Arboritanza. That was the only one of Homeister’s winners to go off as the betting favorite.

Homeister, who has ridden more than 2,700 winners, won an Eclipse Award as the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 1992. Her numerous graded-stakes victories include the 2001 Grade I Clasico Internacional del Caribe on Alexia and the 2010 Grade III Florida Oaks on Diva Delite.

“A day like this puts you back on top, and you feel awesome,” Homeister said. “As a rider, you’re on a roller coaster – you’re up, you’re down, you’re up, you’re down – and when you’re up, you have to take it as it comes, because you know you’re going to end up going back down again and going back up.”

Another winner for Rountree and her mare Shingalana. Cathy Rountree felt equal measures of relief and excitement after winning her first race of the meeting with her 3-year-old homebred gelding Kraken King in today’s fourth race, a maiden claiming contest at a distance of one mile on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

But those emotions were secondary to her pride in Kraken King’s 19-year-old dam Shingalana, and her wonderment at how much of a difference a single horse can make in someone’s life.

“I really think it is my fault he had not run well before today,” Rountree said of Kraken King’s first six races, in which he finished no better than fifth. “I hadn’t been working him hard enough, and he is a horse that apparently needs a lot of work.

“I said ‘OK, we’ll work him hard,’ so we breezed him a lot more and it paid off today,” she said.

Kept just off the pace by Homeister early, Kraken King surged ahead of tiring pace-setter Stand Up Guy and held on for a one-length victory from late-closing Major Anthem. He paid $13 to win after completing the distance in 1:37.49.

“Cathy Rountree and my mom have been best friends since before I was born, so she is like my aunt, and to win for her today is special,” Homeister said.

Kraken King, who is by noted turf sire Leroidesanimaux, is the fifth winner from seven foals for Shingalana, who resides on Rountree’s Seven Gables in Ocala and is expecting another foal in the next 1-2 weeks by the Woodford Thoroughbreds stallion Biondetti. Shingalana is a daughter of Jolie’s Halo out of Davcat, who Rountree purchased as a yearling in 1991.

Davcat was 0-for-11 as a racehorse for Rountree. She produced eight foals; her first was Shingalana, who managed two victories and six seconds in 21 lifetime starts. The only one of Davcat’s offspring still active is Rountree’s 7-year-old Sligo Bay gelding, Bakyt.

“Davcat had a few that earned $50,000 or more, but nothing to get too excited about,” Rountree said. But as a broodmare, Shingalana has been a whole different story.

Her produce includes multiple stakes-winning mare Dash Dot Dash (by Put It Back), sold by Rountree as a 2-year-old for $60,000; $220,000 earner Royal Hill (by Royal Academy), an 8-year-old horse claimed from Seven Gables last season by Averill Racing, LLC; and Royal Hill’s full sister, Royal Regan, who Rountree campaigned for six years and who won almost $200,000, including the 2007 Lightning City Stakes on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

Shingalana had not gotten in foal the past couple of years. “We’re not big breeders, but we found a veterinarian whose specialty is reproduction, and she is expecting any day now.

“There is no question (Shingalana) has been our foundation mare,” Rountree said. “She and her babies have supported us (her and her partner and boyfriend, David Hession) for the last 15 years. They have been real good to us, and we love her and all her babies.

“What does it say about the sport? I guess it just tells you anybody can get lucky,” Rountree said, laughing. “Racehorses have been a passion for me ever since I started breaking babies on a breeding farm in Virginia more than 40 years ago, and I was fortunate enough to get one good enough to continue to be involved for this long.”

Rountree has only one desire, for the immediate future.

“I just hope Shingalana’s next foal is as good as the ones we’ve been getting. And I hope she is a little dark, brown girl with a star on her face, like her mother,” she said.

More action today. Five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno won three races today. In the second race, Centeno was aboard 6-year-old gelding Ptolemaic for owner-trainer Christos Gatis.

Centeno came right back in the third race on 4-year-old filly Nesso, a Florida-bred owned by Amaty Racing Stables and trained by Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr. Nesso, who won the $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes here as a 3-year-old, held off J’s Two Step Halo by a length-and-three-quarters in the excellent time of 1:11.11 for six furlongs.

Nesso is now 4-for-13 lifetime with career earnings $211,266. She paid $5 as the betting favorite.

Centeno also won the 10th and final race on 6-year-old gelding Back Away for owner Averill Racing, LLC and trainer Gerald Bennett.

In today’s seventh race, 7-year-old gelding Jersey Blue Giant stepped up in class to win a $25,000 open claiming race at six-and-a-half furlongs for his fourth consecutive victory. Under jockey Ricardo Feliciano, the New Jersey-bred held off Dreaminofthewin and Homeister by a length.

Jersey Blue Giant, who was owned by MCR Stable, Inc., and trained by Benny R. Feliciano, was claimed from the victory by trainer Joe Woodard for new owners Billy Hays, Donna Hays and Justin Hays.

The father-son team of Benny and Ricardo Feliciano achieved solace for losing Jersey Blue Giant by winning the ninth race with 6-year-old gelding True Prince, bred and owned by Muirfield Farm.

Jockey Erick Rodriguez was unseated from his mount in the sixth race, but after getting back to the jockey’s room, he went to a hospital under his own power for observation.

Coming up. Saturday’s 11-race card begins at 12:40 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 3, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 5, when the track is closed.

Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs is open every day 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.