This time of year, attention in the Thoroughbred world focuses on the major prep races leading to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, to be contested May 2 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
The owners of 3-year-old colt Jacques Cartier – Kentucky veterinarian Andy Roberts (who races under E. McCarroll Holdings) and Ohio Standardbred owner Sylvia Norris – had those kind of dreams when they nominated the Kentucky-bred son of Midshipman to the Triple Crown.
But Jacques Cartier didn’t develop as quickly as his connections hoped for, delaying his career debut until today’s sixth race, a maiden special weight contest that was taken off the turf and run at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards.
Like his namesake, the 16th-century French explorer, Jacques Cartier’s first steps into a brave new world were full of promise.
Despite being pressured on the lead early by Fuhrious Warrior, Jacques Cartier had plenty left in the tank through the stretch, pulling away for a four-and-a-half-length victory from late-closing Call Sign. The winner’s time on a fast main track was 1:42.19.
Jacques Cartier paid $77.20 to win as the second-longest shot in the race. He was the second long-shot winner in two days for the trainer-jockey combination of Randy Klopp and Mike Allen, who teamed to win Saturday’s eighth race with 3-year-old colt Double Parqued, who paid $71.80 to win.
“Mike did a real good job, and the horse ran a big race,” Klopp said after Jacques Cartier’s victory. “Those two horses have been working together, and Mike has been on both of them. After (Double Parqued) won Saturday, he said (Jacques Cartier) is better.”
Klopp said Jacques Cartier, a $10,000 yearling purchase by his owners, was slow getting to the races because he was difficult to break. “He was not a real fast learner, and the owners always want to take their time with their horses. That’s just the way it worked out,” Klopp said.
Triple Crown nominees are designated in the program by a crown next to their name, but as one of two first-time starters in the race, Jacques Cartier was largely ignored by bettors. “I don’t gamble,” said Klopp. “My help bet $5 across the board on him.”
The time has come and gone for Jacques Cartier to be ticketed to Louisville, so Klopp expects him to be part of his string at Indiana Grand this spring and summer.
Two other trainer-jockey combinations posted a pair of victories today. Trainer Marcial Navarro and jockey Jose Ferrer won two races for owner Julian De Mora: the second race with 5-year-old gelding Go Bernie Go and the ninth, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with 5-year-old gelding Ledokol.
Trainer Jamie Ness and leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo teamed for two victories for the second day in a row. They won the third race with 7-year-old mare Issheit for owner Rase Stables and captured the fifth with 4-year-old gelding Ransom Paid for owner Blockhead Investments, LLC.
Trainer Wayne G. Minnock saddled two winners. His 5-year-old gelding Wind of Bosphorus, owned by Douglas Terry, won the fourth race under Victor Lebron. Minnock won the seventh race with 3-year-old filly Flatter Me Zanja, also owned by Terry and ridden by Scott Spieth.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. The track will present racing action 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. Patrons will be able to utilize The Downs Golf Practice Facility on April 5 from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Florida Cup Day XIII. Tampa Bay Downs will play host to the 13th annual Florida Cup on Saturday. Six $75,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds will be on tap on the 12-race card, as the Oldsmar oval celebrates the Sunshine State’s excellence in breeding and raising champion Thoroughbreds.
The stakes lineup consists of The Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, for 3-year-old fillies at a distance of seven furlongs; The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs; The Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward going six furlongs; The Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; The Tampa Turf Classic, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; and The Sophomore Turf, for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.
The stakes will also be high for handicappers, who will have the opportunity to compete for cash prizes via the inaugural “Florida Cup Day Challenge” free online contest.
Here is how it works: Players can register to participate at the track’s website, www.tampabaydowns.com
Each player is required to place a mythical, $2 across-the-board (win, place and show) wager on a single horse in each of the day’s 12 races.
At the end of the day, the player with the most accumulated earnings wins a first-place prize of $1,500; second place is $500, and third place is $250. Aye, but here’s the rub – if any of your selections finishes out of the money, you are eliminated from the contest.
Thankfully, that Regis Philbin fellow, years ago, invented the concept of lifelines, and each contest entrant will have the option before the first race of purchasing as many as three lifelines for $10 a toss. So if you go in for three lifelines at a total outlay of $30, you’ll be cushioned against three out-of-the-money finishes.
Further contest details will be available on the track website.
The Florida Cup celebrates the Sunshine State’s excellence in breeding and raising champion Thoroughbreds, including Needles, Carry Back, Dr. Fager, Susan’s Girl, Foolish Pleasure, Affirmed, Conquistador Cielo, Gate Dancer, Holy Bull, Silver Charm, Skip Away and Mucho Macho Man.
In the last three years, six horses that were graded-stakes winners, or went on to win graded stakes, have triumphed in a Florida Cup Day stakes.