Birthdays come and birthdays go, but the ability of Ronnie Allen, Jr., to win races at Tampa Bay Downs remains intact.
The four-time track riding champion, who celebrated his 51st birthday on Friday, strengthened his hold on fifth place in the 2014-2015 standings today by winning on a pair of first-time starters. Allen has 34 victories for the meeting.
Back in the day – which, if we must be precise, was the mid-to-late 1980s, when Super Mario Bros., Madonna and Cabbage Patch Kids reigned – Allen was every bit as dominant as this Antonio Gallardo kid, who rode three winners today and looks awfully serious about establishing a new Tampa Bay Downs single-season victory record.
More on him later. First, let’s give the old(er) guy his due.
In the fifth race, Allen kept 3-year-old Florida-bred colt Monkey Money in stalking position early, then unleashed a decisive move at the top of the stretch and drew clear for a three-and-a-half length victory from another first-timer, the late-closing Cool Blue Moon, in the five-and-a-half furlong maiden claiming event.
Monkey Money, a son of The Green Monkey, is owned by Equine Authority, Inc., and trained by Sandy Cataldi.
Allen returned to the winner’s circle after the eighth race on the turf on 3-year-old gelding Aurora’s Kid, who defeated Major Anthem by a length at a distance of one mile. The Kentucky-bred Aurora’s Kid – a $50,000 purchase at last year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Open Horses of Racing Age Sale – is owned by Scott Farmer and Joan Scott.
Aurora’s Kid, who is by 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, showed his natural affinity for the grass by completing the maiden special weight contest in 1:36.58.
Interestingly, the 5-year-old gelding Fire Mission ran even faster in the sixth race, which was the Lambholm South Race of the Week, a $16,000 claiming event. His winning time for a mile on turf was 1:34.74 for owners Gary G. Jackson, M and G Stables and Katherine Nielsen and trainer Jackson, .95 seconds off the course record. Gary Wales was the jockey. Fire Mission was claimed by new owner-trainer Bernell Rhone.
Back to Allen, who almost won three today but settled for second in the fourth race on the turf on Elite Eight, beaten a half-length by his younger brother, Mike Allen, on the Gerry Aschinger-trained 4-year-old filly, Kitburn.
Ronnie Allen set the single-season Tampa Bay Downs record during the 1987-1988 meeting when he rode 102 winners, becoming the first rider in track history to reach the century mark. It was eclipsed the following season by Ricardo Lopez and has been bettered several times since, most recently by current record-holder Daniel Centeno, who set the current standard of 144 seven seasons ago.
Now, defending champion Gallardo is at 136 with six days remaining after today’s hat trick. His victory in the ninth race on claiming filly Pure Bliss – in which he virtually willed the 3-year-old to victory along the rail late, for owner-trainer Christos Gatis – was Gallardo at his best, his strength and timing both keys to the come-from-behind effort.
Gallardo also won the second race on the turf on 5-year-old mare Red Letter for owner El Batey Farm and trainer Kathleen O’Connell and the third on 5-year-old mare My Cousin Fay for owners Acclaimed Racing Stable and Jagger, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness.
There are no guarantees for the 27-year-old Spaniard, who is headed to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., after next weekend’s action, but he took a big step toward setting a new target in the Oldsmar record books today.
Big win for trainer Stewart. Trainer Chad Stewart was soaked to the skin in a rainy winner’s circle at Gulfstream Park late this afternoon – and loving it. The popular Ocala-based trainer earned his first graded-stakes score when 6-year-old gelding Rerun won the Grade III, $100,000 Miami Mile Stakes on the turf, paying $44 to win.
Rerun is a Kentucky homebred competing for the World Thoroughbreds Racing, Inc., outfit of Gene Phelps. Jose C. Caraballo rode Rerun, who rallied from mid-pack for a half-length victory from 21-10 wagering favorite Grand Tito.
Rerun raced four times at the current Tampa Bay Downs meeting, capturing his most recent effort – a one-mile allowance/optional claiming event on the turf on Feb. 25.
Medina hospitalized. Jockey Jean Claude Medina, a 36-year-old native of Lima, Peru, is in Mease Countryside Hospital after breaking his left arm and suffering a collapsed lung in a fall in Friday’s ninth race. Scott Spieth, who also fell from his mount in the race, incurred a twisted ankle and took off both of his mounts today. Neither horse was injured.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes on Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Next week, the track will conduct full cards of racing on Wednesday, Friday, May 2 and May 3 (more on the huge three-day weekend below).
Tampa Bay Derby horses preparing for Kentucky Derby. Carpe Diem, winner of the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby here on March 7, breezed four furlongs in 48 3/5 seconds this morning at Keeneland in Lexington in his final workout for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
The son of Giant’s Causeway-Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song, is scheduled to be vanned to Churchill Downs on Sunday. Observing his workout were trainer Todd Pletcher and representatives from the colt’s owners: WinStar Farm LLC President Elliott Walden and Stonestreet Stables LLC bloodstock advisor John Moynihan.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rode Carpe Diem, who galloped out in 1:01 1/5 for five furlongs and 1:14 4/5 for the ¾-mile.
Velazquez was aboard Carpe Diem in both the Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 4 at Keeneland. He is bidding to become the third Tampa Bay Derby participant to win the Kentucky Derby, after Street Sense (who won both races in 2007) and Super Saver (who finished third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby before his Run for the Roses triumph).
The other likely Kentucky Derby entrant from the Tampa Bay Derby, fourth-place finisher Danzig Moon, breezed four furlongs Friday at Churchill Downs in 48 4/5 seconds with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Mark Casse. Danzig Moon galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 4/5.
Danzig Moon, who improved off his Tampa Bay Derby effort to finish second to Carpe Diem in the Toyota Blue Grass, is owned by John C. Oxley.
Kentucky Derby Day is always special at Tampa Bay Downs, and perhaps more so than ever this year, with the quality of the top contenders possibly rivaling that of the 1957 Derby field (of course, eventual Hall of Fame members Gallant Man, Round Table and Bold Ruler all finished behind winner Iron Liege on that fateful afternoon when Bill Shoemaker, aboard Gallant Man, misjudged the finish line, possibly costing him the victory against fierce rival and former Tampa Bay Downs steward Bill Hartack).
Next Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, the Oldsmar oval will open the gates at 10 a.m. to simulcast the entire cards from Churchill Downs, site of the May 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies as well as the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Programs for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks card will be available at 3 p.m. on Thursday. The following day, some Tampa Bay Downs betting windows will open 15 minutes before the first race at Churchill Downs, scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
Also on Friday, advance wagering on the entire Kentucky Derby card will become available at noon. Programs for the Derby card will be available at 3 p.m. Friday.
The approximate post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:24 p.m.
Mint juleps will be on sale for $9 each on Derby Day in official Kentucky Derby souvenir glasses, while supplies last. Souvenir glasses ($6) and other Kentucky Derby gift items will be on sale throughout the week in the Gift Shop on the first floor of the grandstand.
Thoroughbred racing will be held at Tampa Bay Downs Friday through Sunday. The Thoroughbreds then will return to the Oldsmar oval June 30-July 1 for the third annual, two-day Summer Festival of Racing.
Sunday, May 3 is Fan Appreciation Day, with hot dogs, fountain sodas and domestic draft beers on sale for $1 each from noon-3 p.m.
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.