by Mike Henry

Ademar Santos


Ademar Santos has a straightforward approach to the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.

Win first-place money of $2,500 in the Jockeys’ Challenge and show his family the world.

Last year, Santos used the lion’s share of his winnings to take his wife Rose and their three sons – 8-year-old twins Lucas and Gabriel and 6-year-old Rafael – to Ireland, where the boys were born when Santos competed on the Emerald Isle.

But Ireland can be extremely cold in November, which is when his riding schedule allows him to get away. So this year, Santos hopes to bring the family to his homeland of Brazil.

“My wife will decide if we can take the boys out of school,” Santos said.

Santos, a 39-year-old Rio de Janeiro native who has also ridden in his homeland and at Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, clinched his second consecutive Jockeys’ Challenge title in today’s fifth race when he rode Nano Tech to a third-place finish, giving him 76 points.

Consistency was the key to Santos’ successful Jockeys’ Challenge defense. From his 11 mounts in the two-day event, Santos posted four victories, two seconds and five thirds. His lone victory today came in the third race on the turf aboard 3-year-old filly Harumi for owners Ridenjac Racing and Shamrock Capital Investments, LLC and trainer Lonnie Arterburn.

While Wednesday’s card concluded the third annual Summer Festival of Racing, it also marked the beginning of the track’s 90th anniversary season. The Thoroughbreds next return to the Oldsmar oval on Saturday, Nov. 28.

Pedro Monterrey, Jr., rode three winners today to take the early lead in the jockey standings. He pulled off a shocker in the eighth and final race on the turf, rallying the 4-year-old gelding C Dr Gold to victory for breeder-owner Castlebrook Thoroughbreds and trainer John Fennessy. C Dr Gold paid $93.80 to win.

Monterrey’s other victories came in the first race on 5-year-old mare Jessica C for owner Grupo 7C Racing Stable and trainer Gerard Ochoa and in the fifth on the turf on 4-year-old colt Two Step Cowboy for breeder-owner Norman Franklin and trainer Grover C. Wheeler, Jr.

Wheeler sent out two winners to claim bragging rights as leading trainer for the next five months, also winning the sixth race on the turf with 6-year-old horse Royal Seer, who was part of a 2-for-2 day for jockey Pedro Cotto, Jr.

Monterrey, who like Santos rode four winners over the two days, finished second in the Jockeys’ Challenge with 71 points, earning $1,500. Finishing third with 52 points was Rosemary Homeister, Jr., who missed the first three races Tuesday due to travel delays. She collected a $1,000 bonus.

Santos, who is currently based at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., and has also been riding at ThistleDown near Cleveland, said he benefited from picking up a couple of live mounts Tuesday and getting the call aboard Harumi from Ridenjac Racing owner Dennis Ward.

Santos won even though he served as his own agent and an incorrect telephone number appeared in the Summer Festival condition book. “Most of the trainers who used me sent me a Facebook message,” he said, joking “I hope it’s wrong again next year.”

His three winners Tuesday boosted him to seventh in the final 2014-2015 Tampa Bay Downs standings with 29 victories, and he believes he can ride that momentum throughout the next several months before returning to Oldsmar in November.

“As long as I stay motivated and stay positive, I can keep improving,” Santos said. “I have an Equicizer (a mechanical horse) at home and spend a half-hour on it every morning after working out seven or eight horses at the track, so I think I’m as fit as anybody.”

Fit enough, apparently, to take his wife and three youngsters on another marvelous trip in the fall.

Wednesday’s card was the first in which race-day medication was limited to the anti-bleeding medication furosemide (Salix, or Lasix) under new state legislation.

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