SPEED SEEKER RETURNS TO WINNER’S CIRCLE; FERRER RIDES THREE WINNERS

by Mike Henry

Even though she hadn’t won since last December, 4-year-old filly Speed Seeker was the horse to beat in today’s third race, a one-mile conditional allowance/optional claiming event on the turf for fillies and mares.

Still, there are no sure things until a race is declared official, and trainer Joan Scott might have breathed a sigh of relief after her Florida-bred held off a spirited late rally by 3-year-old Innovative Idea by a half-length.

Speed Seeker paid $5.80 to win after completing the distance in gate-to-wire fashion in 1:36.24. The winner of last year’s Grade III Ontario Colleen Stakes at Woodbine, she had finished third at odds of 60-1 in the Grade III (now Grade II) Hillsborough Stakes in March at Tampa Bay Downs to Stephanie’s Kitten, the winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

“I was really pleased with how she finished up today,” Scott said. “The fractions weren’t walking (24.52 seconds for the quarter-mile, 49.00 for the half), but they were nice, soft fractions for her. (Jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr.) rode confident; he didn’t send her out there, but he didn’t strangle her trying to get slower fractions. He just let her roll out there.”

Owned in partnership by Bob Johnson, Frank Coniglio, Frank Ferrogine, Richard Rendina and Sid Ritman, Speed Seeker is now 4-for-16 lifetime with career earnings of $215,188. However, today’s triumph was her first since her romp here last year, a span of nine non-winning performances that included a runner-up effort in the Lady Baltimore at Laurel in September.

“She’s been in pretty deep company,” Scott noted. “The allowance at Saratoga (seventh, but only two lengths behind the winner) was a very solid race, and things haven’t always gone her way. She is 100 percent sound and loves what she does, so it is just a matter of getting the right spot for her. I’m glad to have a nice horse for the owners, because they love the game.”

Scott said a return in the $200,000 Hillsborough on March 12 is a possibility for Speed Seeker and did not rule out the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, also on the Tampa Bay Downs lawn, on Feb. 13. “We’ll see what happens and play it by ear,” she said.

Also on today’s card, the trainer-jockey combination of trainer Dennis Ward and jockey Jose Ferrer teamed for two victories. The first came in the second race with 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Rambam, who is 2-for-2 at the meeting. Rambam is owned by Hot Scot Racing Stables, which already has five victories.

Ward and Ferrer won the seventh race on the turf with 2-year-old Florida-bred filly Dance N Denae. Owned by Ward’s Ridenjac Racing operation, the winner is named for his granddaughter, Denae.

Ferrer completed a personal hat trick in the 10th race, winning on 3-year-old filly Wonforthemoneyhon for owner-trainer Carlos A. Cepeda.

In today’s Lambholm South Race of the Week, a one-mile conditional allowance on the turf for fillies and mares, 4-year-old Florida-bred Babe’s Ruler turned on the afterburners through the stretch to triumph under leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo for the rider’s 298th victory of 2015.

Babe’s Ruler is trained by Jamie Ness and owned by the Jagger, Inc., operation of Ness and his wife, Mandy.

All Children’s Hospital jockey visit set. Jockeys from Tampa Bay Downs will visit patients and their families at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg on Tuesday afternoon. A division of Johns Hopkins Medicine, All Children’s Hospital is a leader in pediatric treatment, education, research and advocacy and provides expert care for infants, children and teens with some of the most challenging medical problems imaginable.

This is the second consecutive year jockeys have chosen to visit All Children’s during the holiday season, bringing goggles, hats, stuffed animals, toys and coloring books, as well as their athletic selves, to cheer youngsters with potentially life-limiting diseases.

The visit will begin at 1 p.m. Media members desiring to provide coverage should contact Tampa Bay Downs Vice President of Marketing & Publicity Margo Flynn or Publicity Assistant Mike Henry.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:27 p.m. The track will conduct its first Sunday card of the 2015-2016 meeting on Dec. 20.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.