by Mike Henry

Tampa Bay Downs jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., had never ridden Dannhauser before today, and the 7-year-old’s recent form provided little reason for optimism entering the track’s Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.

But Allen had one big reason to be confident: Dannhauser is trained by Kathleen O’Connell, a two-time leading trainer at the Oldsmar oval who long-time patrons have learned to ignore at their own financial risk.

“I wasn’t surprised because when Kathy brings them over, they’re ready,” Allen said after Dannhauser’s courageous head victory from two-time Breeders’ Cup participant War Envoy in the allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event. “If he is entered in that spot, I know there’s a reason. Kathy is a very good horseperson, and she wouldn’t put him in there if she didn’t think he had a shot.”

Despite being a multiple stakes winner and the only entrant to have won twice previously on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, Dannhauser paid $42.20 to win as the sixth betting choice in the 12-horse field. War Envoy, the 13-10 favorite who won the Britannia Stakes at Ascot in June, was three lengths clear of Nate the Natural for second.

Dannhauser, which is the only Thoroughbred owned by performance-horse owner Chester Prince of Palmetto, Fla., completed the distance in 1:42.69. Dannhauser is now 8-for-33 lifetime.

O’Connell, the trainer of top female turf sprinter Lady Shipman, returned to south Florida after Saturday’s Tampa Bay Downs card to oversee her string there, and assistant Brian Smeak handled the saddling duties for Dannhauser. “He’s been one of our favorites the whole time we’ve had him,” Smeak said. “He is a good-looking, strapping horse who is a handful. Not anybody can handle this horse.”

The Virginia-bred son of Johannesburg-Hatpin, by Smart Strike, finished third in the Bert Allen Stakes in September of 2014 at Laurel, but was injured in the race, forcing a long layoff. “A horse came over on him and clipped him, and he broke a hind splint bone,” Smeak said. “They operated to take out the splint and gave him a little more time afterward to recuperate.”

Although he again finished third in this year’s Bert Allen, Dannhauser laid an egg in his most recent start, an October 24 conditional allowance at Keeneland that was taken off the turf. “The starting gate was right in front of the grandstand, and he would not load. Then he got excited by the crowd and shot out of the gate and got tired. I told (Allen) this morning to throw that race out, because he’s better than that.”

The four-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey followed War Envoy and jockey Mario Pino in the early stages of the race, then took advantage when a hole opened along the inside in the stretch. War Envoy stuck his head in front in deep stretch, but Allen summoned all of Dannhauser’s reserves to grab the victory. “He just kept digging in for me,” Allen said. “He is a nice horse, and I can’t wait to ride him back.”

Today’s eighth race, an allowance/$75,000 optional claiming event for 2-year-old fillies on the turf, may have produced one worthy of serious attention in 2-year-old filly Spinamiss, who staged a strong rally to defeat Saturn Lace by a neck. Both the winner and runner-up were bred in Ireland; Spinamiss had made her three previous starts there, while all eight of Saturn Lace’s races had been in England.

A daughter of Lilbourne Lad-Spinamix, by Spinning World, Spinamiss is owned by St. Elias Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher. Past Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Manoel Cruz was in the irons. The winner’s time for the mile was 1:37.75.

Cruz also won the 10th race on the turf on Krista’s Persona, a 3-year-old filly, for owner-trainer Gary G. Jackson and his partners: M and G Stables and Katherine Nielsen. Krista’s Persona paid $36.60 to win.

Down the stretch. Trainer Gerald Bennett saddled two winners today, giving him a meeting-high nine thus far. Bennett sent out 2-year-old filly Valueable Charmer to win the second race with Allen aboard. Bennett owns the filly under his Winning Stables banner, in partnership with Ray Rech.

Bennett added the ninth race with 3-year-old colt This Boy’s Sharp, bred and owned by W. Kenan Rand, Jr. Daniel Centeno, who was involved in a spill in the third race but returned to action after being examined by medical personnel, rode This Boy’s Sharp.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. There will be a Pick-5 carryover pool of $18,983.68. Tampa Bay Downs will be closed Christmas, Dec. 25.

The track’s popular Calendar Giveaway begins Saturday, Dec. 26, continuing the following day and while supplies last. The Dec. 26 program also marks the return of track announcer Richard Grunder’s Morning Glory Show, featuring a special guest each Saturday morning at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Admission is free and attendees receive Grandstand passes, coffee and donuts.

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.