BUREAU DE CHANGE, DANNHAUSER SPRING PREP UPSETS; LEXIE LOU THIRD

by Mike Henry

Mark Casse wanted a different result, but he was pleased with the performance by his 5-year-old mare Lexie Lou in today’s $28,000 Endeavour Prep on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

“You know what, I thought she ran all right,” the trainer said after the 2014 Canadian Horse of the Year finished a non-threatening third behind the lightly raced Bureau de Change and Lovely Loyree, both also 5-year-olds. “I said going in this was not an easy field, and she hadn’t run for a year. The turf had a little give to it, and she had a wide trip. It’s something to build on and that’s what I was looking for,” Casse said.

Bureau de Change, owned by Amerman Racing and Brian Lynch, sped the mile in 1:35.87 under jockey Fernando De La Cruz to post a length-and-a-quarter victory. Lovely Loyree was a length-and-three-quarters ahead of Lexie Lou, with Christie’s Ready a head back in fourth.

Lexie Lou, the winner of the Queen’s Plate against males and three other stakes during her championship season, was making her first start since last Jan. 17. She had been ticketed to return to competition in a turf event at Woodbine in Toronto last August, but scratched her left eye, delaying her comeback until today.

Starting from the far outside post in the eight-horse field, Lexie Lou was within striking range while racing wide throughout, but lacked the necessary finish to pull off a victory.

“She did a good job, but I think maybe she needed a race,” said jockey Antonio Gallardo. “She got a little bit tired and didn’t have that kick at the end, but she ran good.”

Lexie Lou won three Sovereign Awards in 2014 as Canada’s Horse of the Year, Champion 3-Year-Old Filly and Champion Grass Mare. In her next-to-last start before her layoff, she finished second to Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome in the Grade I Hollywood Derby on the turf at Del Mar.

Off today’s effort, Casse is optimistic she will be back to top form soon. “I have no worries. We’ll get her back to where she was before,” he said.

The victory on Bureau de Change, which is now 4-for-8 lifetime, was one of three on the day for De La Cruz.

“We got a good position and I was able to save ground all the way to the stretch,” he said. “When I asked her at the sixteenth pole, she kept going.” Bureau de Change paid $16 to win.

The Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes is part of the track’s Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card on Feb. 13.

In today’s co-feature, the $28,000 Tampa Bay Prep for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., overcame a pre-race mishap to team with 8-year-old Dannhauser for an upset triumph.

Allen was warming up Dannhauser when the horse threw back his head, slamming the rider in the jaw and knocking him off. Literally bloodied but unbowed, Allen, who had ridden the horse to victory here on Dec. 20 at odds of 20-1, got back on and kept his mind on the assignment.

The end result was a neck victory from Ghost Hunter in a time of 1:41.12, with Special Envoy third and Conquest Tsunami fourth in the eight-horse field.

“He was feeling so good, he just threw his head up when another horse came by and nailed me and knocked me right off,” Allen said after the race. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I wasn’t taking off him. The ambulance guy said ‘Are you OK to ride?’ and I said ‘Heck, yeah.’ ”  

Dannhauser improved to 9-for-34 lifetime for owner Chester Prince and trainer Kathleen O’Connell. “The fast early fractions (22.30 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.43 for the half) helped a lot, and Ronnie did a great job,” O’Connell said. “You have to keep this horse interested when he is that far back early, and it all worked out.”

Dannhauser paid $21.80 to win.

O’Connell wasn’t sure what had happened before the race, but Dannhauser’s antics did not surprise her. “He is ‘Dano’ – he bites, he kicks, he wants to be the big boss,” O’Connell said. “His groom, Terri (Smeak), really takes good care of him, because he needs a lot of special attention.”

The race was a prep for the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 13.

Skyway Festival Day nominations released. The nominations list have been released for the three stakes races comprising the track’s Skyway Festival Day program on Jan. 23. On tap are the 17th edition of the $100,000, seven-furlong Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds; the 32nd running of the $100,000, seven-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies; and the 32nd Wayward Lass Stakes, a $50,000 contest for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward going a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

Among the 25 3-year-old colts and geldings nominated to the Pasco are the top three finishers from the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes on Dec. 19: Ishaq, Formal Summation and Jay’s Way.

Ishaq, a Kentucky homebred owned by St. George Stable and trained by Efren Loza, Jr., held on under jockey Pedro Cotto, Jr., to win the Inaugural despite his blinkers coming loose in the stretch, a situation that caused the son of Harlan’s Holiday to take a couple of awkward steps and might have temporarily impaired his vision.

Hidden Treat, winner of the six-furlong Sandpiper Stakes here on Dec. 19, heads a list of 24 juvenile fillies nominated to the Gasparilla. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is now 2-for-2 for owner Lael Stables and trainer Arnaud Delacour. A Little Attitude, which closed with a rush to grab second in the Sandpiper at odds of 20-1 for owners James and Melissa Jenkins and trainer Randy Klopp, is also nominated, along with the fourth-place Sandpiper finisher, owner Godolphin Racing and trainer Eoin Harty’s Conflate.

The 32nd edition of the Wayward Lass Stakes closed with 23 nominations, headed by a pair of 5-year-old mares, Joint Return and Shanon Nicole.

Joint Return, which is owned by Main Line Racing Stable and trained by John Servis, is a multiple-stakes winner which finished second as a 3-year-old in the Grade II Delaware Oaks and the Grade I Alabama Stakes. Shanon Nicole, owned by Sharon and Edmond A. Hudon and trained by Ian Wilkes, won the Indiana Grand and the Remington Park Oaks as a 3-year-old.

Also nominated, from the barn of trainer Tom Proctor, is Niall Racing’s 5-year-old mare Please Explain, winner of the 2014 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Down the stretch. In addition to riding Bureau de Change to victory, De La Cruz won the third and fourth races. He guided 4-year-old filly Apres Ski to victory in the third on the turf for owner Lambholm Stable and trainer Roy Lerman and won the fourth on 4-year-old filly Beach Splash for owner-trainer Jason DaCosta.

In the ninth race on the turf, leading jockey Antonio Gallardo extended his streak of consecutive days with at least one victory to 12, rallying 3-year-old filly Dame Street to the triumph for owner Niall J. Brennan and trainer Jamie Ness.

Friday’s 10-race card begins at 12:28 p.m. Saturday is Cap Giveaway Day, with each fan receiving the latest model of the popular chapeau with the track’s logo with paid admission, while supplies last.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The track 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.