IT’S NO RUMOR, JUST FAST FACT: BENNETT CHARGE APPEARS PELICAN-BOUND

by Mike Henry

Fast Flying Rumor has progressed to an exalted position in the barn of Gerald Bennett. Basically, the 4-year-old gelding is telling his veteran conditioner what comes next.

“I try not to over-train him, just keep him where I want him,” Bennett said after Fast Flying Rumor’s five-and-a-quarter length victory under jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., in today’s six-furlong feature in 1:09.83 on a fast but still drying-out main track. “That’s a little bit of a ticklish thing to do when you’re a trainer who likes to work horses, but he’s happy and the best thing is, he’s doing it all within himself.”

The victory was the third in a row at the current meeting for the Florida-bred son of West Acre-Silver Scandal, by Silver Deputy, and his first since capturing the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes on Jan. 9 in a rapid 55.06 seconds for five furlongs on the grass.

That effort resulted in a four-and-three-quarter length victory from Power Alert and a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, believed to be the highest in track history since the figures first appeared in print in 1991. The Beyer Speed Figures, which are published in the Daily Racing Form, are a numerical representation of a horse’s performance based on its final time and the inherent speed over the track on which the race was run.

The strikingly handsome chestnut Fast Flying Rumor had turned in a pair of attention-grabbing workouts since the Turf Dash to signal his readiness for today’s $23,500, starter/optional claiming race, including a bullet four-furlong breeze of 47 seconds flat on Jan. 20.

Bennett, who is pointing Fast Flying Rumor to the $100,000, six-furlong Pelican Stakes on the main track on Feb. 20 – a race the trainer has won three times – said Fast Flying Rumor might have been more impressive today than in the Turf Dash.

“Look at those other guys back there (the jockeys on the other horses), they are all pounding on the whips and Ronnie is just sitting there,” Bennett said while watching the race replay. “This was a tough little bunch of horses, and he is doing it all on his own. Now, I just hope he comes out of the race good, and we’ll take everything on a day-to-day basis.”

El Grande Rojo, an 8-year-old gelding which equaled the seven-furlong Tampa Bay Downs main track record of 1:21.40 in his previous start, finished second, a head ahead of Big Legacy in the six-horse field.

Fast Flying Rumor, now 6-for-15 lifetime with four seconds, was bred by Gilbert G. Campbell and is owned by the Winning Stables of Bennett’s wife, Mary, and the Midnight Rider outfit of Matt Ferris. The winner is 3-for-10 lifetime on the dirt (including synthetics) with four seconds.

After breaking on top, Allen kept Fast Flying Rumor off the fast, but not blazing, pace set by Wicked Rascal, with El Grande Rojo in close attendance. “He wanted to go, but I was trying to get him to relax,” Allen said.

“He listened to me good, and when I asked him at the quarter-mile pole, it was all over. I looked back and nothing was running, so I didn’t have any worries. He has been working awesome on the dirt. He’s a race horse, and he’ll run over anything,” Allen added.

Fast Flying Rumor paid $6.80 to win as the second wagering choice.  

Down the stretch. Gerald Bennett also won the first race with 5-year-old Florida-bred mare Guchi Gold, a homebred racing for Lorna Possler. Daniel Centeno was the jockey. Bennett has 26 training victories at the current meeting, one more than Jamie Ness.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., also won the fourth race aboard 7-year-old mare Dreamed a Dream, bred, owned and trained by Robert A. Raymond.

Saturday’s 11-race card begins at 12:25 p.m. The feature is the seventh race, a conditional allowance/$32,000 optional claiming contest for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward on the turf course at a distance of a mile.

The 2-1 morning-line favorite is the 5-year-old mare Daddy’s Boo, which was scratched from Sunday’s distaff division of the Tampa Turf Test when it was moved to the main dirt track because of wet conditions. Owned by Patricia’s Hope, LLC and trained by Larry Rivelli, the Florida-bred Daddy’s Boo is 5-for-9 lifetime.

Antonio Gallardo is named to ride Daddy’s Boo, slated to face nine rivals.

Tampa Bay Downs Association Steward Dennis Lima is the special guest for the “Morning Glory Club” show, which begins at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand. Lima, also a steward at Delaware Park, will join track announcer Richard Grunder for an in-depth interview, followed by a question-and-answer session.

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

Lima has been coming to Oldsmar since 1964, when he worked as a groom under trainer Doc Canzano at what was then Sunshine Park. He has worked in the industry as a trainer and jockey’s agent and was also an owner before joining Racing Secretary Bobby DeStasio’s team at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park as a placing judge, paddock judge and entry clerk.

Lima has been an Association Steward at Tampa Bay Downs since 1993.

The following Saturday, Feb. 13, is Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South, with four stakes races scheduled worth an aggregate $650,000 in purse money. Headlining the slate is the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, a mile-and-a-sixteenth race on the main track that has produced at least one Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands starter in 10 of the last 12 years.

Also on tap on Feb. 13 are the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going a mile-and-40 yards on the main dirt. 

Sixth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship is Saturday and Sunday. Appearances by actor Christopher McDonald (also known as Shooter McGavin in the blockbuster movie, Happy Gilmore) and three-time PGA Tour winner Chris DiMarco, along with a $1-million Hole-in-One Contest, are among the highlights of the sixth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship, to be held Saturday and Sunday at The Downs Golf Practice Facility at Tampa Bay Downs.

Golfers of all ages and ability levels, as well as anyone eager to be introduced to the sport, will find much to strike their fancy at the Tampa Bay area’s largest golf expo and demo-day event. Golfest Presented by Valspar Championship hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission is $10, with children 14-and-under getting in free. There is no charge for parking.

McDonald and DiMarco will team in Saturday’s Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge III, which begins at 1:15 p.m. The event features such “Big Break” Style contests as “Break the Glass,” “Closest to the Pin,” “Flop Shot Over a Wall” and “Longest Drive.”

They will compete against the two-time defending champions, WTSP-TV’s Reginald Roundtree and Dave Wirth; long-drive champion Mike Ziegler and retired Navy SEAL Scotty Norton; former Tampa Bay Rays pitchers Andy Sonnanstine and Dan Wheeler; former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Corey Ivy and a teammate to be determined; and one or two other teams.

McDonald and DiMarco will also appear on the Golfest Stage, which offers a wide range of entertainment, instruction and demonstrations from some of the top names in golf beginning at 10 a.m. on both days.

The $1-million Hole-in-One Contest gets underway with qualifying throughout the day on Saturday and on Sunday morning. Anyone landing a 155-yard shot within a 60-foot diameter circle will advance to the semifinals, in which the individual closest to the pin will qualify for one shot from 165 yards for the grand prize, which would be paid out over 40 years.

One shot at qualifying costs $3, with three shots for $5 and seven shots for $10. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the North Florida PGA Foundation, Thanks Troops – Tampa and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Those charities will also benefit from the Golfest ’16 Silent Auction, which features more than 30 donated prizes worth in excess of $6,000. In addition to tickets to golf’s first 2016 major tournament in Georgia, prizes include tickets to the Valspar Championship Presented by BB&T and the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational; tickets to a Tampa Bay Lightning game; a day for four at Tampa Bay Downs, including lunch; rounds of golf for four at various area courses; and numerous other items.