BENNETT SPRINTER SET FOR PELICAN STAKES ON SATURDAY

by Mike Henry

Emerging sprint star Fast Flying Rumor will seek to extend his local dominance in Saturday’s $100,000 Pelican Stakes, a six-furlong fixture on the Tampa Bay Downs stakes schedule.

Also on tap Saturday is the track’s sprint staple for fillies and mares, the $50,000 Minaret Stakes at six furlongs. Thoroughbred racing is scheduled Thursday and Friday as the Oldsmar oval conducts five days of racing each of the next two weeks.

Fast Flying Rumor has won three consecutive starts at the 2015-2016 meeting and is 5-for-9 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs, with three seconds. The 4-year-old gelding has been in peak form since trainer Gerald Bennett gave him time off late last summer because he was returning excessively dehydrated from his races.

Once his issues were resolved, the son of West Acre-Silver Scandal, by Silver Deputy, transformed into one of the most electrifying performers in recent track history. Following his allowance/optional claiming victory on the turf on Dec. 11, Fast Flying Rumor left nine rivals in his wake in the $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash on Jan. 9.

Fast Flying Rumor’s Beyer Speed Figure for the Turf Dash was a 108, believed to be the highest ever at Tampa Bay Downs since the figures first appeared in print. He won that race by almost five lengths.

Because he had been training so well on the main track, Bennett switched him to the dirt for his next start on Feb. 5 as a possible prep race for the Pelican, and Fast Flying Rumor responded by running his five opponents into submission by more than five lengths in a snappy 1:09.83 for six furlongs.

Fast Flying Rumor, one of nine older horses entered in the Pelican, has been ridden in all three victories this season by Ronnie Allen, Jr. He is owned in partnership by the Winning Stables of Bennett’s wife, Mary, and the Midnight Rider outfit of Matt Ferris.

The Pelican is slated as the eighth race on Saturday’s 11-race program.

The Minaret, which is the ninth race Saturday, has drawn a field of 10 older fillies and mares. Among the top candidates is another Bennett 4-year-old, the Florida-bred R Sassy Lass, winner of the Sandpiper Stakes and the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last season.

R Sassy Lass is owned by Averill Racing, Silver Oak Stable and Gregory Kaufman. Antonio Gallardo has been named to ride.

Also likely to be prominent is trainer David Hinsley’s 6-year-old Florida-bred mare, You Bought Her, who captured last year’s Minaret with a whirlwind rally. You Bought Her, to be ridden by Brian Pedroza, has been graded stakes-placed twice since, including the Grade II Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream last March.

Down the stretch. Fernando De La Cruz, Daniel Centeno and Brian Pedroza each rode two winners on today’s card. De La Cruz captured the first race on Hank’ster, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Henry Wasdyke and Hawk Enterprise and trained by Jason DaCosta. He added the fourth on the turf aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Rizzi Girl Twelve for owner Baltic Racing Stable and trainer Anthony Granitz.

Centeno was aboard the second-race winner, 4-year-old filly Stylish Step, for owner John Grossi’s Racing Corp. and trainer William Downing. He also won the seventh race on Twocubanbrothersu, a 6-year-old gelding trained by John Rigattieri, who owns the winner in partnership with Stephen Derany.

Both of Pedroza’s victories were for trainer David Hinsley. The rider won the third race on 3-year-old filly Impeccable Lady for owner Heide Terlep and the sixth on the turf on 16-1 shot Jimmu, a 3-year-old gelding owned by John Terlep and Brittany Terlep.

Chaplaincy benefit golf tournament set. The Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA) – Tampa Bay Downs Division will host its 24th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” golf tournament and fundraiser on Monday, March 7 to support the continued work of the chaplaincy. The tournament, which has a four-person scramble format, will begin at 11 a.m. at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar.

A dinner, awards ceremony and auction will be held beneath the pavilion tent at Tampa Bay Downs afterward, with the dinner getting underway at 5 p.m. The cost is $100 for the tournament, dinner and auction, $20 to attend the dinner and auction only.

The event kicks off the track’s Festival Week, which culminates Saturday, March 12 with the most lucrative card in Tampa Bay Downs history, featuring the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby; the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the turf; and the $100,000 Challenger Stakes.

Donors are asked to support the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA in any of the following ways:

  • As a volunteer;
  • By sponsoring a golf hole for $125;
  • By playing in the tournament;
  • By attending the dinner and purchasing an item in the live and/or silent auction;
  • By donating money or an auction item.

For details or to reserve a spot in the tournament, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.