by Mike Henry

Tampa Bay Downs begins the second half of its 2015-2016 meeting Saturday with an 11-race card featuring two sprint stakes and three races on the turf course. Post time for the first race is 12:25 p.m. Full fields are the order of the day, with all but two races attracting 10 or more entrants.

The main event is the 32nd edition of the $100,000, six-furlong Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, scheduled as the eighth race. The 9-5 morning-line favorite is the 4-year-old graded-stakes winning colt Barbados, but the popular favorite among regular Oldsmar race-goers is 4-year-old gelding Fast Flying Rumor, who won the five-furlong Turf Dash on Jan. 9 while earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest in track history. Those two will face seven rivals.

The ninth race will be the 35th running of the $50,000, six-furlong Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-upward. A field of 10 is headed by trainer David Hinsley’s 6-year-old mare You Bought Her, winner of last season’s Minaret.

Gerald Bennett, the trainer of Fast Flying Rumor, said today the Florida-bred speedster is training well leading to the race. Bennett switched him to the main dirt track for his most recent start on Feb. 5, which resulted in a five-and-a-quarter length victory in 1:09.83 for six furlongs.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., is the jockey for Fast Flying Rumor, which is owned by the Winning Stables of Bennett’s wife, Mary Bennett, in partnership with the Midnight Rider outfit of Matt Ferris.

Gerald Bennett has won the Pelican Stakes three times as a trainer, most recently with Blind River Fox in 2009.

The entire Pelican field in post position order, followed by trainer and jockey: 1. Street Spice, Carl Nafzger, Pablo Morales; 2. Tiger Tank, Ben Colebrook, Daniel Centeno; 3. Normandy Crossing, Joe Woodard, Luis Garcia; 4. Score One, John Tammaro, III, Chelsey Keiser; 5. My Johnny Be Good, Eoin Harty, Manoel Cruz; 6. Barbados, Michael Tomlinson, Victor Lebron; 7. Fast Flying Rumor, Gerald Bennett, Ronnie Allen, Jr.; 8. El Grande Rojo, Joe Woodard, Fernando De La Cruz; 9. Big Legacy, Dale Bennett, Antonio Gallardo.

The entire Minaret field in post position order, followed by trainer and jockey: 1. Ultimate Shopper, Todd Quast, Fernando De La Cruz; 2. Sky Gold, Antonio Sano, Daniel Centeno; 3. La Madrina, Claude “Shug” McGaughey III, Elvis Trujillo; 4. Double Secret, Adolfo Exposito, Erick Rodriguez; 5. R Sassy Lass, Gerald Bennett, Antonio Gallardo; 6. No Fault of Mine, Chris Block, Ronnie Allen, Jr.; 7. Legal Laura, Kathleen O’Connell, Victor Lebron; 8. Imperial Secret, Adolfo Exposito, Angel Serpa; 9. Atlantic’s Smile, Raymond Stifano, Dean Butler; 10. You Bought Her, David Hinsley, Brian Pedroza.

Recalling a legend. Robert Arcaro, who lives in the Tampa Bay area, reminded us that today would have been his father’s 100th birthday. Jim Murray once wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “What Vince Lombardi was to football players, Michelangelo to statues, Eddie Arcaro was to horses. They ran for him or else.”

Arcaro, who died in 1997 at 81, was the only jockey to win the Triple Crown twice, on Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948, the same year he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He won the Kentucky Derby five times and scored six victories each in the Preakness and Belmont, along with winning scores of other major races. He rode Kelso, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Sword Dancer, Assault – the list goes on and on.

Arcaro was voted the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award by his fellow riders in 1953 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1958. He was instrumental in the creation of the Jockeys’ Guild, which improved working conditions for riders and assists injured and disabled jockeys. He is remembered by a later generation as a popular and often controversial ABC Sports racing commentator.

“He was the best I ever saw,” said the late Joe Hirsch, executive columnist for the Daily Racing Form. “Eddie was a combination of strength and intelligence, and he had a sense of daring to go with it.”

The name of George Edward Arcaro, also known as “The Master,” will be celebrated as long as Thoroughbred racing has a place in the sporting consciousness.

Down the stretch. Long-shot players were in their glory today, with $2 win payoffs of $111.80, $80.80 and $59.80. The parade of outsiders began in earnest in the fifth race when jockey Samy Camacho piloted 5-year-old Florida-bred mare – and first-time starter – Camoa to victory for breeder-owner Santa Cruz Ranch and trainer Horacio Barbaran.

While Camoa is 1-for-1 in her career, the victory was the first for Camacho in 35 Tampa Bay Downs starts this season and the first for Barbaran from 51 starters.

In the next race, 8-year-old Florida-bred mare Ottauquechee posted her first victory since her maiden triumph in the summer of 2012 at Colonial Downs. She paid $80.80 to win. Jorge L. Vargas rode her for owner Richard G. Haley and trainer Joyce Kielty.

You know it’s that kind of day when the track’s leading jockey wins on a 28-1 shot, which happened in the eighth race when Antonio Gallardo and first-time starter Imperial Hint, another Florida-bred, stole away to a four-and-a-quarter length maiden special weight victory in 1:22.39 for seven furlongs, less than a second off the track record. The 3-year-old colt is owned by Raymond Mamone and trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr.

Trainer Michael Dini and owner Ballybrit Stable enjoyed two long-shot winners, although not quite on the same scale. Their 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Dragon Queen won the fourth race on the turf under jockey Olaf Hernandez, paying $23.60 to win.

In the ninth race, 4-year-old Florida-bred colt Creaky Cricket rallied late to post the upset under jockey Jose Ferrer for Dini and Ballybrit. He paid $25.00 to win.

Gallardo had two winners on the card, scoring in the seventh race on the turf aboard 8-year-old mare Issheit for owner Rase Stables and trainer Jamie Ness.   

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.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 27 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.