TAMPA TURF TEST SERIES CONCLUDES SATURDAY; FESTIVAL DAY UPCOMING

by Mike Henry

With the richest day in the 90-year history of Tampa Bay Downs a mere eight days away, turf-loving Thoroughbreds of both sexes are set to tackle the fourth and final legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series on Saturday’s 11-race card that begins at 12:40 p.m.

The mile-and-three-eighths races are for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2015-16. The Male Division, slated as the seventh race, has drawn a field of nine geldings, and the Female Division, which is the ninth race, attracted an overflow field of 11 fillies and mares. Only 10 will face the starter.

Trainer Larry Rivelli will send out the morning-line favorite for both events. His 5-year-old All Call, regarded at odds of 2-1 in the morning line, is coming off a Feb. 15 victory in a starter stakes at Gulfstream. Owned by Joe Sterrenberg, All Call will be ridden by Daniel Centeno. All Call will carry top weight of 123 pounds, giving between 7-to-10 pounds to his foes.

Rivelli has entered 5-year-old mare Daddy’s Boo in the ninth race. Her 2-1 favoritism comes as no surprise; she has won three consecutive starts, including a victory in an earlier leg of the Tampa Turf Test on Dec. 26 and a starter stakes victory at Gulfstream on Feb. 15.

Owned by Patricia’s Hope, LLC, Daddy’s Boo will be ridden by Centeno. Daddy’s Boo is assigned 123 pounds, giving between 2-to-9 pounds to her rivals.

Both races offer purse money of $26,000.

The stakes – and the purses – rise to an unprecedented level in Oldsmar annals on Saturday, March 12, when Festival Day 36 Presented by Lambholm South offers more than $1-million in purse money, including $850,000 in stakes purses alone.

The centerpiece of the annual extravaganza is the 36th edition of the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, a mile-and-a-sixteenth, main-track contest for 3-year-olds. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands points series, offering 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the first four finishers toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Brody’s Cause, considered a leading Kentucky Derby candidate by numerous experts, is expected to make his 2016 debut in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Owned by Albaugh Family Stable and trained by Dale Romans, he won the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3 before finishing third in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also at Keeneland.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will be bidding for a third Tampa Bay Derby victory in four years, is expected to start Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Destin, winner of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 13. Another possible starter is trainer Stanley Gold’s Awesome Banner, winner this year of the Grade III Hutcheson and the Grade II Swale at Gulfstream.

Also on tap on the Festival Day card are the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; and the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.

Tampa Bay Downs officials and area fans have their fingers crossed that Robert Masterson’s 5-year-old mare Tepin will return for the Hillsborough after her smashing performance in the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on Feb. 13, and indications are that Masterson and trainer Mark Casse are strongly considering that option.

Tepin was the Eclipse Award Champion Grass Female last year after a campaign that included three Grade I victories, culminating with the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

Down the stretch. Jockey Daniel Centeno rode three winners on today’s card. In the second race, he was aboard Not Taken, a well-bred (Arch-Spelling, by Alphabet Soup) 3-year-old filly making her first start for owner Gatsas Stable and trainer John P. Terranova, II.

Centeno also won the seventh race on 9-year-old gelding Go Doug Go for owner Juan Arriagada and trainer Alison Hassig and the ninth on I’m Really Sumthin, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare, for owner Elaine M. Vinson and trainer John Vinson.

Now that Aldrin has broken his maiden, the 4-year-old ridgling could have a bright future on the turf. He won the sixth race on the grass, a mile-and-a-sixteenth maiden special weight affair, under jockey Manoel Cruz for owners Mt. Brilliant Farm, Gainesway Stable and Robert LaPenta and trainer Chad Brown.

Aldrin, who has made two turf starts, is by Malibu Moon out of Tap Your Heels, best known as the dam of two-time national-leading sire Tapit.

Triple Crown nominee Toughest ‘Ombre won today’s eighth race on the turf under jockey Fernando De La Cruz. The colt is owned by Hickory Plains and trained by Tom Albertrani.

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.