by Mike Henry

John P. Terranova, II knew his 3-year-old filly Enjoy Yourself would be facing the toughest challenge of her young career in Saturday’s 33rd running of the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

For a few glorious moments, it appeared jockey Antonio Gallardo had launched a winning move through the stretch. But when Baciami Piccola seemed to emerge from the clouds, Enjoy Yourself and Co. had to settle for the runner-up slot in the 13-horse field.

“It was a tough beat, but she (Enjoy Yourself) ran really well,” Terranova said this afternoon from Ocala, where he was attending the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. “She validated herself as one of the better 3-year-old turf fillies so far this season.

“So far everything has gone according to plan with her, so we will let things settle before we start targeting some races for her up north,” Terranova added of the Sovereign Stable-owned, Great Britain-bred sophomore, now 2-for-4 with a second and a third.

Missing by a half-length was disappointing, sure, but anyone who has followed racing knows Terranova will be back soon with other graded-stakes contenders. He has saddled 11 graded winners since 2010 and four Grade I winners overall: Lilacs and Lace (2011 Central Bank Ashland); Franny Freud (2010 Prioress); Negligee (2009 Darley Alcibiades); and Laragh (2008 Hollywood Starlet).

The 45-year-old Terranova, who keeps a string of 16 horses on the Tampa Bay Downs backside, has been chosen as the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month after sending out four winners here since Feb. 27.

Among that group is his stalwart 5-year-old mare Harp N Halo, the Curragh Stables-owned pride and joy which won the 7-furlong Manatee Overnight Handicap on Saturday’s Festival Day 36 Presented by Lambholm South card for her fifth victory in 10 career starts.

Terranova, who is a fixture on the New York racing scene, is in his second season at Tampa Bay Downs. “It is a great place to winter, and we really enjoy racing here,” said Terranova, who was introduced to racing by his father, owner John P. Terranova, Sr., who helps out by managing the stable’s financial affairs. “The surface is very good, and horses come out of there fit enough to go anywhere in the country and win. And everyone raves about the turf course.”

While the native New Yorker is based in Florida during the winter months, his wife Tonja takes care of their string of 14 horses at Belmont Park in New York while competing at Aqueduct. A former assistant to trainer Brian Mayberry, Tonja also is raising their daughters: Paulina, 14, and Giana, 10.

"I do everything by feel," Terranova said of his training methods. "I don't have any kind of set program. Things are always changing, so we go day-by-day and learn from each horse how we can get the best out of them."

Terranova first made an impact at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2012-2013 meeting, winning the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf with Swift Warrior and sending out Falling Sky to win the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes. The latter horse finished unplaced in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

Other top horses Terranova has trained include Gander, More Than Love and El Kabeir, a multiple graded-stakes winner owned by Zayat Stables which was on the 2015 Kentucky Derby trail before being scratched because of a foot issue. El Kabeir returned to stakes competition last fall, winning the City of Laurel Stakes in November, and is currently at couple’s New York base.

With such owners as Zayat Stables, Sovereign Stable and Curragh Stables, Terranova believes the future is bright. “I’m lucky to have a nice group of people to train for, and hopefully somebody else will notice us and send us some horses,” he said.

Down the stretch. Jockeys Manoel Cruz and Pedro Cotto, Jr., each rode two winners on today’s card. Cruz captured the third race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Awe Zoom for owner A R Equine Services and trainer Alex Rendon and added the fourth race on 8-year-old gelding Moonlit Meteor for owner Julie Perez and trainer James Tsirigotis, Jr. Moonlit Meteor was claimed from the race for $5,000 by trainer Joe Woodard for new owners Billy, Donna and Justin Hays.

Cotto won the fifth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Spence Girl for owner Barry Ostrager and trainer Raymond Stifano. He added the 10th on 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Swagbag for owner Lauren Wypyszynski and trainer Margaret Wetherington.

Scott Spieth continued his pursuit of a career milestone, riding career winner No. 4,498 in the first race. The 4-year-old filly he rode, Flatter Me Zanja, is owned by Douglas Terry and trained by Wayne Minnock. Spieth is 20th in victories among active jockeys in North America.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The co-features are the sixth race, a one-mile maiden special weight event on the turf for 3-year-old fillies, and the eighth race, a mile-and-a-sixteenth conditional allowance/$75,000 optional claiming contest on the turf for 3-year-old fillies. Both races offer purse money of $23,000.

Sunday is “Kids and Family Day,” where youngsters can get a low-key introduction to Thoroughbred racing while enjoying games, pony rides, bounce houses and good food in the Picnic Pavilion Area.

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.

The golf range will be open on Easter from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; the last bucket of dimpled eggs will be sold at 3:30 p.m.