OWNER RACE LIKELY TO GO DOWN TO FINAL WEEKEND – OR BEYOND

by Mike Henry

With five weeks remaining in the 2015-2016 Tampa Bay Downs meeting, plus the June 30 card (the opener of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing), the competition for the Leading Owner title is up for grabs.

The outfit of Billy, Donna and Justin Hays (husband-wife and son) is tied for the top spot with Jagger, Inc., with 12 victories apiece. Midwest Thoroughbreds is next with 10 victories, followed by owner-trainer Jason DaCosta with nine and Savoy Stable with eight.

Jagger, Inc., is the stable name of trainer Jamie Ness, who is likely to be dethroned for Leading Trainer after an unprecedented nine-year stay on top. Ness has sent out 34 winners as trainer this season, 14 behind Gerald Bennett.

Midwest Thoroughbreds, which has won six consecutive Tampa Bay Downs owner titles (tying last season with Amaty Racing Stables, each with 23), is owned by Rich and Karen Papiese. Ness previously trained for Midwest, which has dispersed its horses to various other tracks and trainers.

Last season’s owner race was not decided until June 30, when Amaty’s Bennie Y Benny reached the winner’s circle to forge the tie at the top.

Both the Leading Jockey and Leading Apprentice Jockey titles are virtually locked up. Antonio Gallardo, who won two races today, has ridden 112 winners in his bid for a third consecutive crown, 36 more than five-time track champion and current runner-up Daniel Centeno, who also won twice.

Chad Lindsay is a virtual lock for Leading Apprentice Jockey honors. He rode 11 winners before departing several weeks ago for Santa Anita; no other apprentice here has more than one victory.

Down the stretch. Gallardo won the fourth race today on 5-year-old mare Desert Summer for owner-trainer Saul Matos. Desert Summer was claimed from the race for $8,000 by owner-trainer Bernell Rhone. Gallardo also won the seventh aboard Descarado, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Bruce Tallisman and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Centeno captured the third race on 3-year-old colt All About Ready for owner Keith C. Dickey and trainer Ronald Gaffney. He added the eighth on Capital Letters, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds and trained by Ian Wilkes.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. A salty collection of older horses will contest the fourth race, a conditional allowance/$62,500 optional claiming event at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. The 9-5 morning-line favorite is Triple K Stables and Jagger, Inc.’s 6-year-old gelding Ghost Hunter, which is 4-for-8 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs. Gallardo will ride for trainer Ness.

Saturday is Florida Cup XIV, the track’s annual showcase for Florida-breds, with six stakes offering $75,000 apiece. Tampa Bay Downs will also simulcast that day’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands prep races: the Grade I, $1-million Wood Memorial from Aqueduct; the Grade I, $1-million Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland; and the Grade I, $1-million Santa Anita Derby from Santa Anita.

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