Many of the state’s finest Thoroughbreds are taking the Florida Cup XIV challenge on Saturday, with 50 horses entered in the six races for registered Florida-breds worth $75,000 apiece.
The Florida Cup XIV races are part of a stellar 12-race Tampa Bay Downs card beginning at 12:27 p.m. The track will also simulcast the day’s major Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands prep races: the Santa Anita Derby, the Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland and the Wood Memorial from Aqueduct.
Two horses will defend their 2015 Florida Cup titles. In the Tampa Turf Classic for older horses at a mile-and-an-eighth on the lawn, which is the sixth race on the program, 7-year-old gelding Old Time Hockey will seek his third consecutive triumph in the event for breeder-owner Glen Hill Farm and trainer Tom Proctor. The Grade II-winning Old Time Hockey will break from the No. 6 post under jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr.
Among his challengers in the nine-horse field is the popular 10-year-old gelding, Allie’s Event, which is 3-for-3 at the current meeting. Bred, owned and trained by Lori Smock, Allie’s Event will be ridden by Fernando De La Cruz while breaking from the No. 7 post.
Proctor has also entered Glen Hill’s 5-year-old gelding Enterprising, a Grade III winner to be ridden by Brian Pedroza.
The other defending champion is 5-year-old mare Evidently, which will face 10 foes in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. That race is the ninth on the card. A homebred racing for Lambholm Stable, Evidently is trained by Roy Lerman and will be ridden by Manoel Cruz from the No. 8 post.
The Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint, a six-furlong contest for horses 4-years-old-and-upward on the main dirt track, has attracted seven horses, including two of the fastest Thoroughbreds in these parts in the last two years. It will be the fifth race on the card.
Leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Gerald Bennett will send out 4-year-old gelding Fast Flying Rumor, owned by Winning Stables and Midnight Rider. Allen will be up from the No. 3 post.
Fast Flying Rumor recorded the fastest Beyer Speed Figure in track history, a 108, while winning the $100,000, five-furlong Turf Dash on Jan. 9. His competition Saturday will include 4-year-old Catalina Red, which jointly holds the track’s seven-furlong record of 1:21.40, established as a 2-year-old in the 2014 Pasco Stakes.
De La Cruz will ride Catalina Red from the No. 6 post for owner Anthony A. Lenci and trainer Chad Stewart.
Florida Cup XIV kicks off with the third race, the mile-and-a-sixteenth Sophomore Turf for 3-year-olds. Glen Hill and Proctor are represented by 3-year-old filly Family Meeting, which will face six colts and geldings.
Family Meeting, a Grade III winner which finished third in the Grade III Florida Oaks on the turf here on March 12, will break from the No. 4 post under Pedroza.
Nine 3-year-old fillies are entered in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, the seventh race on the card at a distance of seven furlongs on the dirt.
Bennett has entered two fillies: Nano’s Crown, which has finished in the money in all seven of her starts, and Valueable Charmer, which set the early pace in the Florida Oaks before fading. Nano’s Crown will be ridden from the No. 9 post by De La Cruz and Allen has the assignment on Valueable Charmer, which drew the No. 4 post.
The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, to be contested at seven furlongs on the main track, is the eighth race on the card. The field of seven 3-year-old colts and geldings includes the Pasco Stakes runner-up Epic Journey, from the barn of trainer Anthony Granitz and to be ridden by Daniel Centeno, and Tiger Blood, which debuted here in grand fashion by winning his first two career starts by a combined 14 ¾ lengths before finishing fifth in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream on March 19.
Baltazar Galvan trains Tiger Blood, which will be ridden by Pablo Morales.
Also entered in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore is Starlight Racing’s Uncle Vinny, which will be making his first 2016 start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Uncle Vinny won last year’s Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga via disqualification and finished third in the Grade I Hopeful at the Spa. Cruz is named to ride.
Down the stretch. Daniel Centeno continued his recent surge, riding four winners today from eight mounts.
He was aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Starship Stache in the first race for owner-trainer Donald F. Hunt. Starship Stache was claimed from the race for $8,000 by owner-trainer Robert Raymond.
Centeno added the fourth race on the turf on 9-year-old gelding Mister Marti Gras for breeder-owner Lothenbach Stables and trainer Chris M. Block.
Back on the turf in the eighth race, Centeno scored on 4-year-old gelding Natural Order for owners Lambholm Stable and Masie Racing Stable and trainer Roy Lerman. He also won the ninth race in runaway fashion on Paltarrevenge, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Juan Arriagada and trained by Alison Hassig.
Paltarrevenge was claimed for $10,000 by new owner-trainer Maria Bowersock.
Fernando De La Cruz rode two winners, capturing the second race on 5-year-old gelding Pecorino for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr., and adding the fifth on 3-year-old gelding Veracious for owner Godolphin Racing and trainer Eoin Harty.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The track conducts racing each Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through April.
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.