CAMPBELL EXTOLS FLORIDA CUP, SONGBIRD; CAMACHO IS JOCKEY OF MONTH

by Mike Henry

Gilbert G. Campbell and his wife Marilyn will be more than interested spectators from their winter home in Marco Island during Saturday’s Florida Cup XIV program at Tampa Bay Downs.

Campbell, a past president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association and a member of its executive committee, bred and owns the gelding I’m a Factum, which is entered in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Sophomore Turf.

He is also the breeder of four other Florida Cup entrants: 4-year-old gelding Fast Flying Rumor, 5-year-old horse Alfredo Romana and 4-year-old gelding Wicked Rascal, all entrants in the 6-furlong Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint; and 3-year-old colt Uncle Vinny, which goes in the 7-furlong Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

The Campbells, who own 500-acre Stonehedge Farm South in Williston, Fla., also sponsor the 7-furlong Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies. They bred the 2011 winner of that race, My Sunshine Gal, which set the stakes record of 1:22.75 while racing for Wisteria Lane Stable.

“It’s only natural for us to support the (Florida Cup),” said Gilbert G. Campbell, a real estate developer from Massachusetts who has bred and/or raced more than 50 stakes winners, including such standouts as 1997 Arlington Million champ and multiple Grade I-winner Marlin and Grade II winners Ivanavinalot, Watch Me Go and Blazing Sword.

Marlin and Blazing Sword were sired by the Campbells’ outstanding stallion, the late Sword Dance.

“We’ve proved that Florida can raise a very nice horse that can compete anywhere they race. The land and the climate are fabulous for raising a good horse, and we have a good group of people who believe in breeding in Florida.

“I’m a big advocate of keeping good sires in Florida, and I’m trying my darnedest to keep bringing in good bloodlines,” added Campbell, who stands the stallions Factum (a son of Storm Cat which is also a half-brother to top sire War Front) and Revolving (a son of A.P. Indy) at Stonehedge Farm South, along with about 70 broodmares, 45-50 yearlings, 25-30 2-year-olds in training (another 20 have already begun racing) and a basketful of weanlings. He also owns shares in a few other stallions.

Like any serious Thoroughbred racing follower, Campbell’s interest Saturday extends beyond the Oldsmar oval, with three $1-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands preps on the simulcast schedule: the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby.

The Campbells also have a strong interest in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks. The morning-line 1-9 favorite, unbeaten Songbird – which is already drawing comparisons to legendary fillies and mares Ruffian, Personal Ensign, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta – goes for her seventh victory in as many starts.

Bred by John Antonelli, the 2015 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Songbird is by Medaglia d’Oro out of Ivanavinalot, a homebred filly Campbell campaigned from 2002-2004. Under the tutelage of trainer Kathleen O’Connell, Ivanavinalot won six of 18 starts and $647,300.

Campbell sold Ivanavinalot to Antonelli in 2004, after she was pronounced in foal to the 2003 Horse of the Year, Mineshaft. That foal never ran, and Songbird is Ivanavinalot’s only stakes winner. “That’s the kind of crazy business this is,” Campbell mused.

“I have seen most of Songbird’s races on TV, and she is the spitting image of her mother,” he continued. “They have the same height, the same length, everything. Songbird just glides over the track; it looks like she is hardly running. It’s exciting watching her, and I’m proud to be part of her story.”

As a 2-year-old, Ivanavinalot, which was by Campbell’s late stallion West Acre out of Beaty Sark, was being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park, but she never got the chance to run. She developed an infection that led to her being scratched, and although she won the Grade II Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream as a 3-year-old, the Campbells and O’Connell often wondered “what-if.”

There is even more intrigue to the Santa Anita Oaks for Campbell than being the breeder of the mom of Songbird, which is owned by Fox Hill Farms and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and will be ridden by Mike Smith.

One of Songbird’s six challengers in the Santa Anita Oaks field, Bellamentary, is owned by Campbell’s close friend, Charles T. Matses. What’s more, the Kentucky-bred Bellamentary is out of Shananies Song, a granddaughter of Shananie, which was the first stallion to stand at Stonehedge Farm South when the Campbells purchased the original property almost 30 years ago.

“(Matses) told me he is hoping to come in second, because no one is going to beat Songbird,” Campbell said. “We hope they run 1-2, but just to have two close friends who go so far back with those kind of connections in a major race, it’s pretty remarkable.”

Campbell also goes back more than 25 years with trainer O’Connell, and even longer with his other trainer, Parx Racing-based Ned Allard, and Stonehedge Farm South manager Larry King.

“Good communication with my trainers is very important,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to tell them what to do, but I want to be involved and I want people to tell me the truth, good or bad. Kathleen is a great communicator, and she does an excellent job of running horses where they belong.”

Florida Cup XIV schedule, standings. Saturday’s 12-race card begins at 12:27 p.m. The Sophomore Turf, for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass, is the third race on the program and the first of the six Florida Cup races, all offering purse money of $75,000.

The 6-furlong Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint on the main track, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, is the fifth race. Next up is the sixth, the Tampa Turf Classic for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the grass.

The Florida Cup action will continue to come fast and furious, with the seventh race the 7-furlong Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies on the main track. The 7-furlong Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, also on the main dirt surface, is the eighth race.

The ninth is the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.

Trainer William A. Kaplan, who has announced his retirement following this weekend’s action, has entered three horses in the Florida Cup: 4-year-old gelding My Point Exactly in the Tampa Turf Classic, Chief Attraction in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies and gelding Extravagant Kid in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

Best known as the trainer of 2011 Eclipse Award Champion Female Sprinter Musical Romance, Kaplan trained back-to-back winners of the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, Putitinmypocket (2013) and Holiday Magic (2014).

Veteran trainer Tom Proctor, who is seeking a third consecutive victory in the Tampa Turf Classic with 7-year-old gelding Old Time Hockey, has five horses entered in the Florida Cup XIV races.

Proctor has won seven Florida Cup races, the most of any trainer. Hall of Fame member William Mott, Edward Plesa, Jr., and Lynne Scace have five apiece.

Daniel Centeno has ridden eight Florida Cup winners and is named to ride in all but the Sophomore Turf. Ronnie Allen, Jr., Elvis Trujillo and Eddie Castro are next with five apiece.

Glen Hill Farm, Proctor’s major client, is the leading Florida Cup breeder and owner with seven victories in each category. Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Stud and Live Oak Plantation have posted four victories in each category.

Camacho is Jockey of Month. On the morning of March 26, jockey Samy Camacho was languishing in the Tampa Bay Downs standings with five victories. The 27-year-old Venezuelan, who works in the mornings at GoldMark Farm in Ocala, was worried about being unable to generate much outside interest in his services as the Oldsmar meeting hit the homestretch.

But after riding 61-1 shot Key Agent to victory on the 26th, Camacho transformed into the hottest local jockey this side of his countryman, five-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno. A victory aboard 3-year-old ridgling Valoordo in Wednesday’s sixth race on the turf ultimately gave Camacho the nod as the Hampton Inn & Suites Jockey of the Month.

“I’m very surprised and very happy,” he said of the honor.

Camacho won with Valoordo despite behind tossed off behind the starting gate as the field was loading for the race. “I knew from riding him before he liked to act up a little, but when the gate opened I put him straight to business,” Camacho said through an interpreter, fellow jockey Geovany Garcia.

Four of Camacho’s recent winners were trained by Margaret Wetherington, who marvels at his cool-headed approach. “He exudes a sense of confidence I really like. He follows what I tell him to do, tries hard and rides to the end of the race. I can’t expect any more from him,” Wetherington said.

Camacho, whose younger brother, Samuel Camacho, Jr., rides in New York, is in his first season at Tampa Bay Downs after riding 32 winners in south Florida and at Monmouth as an apprentice in 2012. He returned to Venezuela the following year after his business slowed, but his recent performance may guarantee a much longer stay in the United States this time.

Their father, Samuel Camacho, Sr., rode his entire career in Venezuela, scoring more than 900 victories. Samy and his wife, Kismar Torcat, have an 18-month-old son, Samir Andres.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can by watching and listening to everyone,” said Camacho, who is eager to secure an agent. “(Centeno) has given me a lot of advice about how to ride this track and how to get to the winner’s circle. I may go to Gulfstream Park or Presque Isle Downs, and I hope more people here will get to know me now that I’m doing well.”

Down the stretch. A number of horses that visited Tampa Bay Downs this season are slated to compete in today’s major races. All of the action will be simulcast here.

At Aqueduct, the Wood Memorial field includes the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby runner-up, Outwork, and fifth-place finisher Tale of S’avall. Outwork is trained by Todd Pletcher, who also conditions the Tampa Bay Derby winner, Destin; Pletcher plans to bring Destin up to the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands without another prep race.

Also at Aqueduct, 3-year-old colt Cocked and Loaded will compete in the Grade III Bay Shore Stakes. Although he did not race here, trainer Larry Rivelli worked the Grade III Iroquois Stakes winner six times here in preparation for his 2016 debut.

At Keeneland, the third-place Tampa Bay Derby finisher, Star Hill, is entered in the Toyota Blue Grass, along with Brody’s Cause, which finished seventh as the wagering favorite. On the Lexington track’s undercard, 3-year-old filly Weep No More, which won the Suncoast Stakes here on Feb. 13 for trainer George “Rusty” Arnold, II, is entered in the Grade I, $500,000 Central Bank Ashland.

Barbados, a 4-year-old colt which triumphed here in the Pelican Stakes on Feb. 20, has been entered by trainer Michael Tomlinson in the Grade III, $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes.

On today’s card, trainers William “Buff” Bradley, Jason DaCosta and Kathleen O’Connell sent out two winners apiece.

Bradley’s victories came in the sixth and seventh races. His 5-year-old mare Stormin’ Jorja captured the sixth for breeder-owner Roger D. Chapman, with Keiber Coa in the irons. Bradley won the seventh race on the turf with 3-year-old colt Wolf Rock, bred and owned by Gunpowder Farms and ridden by Manoel Cruz.

DaCosta won the first race with his own 5-year-old mare Mongolian Honey, which was ridden by Fernando De La Cruz. Mongolian Honey was claimed from the race for $5,000 by trainer Joe Woodard for new owners Billy, Donna and Justin Hays.

DaCosta added the fourth race with 5-year-old mare Skyfirm, owned by Kenneth A. Smith and ridden by Antonio Gallardo.

O’Connell won the second race with More Than a Image, a 3-year-old filly she also owns. She added the 10th and final race with Chilham Court, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Double T Racing.

Gallardo, Daniel Centeno and Ronnie Allen, Jr., each rode two winners. In addition to scoring on Skyfirm, Gallardo won the third race on Cammack, a 6-year-old gelding bred and owned by Team Block and trained by Chris M. Block.

Centeno’s two victories in the saddle gave him six over the last two days and 12 over a five-day period. He won the second race on More Than a Image. Centeno added the ninth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Involuntary, a first-time starter bred and owned by Dr. Catherine Wills and trained by Arnaud Delacour, who has won with eight first-time starters at the meeting.

Allen won the fifth race on the turf aboard 6-year-old Florida-bred mare Workerbee, owned by Tom Proctor and Charles R. Patton and trained by Proctor. He added the 10th on Chilham Court.

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.