Hold On Smokey isn’t your typical 11-year-old Thoroughbred. Just ask Pablo Morales, who rode him to victory in today’s seventh race at Tampa Bay Downs.
“He doesn’t look like he’s 11, he didn’t move like it and he didn’t run like it,” Morales said after the Florida-bred swept by his rivals to post a 1-length victory from Rojo Verde in the 5-furlong turf allowance/$25,000 optional claiming event for horses 4-years-old and upward. “When you’re on him, his neck looks massive, like a Quarter Horse, and he warmed up like a 2-year-old.
“He started picking it up on the turn, and when I hit him left-handed and he switched to his right lead, I knew he would blow past them,” Morales said.
The contest was the Lambholm South Race of the Week.
Hold On Smokey’s time on the firm turf course was 56.22 seconds. He paid $12.60 to win. Creaky Cricket ralled for third in the 10-horse field.
Hold On Smokey won for the 20th time in 71 starts, and the winner’s share of the purse raised his career earnings to $455,027.
The son of Concorde’s Tune-Lady Lisa, by Princely Pleasure, was bred by the Great Luck Farm of owner-trainer Joyce Kielty and her late husband, Donald Kielty, who died in 2009. They were married 45 years. Kielty and her brother, Freddy McAndrew, made the drive from Great Luck Farm with Hold On Smokey this morning.
“It only took a five-furlong race,” Kielty said. “That’s his best distance, but he can win going long if he gets the right ride. Pablo is a good rider. It’s great that he can still do it. I never thought he would be racing this long.”
Hold On Smokey was champion 3-year-old of New England in 2008, when he won five races, including the Robert M. O’Malley Memorial Stakes at Suffolk. He finished third in the 2015 Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but was riding a 13-race losing streak entering today.
Morales expected Hold On Smokey to break on or near the lead, but when that scenario didn’t materialize, he bided his time.
“He couldn’t really keep up (with the leaders), so I took a long hold and waited,” Morales said. “On the turn, I asked him and he started responding. I thought I had better put him in the clear and even though I went farther wide than I wanted, I was confident he would get there.”
Kielty isn’t sure what’s next for Hold On Smokey, but she hopes to breed him when his racing days are over. “My husband loved this horse, and I’m glad he was able to see him become a champion,” she said.
Down the stretch. At Keeneland, reigning Eclipse Champion Turf Female Tepin – winner here of both the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes and the Grade II Hillsborough – rolled to a record-setting victory in the Grade I, $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes. Her time was a stakes-record 1:40.53 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.
The 5-year-old Tepin is owned by Robert E. Masterson and trained by Mark Casse and was ridden by Julien Leparoux.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. There are 12 days remaining in the 2015-2016 meeting, with no racing scheduled Sunday, May 1, before the three-day Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands weekend action May 6-8.
The meeting officially concludes June 30, which is the first day of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing that kicks off the Fourth of July weekend. The July 1 card is the first day of the 2016-2017 meeting.
Destin, winner here of both the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, breezed five furlongs this morning at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach in 1:00.94 for trainer Todd Pletcher during his ongoing preparations for the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher and owner Twin Creeks Racing Stables have elected to work Destin to the Run for the Roses after his track-record Tampa Bay Derby victory, following the mantra of two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Horatio Luro, who often advised “don’t squeeze the lemon dry.” Pletcher won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with third-place Tampa Bay Derby finisher Super Saver.
The two other Tampa Bay Derby participants likely to compete at Churchill Downs, runner-up Outwork and seventh-place finisher Brody’s Cause, won major Grade I races on April 9. Outwork, trained by Pletcher for Repole Stable, won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, while Brody’s Cause, conditioned by Dale Romans for Albaugh Family Stable, captured the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland.
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.