SPIETH IS JOCKEY OF MONTH; BUTLER WITHIN ONE OF 2,000

by Mike Henry

Scott Spieth has a knack for appearing in the winner’s circle when bettors least expect it. Such was the case today, when he rallied 19-1 shot Cause for Victory to triumph in the sixth race, a waiver claiming event, on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

With 4,505 career victories, Spieth obviously has won on a healthy share of favorites, such as his victory in today’s eighth race on 11-10 shot Back With Sue, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare. But in a jockey colony dominated the last several years by a handful of riders, ignoring Spieth is often a costly mistake for bettors.

Of course, Spieth has his focus on other targets.

“I’m really not in the business for recognition. I’m in it to win races and make money,” said Spieth, whose six victories in the last six racing days – including No. 4,500 on April 10 aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Awesome Indeed, trained by his fiancée, Aldana Gonzalez – earned him the Hilton Garden Inn Jockey of the Month award. “I’ve been leading rider and second-leading rider a lot of times, but it’s just a thing where I’m happy with what I do. I really love it.”

Now tied for eighth place in the Tampa Bay Downs standings with 27 victories, Spieth rode three winners for Gonzalez, two for trainer John Rigattieri and one for Kitty Cheeks (Back With Sue) during his recent hot streak. Today’s triumph aboard Cause for Victory was the mare’s third of the meeting, all with Spieth aboard, for Gonzalez and owner Bruno Schickedanz. Cause for Victory paid $76.40 when they won here on Jan. 3.

Earlier this month, the 49-year-old Spieth traveled to Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach to ride a pair of long shots: Sawyers Mickey in the Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby and Double Entendre in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks.

What cover Spieth has developed would have been blown forever had he won the Florida Derby on 124-1 shot Sawyers Mickey. Unbeaten Nyquist won, of course, but Spieth managed to keep his mount together long enough after pressing the pace to finish fifth in the 10-horse field and earn $28,500 for his connections.

“It was a thrill being part of the day and getting to ride in the Florida Derby,” said Spieth, who plans to travel to ThistleDown near Cleveland next week to ride Sawyers Mickey in a maiden special weight event.

Spieth is delighted with being able to work with Gonzalez on a daily basis. The majority of their horses are owned by Schickedanz.

“We make a very good team and are able to bounce our opinions off each other,” he said. “Today, I wanted to take (Cause for Victory) back early, and she said she wanted to see her up in the race. So I said ‘OK, you’re the boss; we’ll put her up in the race and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try it the other way next time.’ ”

Cause for Victory tracked the pace-setter, took the lead in the stretch and held on for a half-length victory.

The Michigan native, who rode 307 winners in 2005 and averaged 269 a year from 2005-2007, remains optimistic he can get to 5,000 before hanging up his tack; doubt him at your own peril.

“I am definitely going to get to 5,000,” he said with a wide smile. “I told Mark Guidry (who retired two years ago with 5,222) I wanted to be one in front of him when I retire. He told me, ‘You’ll get there.’ ”

Apparently, experience has taught Guidry not to underestimate Spieth.

Down the stretch. Jockey Dean Butler moved within one victory of 2,000 for his career, piloting 4-year-old filly Well Composed to victory in the seventh race on the turf for owner Barry Ostrager and trainer Ray Stifano. Butler has won two in a row on the filly.

Butler is named on three horses Friday.

Apprentice jockey Ashley Castrenze, a 19-year-old graduate of nearby Tarpon Springs High, improved to 2-for-2 in her fledgling career by riding 4-year-old gelding Oldstone Farmhouse to victory in the second race, a maiden claiming sprint. Both victories were for trainer Tom Proctor. Castrenze’s mother, Jackie Acksel, was a jockey, and her twin sister Emily is a gallop person for trainer Arnaud Delacour. Emily worked as a pony rider during the races today for the first time.

Oldstone Farmhouse was claimed from the race for $12,500 from Proctor and owner Glen Hill Farm by new owner-trainer Jason DaCosta.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. There are 10 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.

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.