CONSISTENT WINNERS: DaCOSTA FOLLOWS IN FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS

by Mike Henry

While his father Wayne was setting the record for most victories by a trainer in Jamaican racing history Saturday, 30-year-old Jason DaCosta was making preparations to ship his horses north from Tampa Bay Downs for the rest of the spring and summer.

Wayne DaCosta, a member of the island nation’s Racing Hall of Fame, broke a tie with Phillip Feanny by saddling his 1,951st winner, Super Cop, at Caymanas Park, where the elder DaCosta has been leading trainer 15 times.

It seems like a daunting legacy for anyone to deal with, but Jason DaCosta keeps showing he is capable of meeting the challenge.

For the fourth time in as many seasons at Tampa Bay Downs, Jason has been recognized as the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month after posting six victories since April 3. He has climbed to seventh in the standings, with 18 victories; this will be his fourth top-10 finish.

“It means I’ve been pretty consistent,” said the offspring of his Oldsmar accomplishments. “I didn’t get off to the fastest start this meeting, but we have some good momentum going now. The horses seem to love the track, and as they’ve developed more fitness, most of them have run well.”

His success at Tampa Bay Downs is only one of the benchmarks that indicate his gradual ascent as a successful conditioner. In addition to returning to ThistleDown outside Cleveland with about 16 horses this year, he has also secured 12 stalls at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

“It’s a good feeling to be at a place like that, where there are so many good horsemen and a lot of good horses,” said the soft-spoken DaCosta.

Jason, who worked for his father for almost five years at Caymanas Park before coming to the United States, has adopted his dad’s attention to detail and ability to spot horses at the level they belong. “We are pretty similar in how we do things. My father might work his horses a little harder to keep them fit because they don’t race as often there, but we are both hands-on trainers who treat each horse as an individual.

“Probably the most valuable thing he has taught me is that they all have their own likes and dislikes, and you have to figure that out and train each of them accordingly,” Jason said.

Jason DaCosta has forged a strong partnership at Tampa Bay Downs with jockey Fernando De La Cruz, who has since moved his tack to Indiana Grand. “We go back and forth on race strategy, he offers his input and we come to an agreement,” DaCosta said. “Fernando is an excellent rider who knows my horses and knows what I want, and we’ve become a good combination.”

DaCosta is the owner and trainer of 3-year-old gelding Unbridled Trick, which won last fall’s $150,000 Best of Ohio Juvenile Stakes at ThistleDown as a maiden, defeating both subsequent Grade I Florida Derby competitor Sawyers Mickey and champion 2-year-old colt My Pardner Cal. Walter De La Cruz, Fernando’s brother, rode Unbridled Trick that day.

DaCosta also trains the solid 4-year-old allowance filly, Red River Heidi, and he owns and trains 4-year-old Arkansas-bred filly Beach Splash, which has won four of 10 starts.

DaCosta said Beach Splash was tailing off at the end of last year’s ThistleDown meeting, so he gave her a couple of months off before returning her the track. She returned to the winner’s circle earlier in the meeting, scoring by six lengths in a five-and-a-half furlong, $16,000 claiming event.

“I gave her some time off and lightened up on her training a bit, and she responded by winning in a good time,” he said. “That gives you a sense of accomplishment.”

And, as his father can attest, those kind of achievements are built over time, step by step and day by day.

Down the stretch. Ronnie Allen, Jr., Willie Martinez, Pablo Morales and Dean Butler all rode two winners today. Allen was victorious in the first race on Lucky Rascal, a 5-year-old horse owned by Black Type Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett. The rider added the sixth on the turf aboard 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Fire the Nurse, a homebred racing for Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor.

Both of Martinez’s victories came on horses trained by Joseph Arboritanza, who has sent out four winners over the last five racing days. They teamed to win today’s third race with 5-year-old mare Likeuasafriend, owned by Arboritanza Racing and Hallmarc Racing, and added the 10th with Gold Value, a 4-year-old filly owned by Hallmarc Racing.

Arboritanza's two other starters today ran second, in the first and second races.

Morales captured the fourth race on the grass on 3-year-old filly Justadarling for owner Kim Deaton and trainer William Deaton and returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh on Ditka, a 3-year-old colt owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Eoin Harty.

Butler scored in the fifth race on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Lino Rose for owner Sixto Ribera, Sr., and trainer Jose Chavez. Butler also won the eighth race on the turf on Market Outlook, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Juan Arriagada and trained by Alison Hassig.

Market Outlook was claimed from the race for $16,000 by his new owner-trainer, Wayne D. Mogge.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:50 p.m. There are six days remaining in the 2015-2016 meeting. There is no on-track racing scheduled Sunday, May 1, before the buildup to the three-day Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands weekend action May 6-8.

The Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies is May 6, with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for 3-year-olds May 7; first-race post time at Churchill Downs both days is 10:30 a.m., and the gates at Tampa Bay Downs will open at 10.

As an added bonus, Sunday, May 8 is Fan Appreciation Day at Tampa Bay Downs. Grandstand admission and parking are free and hot dogs and sodas are $1 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. During that time, 16-ounce beers will be on sale for $2.

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