by Mike Henry


Secretariat and American Pharoah: both one-of-a-kind


Fans attending Tampa Bay Downs to watch the simulcast of the 142nd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 7 have an opportunity to acquire a slice of Thoroughbred racing history and make a contribution to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).

A silent auction will be conducted from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand, featuring four beautifully framed and autographed pieces highlighting a few of the sport’s most memorable moments.

Racing fans with longer memories will grow nostalgic at “Belmont Glory,” a photograph of jockey Ron Turcotte turning back to look at the competition, four-legged specks on the horizon, in the closing stages of Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes victory. Proceeds from the auction of this piece, which is autographed by Turcotte, will benefit both the PDJF and the Secretariat Foundation.

The three other pieces of full-color memorabilia, provided courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography, focus on American Pharoah, which joined Secretariat last spring as a Triple Crown winner.

“Under the Twin Spires” is a framed photograph of American Pharoah winning the Kentucky Derby, hand-signed by trainer Bob Baffert. “Derby Fist Pump,” hand-signed by jockey Victor Espinoza, shows the rider and American Pharoah crossing the Churchill Downs finish line.

“Triple Crown Collage” includes photographs from American Pharoah’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont victories. It is signed by Baffert.

The PDJF, founded in 2006, provides financial assistance to about 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. It is committed to working with industry and medical-research groups to improve the safety of human and equine athletes and to support research projects dedicated to reducing catastrophic injuries.

The Secretariat Foundation works to enhance the welfare of the Thoroughbred by assisting charities and organizations that meet the needs of the racing community through veterinary research into lameness, Thoroughbred retirement and rehabilitation facilities, therapeutic equestrian programs and general funding for established charitable programs.  

Tampa Bay Downs is the place to be on May 7 if you can’t make it to Louisville for the Run for the Roses. The grandeur and majesty of the biggest day on the racing calendar will be on full display throughout the weekend at the Oldsmar oval, which has played host to the eventual Kentucky Derby winner in two of the last nine years (Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010).

Patrons are encouraged to don their finest hats and partake of the traditional Kentucky Derby libation, the mint julep, which will be on sale for $9 in an official Kentucky Derby souvenir glass. The glasses will also be on sale in the Gift Shop (minus beverage) for $6.

In addition to presenting full cards of local action next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the full cards from Churchill Downs on both May 7 and the previous day, a program which includes the Grade I Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

The gates at Tampa Bay Downs will open next Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., with the first race from Churchill at 10:30 a.m. both days. Post time for the Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 6 is 5:49 p.m. and post time for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 7 is 6:34 p.m.

Three horses from the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby are expected to contest the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands: winner Destin, runner-up Outwork and seventh-place finisher Brody’s Cause.

Weep No More, which won the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, is ticketed for the Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Down the stretch. Daniel Centeno rode three winners on today’s card. He took the second race on the turf on 10-1 shot Annabella Hall, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Hemingway Racing and trained by Ian Hemingway. Centeno added the fourth on the turf on 3-year-old colt Italian Charm for breeder-owner Green Hills Farm and trainer Christophe Clement and also won the seventh on 6-year-old gelding Summit County for owner Charles Fisher and trainer John Rigattieri.

Trainer Hemingway sent out two winners, grabbing the sixth race on the turf on breeder-owner Robyn Thompson’s 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Leroisgoldanimal. That was one of two winners for jockey Pablo Morales, who had won the fifth race aboard first-time starter Awesome Type, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding, for owner Savoy Stable and trainer Dale Bennett.

Antonio Gallardo also rode two winners, taking the third race on 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Dove in Flight for owner Pedro Alarcon and trainer Efren Loza, Jr., and adding the eighth race on the turf on 4-year-old filly Distorted Type for owner Jagger, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness.

Distorted Type was claimed for $32,000 by her new owner-trainer, David Hinsley.

There are four days remaining in the 2015-2016 meeting. Sunday is not one of those days, but Tampa Bay Downs will be open for simulcasting.

The following Sunday, May 8, is Fan Appreciation Day at Tampa Bay Downs, with free Grandstand admission and parking and $1 hot dogs and sodas 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.

Remember when. Joe Tutela, a former jockey and retired Tampa Bay Downs employee, was honored on his 70th birthday in a winner’s-circle presentation after today’s first race.

Tutela played an indirect role in the decision by late Tampa industrialist Sam F. Davis to purchase the racetrack (then Florida Downs) in 1972. Davis had entered his filly S.D.’s Delight in the $10,000 Florida Breeders Futurity, and bettors made her the 3-5 favorite in the 12-horse field. Tutela was the jockey.

When the bell rang, a short-circuit in the gate mechanism caused S.D.’s Delight’s stall to remain closed until the other 11 horses were well on their way down the racetrack. “They wanted me to take her around but by that time (when her stall opened) the others were too far down the track,” Tutela recalled in a long-ago published interview.

All the wagers on S.D.’s Delight were refunded, but Davis was so riled up he decided to buy the track, which turned a profit in his first season at the helm.

Tutela, who rode from 1967-1976 at Florida Downs, Rockingham, Finger Lakes, Pocono, Green Mountain and other tracks, with an occasional foray to Belmont and Saratoga, lives in Dunnellon, Fla. He retired as a Food Services employee at the track two years ago. In addition to riding horses for Davis, he rode for future track owner George Steinbrenner.

He also drove the food truck in the stable area for a few years and continued to gallop horses for years after his retirement as a jockey.

Tutela and his wife of six years, Ann, live near the Withlacoochee River. Tutela has three sons and he and Ann have 16 grandchildren between them. “I play a little golf, not much,” he said. “We have our pontoon, and I like to go up on the Withlacoochee and the Rainbow River and do a little fishing. I love life and I feel great.”