FESTIVE CROWD WATCHES NYQUIST PROVE WORTH; TEPIN, CATALINA RED WIN

by Mike Henry

The inability of the three Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby runners to hit the board in the 142nd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands did little to diminish the enthusiasm of a Tampa Bay Downs crowd of 10,443, the third-largest in track history to watch the Run for the Roses.

While Nyquist appears to have a decent shot to match American Pharoah’s 2015 feat of winning the Triple Crown based on today’s outstanding performance, not to mention his 8-for-8 record, it’s back to the drawing board (or to a more suitable level of competition) for the others.

For the record, Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin finished sixth, runner-up Outwork tired to finish 14th and Brody’s Cause was seventh.

But horses with a history of top efforts at Tampa Bay Downs acquitted themselves well on the Churchill Downs undercard, as Tepin won the Grade II, $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile and Catalina Red captured the Grade II, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (more on both soon).

Following a memorable Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands celebration, Tampa Bay Downs will reward its loyal fan base Sunday with its annual Fan Appreciation Day card, featuring 10 races beginning at 12:35 p.m.

Parking and Grandstand admission are free and the concession stands will offer $1 sodas and hot dogs and $2 16-ounce beers from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

At Churchill Downs, the Oldsmar oval’s reputation as a superior winter racing locale was reaffirmed by a pair of Grade II victories at Churchill Downs by horses that were highly impressive in their Tampa Bay Downs performances.

Tepin, the marvelous 5-year-old mare which seems to keep improving with every race, extended her winning streak to six with a tour de force in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.

The reigning Eclipse Award Champion Turf Female, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf against males, won both the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes and the Grade II Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs this winter, the latter in course-record time of 1:46.26 for the mile-and-an-eighth.

Owned by Robert E. Masterson, she is trained by Mark Casse and was ridden by Julien Leparoux.

While Tepin’s victory came as no surprise, another Tampa Bay Downs record-holder, 4-year-old Florida-bred colt Catalina Red, pulled off a major upset in the Grade II, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes at odds of 14-1.

Owned by Anthony Lenci and trained by Jorge Navarro, Catalina Red was ridden by Javier Castellano. Catalina Red covered the seven furlongs in 1:20.79, only .35 seconds off Groupie Doll’s track record.

Catalina Red was coming off an impressive victory four weeks ago at Tampa Bay Downs in the Florida Cup Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint. As a 2-year-old, Catalina Red set the Tampa Bay Downs seven-furlong record of 1:21.40 (matched in December by now 8-year-old gelding El Grande Rojo) in winning the 2014 Pasco Stakes.

Sunday is the penultimate day of the meeting, and as is traditional, Tampa Bay Downs will present trophies to its season-long wins leaders in winner’s-circle ceremonies throughout the afternoon.

Gerald Bennett has faced few serious challenges en route to his first local training title since 2010-2011, when he shared the top spot with Jamie Ness with 61 victories apiece. Bennett has saddled 51 winners at the current meeting, 12 more than Ness, with Kathleen O’Connell third with 37 victories. Bennett’s title ends a reign of nine consecutive years at the top for Ness, who also tied with O’Connell in 2009-2010.

For all intents and purposes, Antonio Gallardo sewed up his third consecutive Oldsmar jockey title about two months ago. He has ridden 134 winners, 36 ahead of five-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno.

The Leading Apprentice Jockey title goes to Chad Lindsay, who has since moved his tack to southern California and is competing at Santa Anita. Lindsay finished his Tampa Bay Downs stay with 11 victories; fellow apprentices Jorge M. Perez, Kevin Mendez and Ashley Castrenze all have two victories.

With the final card of the 2015-2016 meeting scheduled for June 30, which is also the first day of the track’s annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing, only the Leading Owner title technically remains up for grabs. The Jagger, Inc., outfit of Jamie Ness has won 15 races, three more than the husband, wife and son entity of Billy, Donna and Justin Hays.

Ness extended his lead by winning today’s eighth race on the turf with 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Wicked One.

Down the stretch. Daniel Centeno, Pablo Morales and Pedro Cotto, Jr., each rode two winners today. Centeno has six winners over the last two days and 98 for the meeting. He won the fourth race on the turf aboard 3-year-old filly Trick City for owner William Brauns and trainer Wayne Mogge and added the fifth on 5-year-old Florida-bred mare Magic Olivia for owner-trainer Jennifer Quinones.

Trick City was claimed from her victory for $20,000 by trainer Dale Bennett for new owner Equiforce, Inc.

Morales won the first race on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Persian Poet, owned by Manuel H. Gonzalez and trained by Alex Rendon. Morales returned to the winner’s circle after the eighth race on the turf on Wicked One for Ness and Jagger.

Cotto took the third race via disqualification with Go Charlie Go, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Lynne Scace and Rose Marotti and trained by Ray Stifano. Cotto then captured the sixth race on the turf on Seventyseven Honor, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Efrain Diaz and Joseph Minieri and trained by Minieri.

A victory by 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Bettarun Realfast in the second race on the turf was No. 1,800 in the career of trainer Kathleen O’Connell. The winner is owned byCa Sal Stables and was ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr.

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.